As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on another short story project. I started on it roughly near the beginning of August when I ran across an F&SF market listing (which specific market I will not presently disclose) that immediately sparked my imagination. The code-named “Story of K” wasn’t a story I’d intended to write. But here we are: I’ve written the thing, it’s done, and it’s been submitted (barely by the market’s deadline). So that means it’s time for me to do another Post Script Process Analysis.
This time, I’ll be looking at the whole process of writing this one, from start to final draft – which is something I can do since that process was completely contained within a single month. As with “Story of V”, whose final draft I still need to get to, this story was based on a flash-length piece of fiction that I’d posted on this site back a couple years ago when I was participating in a weekly flash fiction writing exercise. When I encountered the aforementioned market and read the theme and requirements, this particular flash piece immediately leapt to my mind: I felt it resonated strongly with the desired theme of the market. Of course, however, said flash piece was really more of a vignette than a full-fledged story, and if I was going to try to submit this to an actual, paying market, I was going to need to delve into it more deeply.
Going in, I was concerned that the fact this was based on a “published” story on my own blog would render the heavily revised story inadmissible. I decided to go ahead with the new story, even knowing that this possibility was out there. If the story were rejected because it’s based on an existing, previously-published story, what’s the worst that could happen? It gets rejected. That’s the most probable fate, anyway, statistically speaking. Time will now tell whether the story’s ultimate fate is acceptance or rejection – and if the latter, there’s little chance I’ll ever actually know if the cause of rejection was the pre-existing version available here. So, not gonna sweat it.
That decision made, here’s how the writing actually went down. Read more…
If you visit my blog more than once every other week or so (my blog stats do not convince me that there are more than maybe a few of you who do, if any), then you may have noticed some activity on the blog’s sidebar; namely: a new project in the Writing Project Progress Update block.
The new project is code-titled “Story of K”, and I’m writing it for a specific market. (On spec, of course. I wasn’t invited to submit anything. As such, my expectations for it’s future at said market are at a realistically low level; which is not to say I’m not excited and hopeful.) The market for which I’m writing it has a hard upper-limit of 6,000 words for submissions. My personal goal was to keep it under 5,000 words. I overshot both, with a finished first draft of 7,500 words – which I completed in about two weeks.
I actually managed to trim that to 6,400 words on my first edit pass for the second draft. I’m reading through it again already and I’ve trimmed it further still.
But… as we speak, I still have another 200 words to cut to get it under 6,000 words. Each consecutive word to cut gets harder and harder to find.
The deadline for this market is the end of August – that is to say, days away.
If there are any of you out there still reading this – and possessed of sufficient bandwidth over the next couple days – who might have a desire to read and critique a story with a very short turn-around, I’d be most grateful. That’s my fantasy, anyway. I don’t actually expect any of you out there to have the time to sign on… especially as I’m still in a “can’t make any promises” state about offering return critiques.
So that’s what’s going on. Naturally, because of this, forward movement on the novel has taken a temporary back-seat. Likely after I”m done with this I’ll return to revising my other short-story project so I can try to do something with that, too. Then back to the novel. For now: the looming question is will I get this downsized enough in time? Stay tuned.
Well… that middle-of-the-year point has come and passed, and that means it’s time for me to take a look back at the first half of 2014, and measure myself up to what I’d hoped to accomplish for the year. Public accountability and all that. So I’ll go through my 2014 goals one-by-one and say a word or two on them. Feel free to, you know, move along until I post something of actual interest to you, but hey, I wouldn’t mind you sticking around and commenting at the end to help keep all of us honest!
1) Read at least 400,000 words worth of fiction in the first half of 2014: This was a goal well-met, which wasn’t surprising, but was a welcome milestone. I can’t be sure of the exact number of words I read through July 1st, because I hadn’t recorded an updated on the progress of the novel I was reading at the time for several weeks, but I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood 600,000 words to 630,000 words. Not too shabby. If I set the goal of reading 400,000 words in the second half of the year, I’ll surpass 1,000,000 words of fiction read in 2014 easily. So, that’s what I’m going with. One Million: here we come.
(Click on down to read the rest of the goals…)
I’ve started on the next writing thing. I’m working on something I started writing last year. I made the mistake of looking back over some of what I’d previously written.
It’s pretty bad in some (many) (maybe most) places. It needs a lot of editing work.
Which of the various options did I decide to work on? It’s probably pretty easy to predict. I’m back (finally) to working on my novel (CodeName: Book of M). And what I’ve written so far is nowhere near what I want it to be. It doesn’t reflect the tone and quality of the story in my head… not at all.
But! I am resisting the urge to edit/revise/rewrite/whatever. I allowed myself the indulgence of a small number of notes – two or three – but on the whole I am pressing forward. Slowly, mind you. I haven’t written much by way of new material yet. But the old book is moving in the right direction. Hey, maybe in another decade-ish, some, all, or none of you dear readers will actually be able to read it!
My operating plan, currently, is to press ahead a certain amount on the Book of M project until I reach some predetermined point. I haven’t yet predetermined that point, but it’ll be something like hitting a particular wordcount goal, or completing a particular scene, or writing consistently over a certain period of time. Whenever I hit that milestone, I’ll temporarily switch gears to focus on a shorter story project. This way I don’t let the novel consume all my writing time and prevent myself from writing short-stories, which have a shorter market lifespan.
Previously, I alluded to the idea of taking a more in-depth look at my writing process vis-à-vis the latest draft of my current short story project, code-named “Story of V”. And hey, you know what, this sounds like a good idea to do in general whenever I finish a draft or a major milestone of a writing project. Take a more critical look at what I wrote and the process that achieved it, and see what I can learn from it to apply to future writing projects. So here goes the first of my probably too infrequent series of Post Script Process Analysis posts.
In my prior post, I started talking about how significantly the wordcount on this story increased from the first draft to the second draft, and what comprised that wordcount. Just so you don’t have to go back and read it, the leap in length was from a little over 5,600 words to just over the 10,000 word line – an increase of nearly 80%, or close enough to doubling in length as makes little difference. So, why the big increase?
So, MS Word has this handy “Compare Documents” feature that allows you to take two DOC files, presumably earlier and later drafts of the same document, and see what changes were made between them. Word creates a new document with the changes conveniently marked in red text. Looking at the latest draft and the first draft of “Story of V” allows me to quickly (-ish) see what changes I made. On page 1, for instance, I added some character description for the POV character, switched some of the descriptive details of the environment and setting around to put character details closer to the beginning, heightened the use of the character’s senses, and made some attempts to improve the flow and the writing style. On page 2, I made the POV character’s immediate goals clearer, provided more details about the character and his state of mind, still more setting and environment description, clearer and fuller descriptions of two additional characters, and made more attempts to improve the style. I could go on like this for the next 30+ pages, but I’ll spare you the minutiae. What I’m really interested in is the bigger picture.
The last few weeks have been pretty good, and in particular as it relates to writing time. I’ve found time to write on at least two or three days in each of the last several weeks, and it’s proven quite productive for me. I’ve gone from virtually no editing work done at all on “Story of V” to done, finished, complete with the latest draft.
Of course, my editing process being what it is, I’ve also gone from comfortably under 6,000 words to just past 10,000. Obviously that’s a big jump: way more than I’d either anticipated or planned. I knew it would go up some, but I figured probably around a thousand words, maybe two. A 75% increase in length must be some kind of record, even for me. But even under normal circumstances, I’m learning it’s not unusual for me to have an increase in length of something like 20 to 50%. (My first completed story which I consider to be of “professional” quality, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Dragons”, which earned an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s of the Future contest, increased in size by about 25% between the two main drafts, from about 9,500 words to about 12,100 words. My second, Resurrection Spell increased almost 50% from 7,800 words to 11,700 words.)
Which leaves one (i.e. me) to wonder: what’s up with my writing process that this large increase in wordcounts between drafts is normal for me? Don’t other writers go the other way?
Okay, so I’m not really the best person to say what other writers do, but I expect I’m the most qualified to talk about my own process (even if I’m still learning it, myself). A common thread I’ve noticed between these the stories is about what, precisely, goes into that extra wordcount. The largest part: increased depth of characterization. The second largest part: additional worldbuilding details. The third: some mix of clearing up needless obfuscation and attempts to wax a little more poetic.
You know… I think there’s a good post to be written on this topic. So, with this hopefully as a teaser, I’ll leave a further examination of what I’ve learned about my writing process until the next time.
For now… the second draft of “Story of V” is finished, and you know what? I think it’s pretty good. Much better, I believe, than I’d originally expected it to be. But while I’m happy enough with this draft, I don’t think I’ve reached the end of the writing process here.
And that’s where you, dear reader, may be able to help out. I always feel a little bit like a tool doing this, but I’m reaching out and looking for volunteer Beta Readers. What are the qualifications? An interest in reading a 10,000-word length story, to begin with. An appreciation for the Epic Fantasy genre would help. An ability to articulate what you liked and disliked is pretty crucial.
If and when I get any respondents offering their “services”, I do have a few specific requests for certain kinds of feedback, which I’ll detail to those who volunteer. Basically, at this stage I’m somewhat more interested in style over substance, since I think I’ve got the nuts-and-bolts part pretty well figured out. Of course… I’m close to the work, and there’s certainly a non-insubstantial chance that I’ve missed some obvious, glaring deficiencies in the work, and I appreciate having those pointed out to me as well.
For those who answer the call I can’t really offer anything but my appreciation: I can’t even make a promise of quid-pro-quo critiquing of something you’ve written. (I can entertain doing critiques on a case-by-case basis for those who have something they’d like me to critique if I find I have bandwidth, but I can make no solid predictions about what my bandwidth looks like over more than about a week at a time. Naturally, I would likewise expect no promised quid-pro-quo in return if I am able to take on a critique for anyone out there.)
Shout out here in the comments if you’ve got the time, means, and wherewithal to take a crack at an epic fantasy novelette written by yours truly.
So… I wrote something last night. Actual words of fiction. And not just notes about actual words of fiction that I intend to write in the future (although I did that, too). I didn’t keep a wordcount on it – it wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of words, anyway, and the net might actually be a negative wordcount since I was editing on a prior draft of a short story, and I cut out a fair amount, too.
But it felt good.
The work in question is the story I’d code-named “Story of V”. This one’s been a long time in coming… I think I first started work on it sometime in early 2013. Now there’s a real chance I’ll finish it in 2014. Huzzah!