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Writing Progress: Week Ending September 8, 2012

September 11, 2012

I didn’t make my official “goal” wordcount for this week, but it was still the best week in writing I’ve had in many weeks:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 1,367 words

Grand Total: 1,367 words

And this was despite several factors against my having a good week for writing (including ongoing work on the Home Project, which doesn’t look likely to abate any time soon, simply because even after the conclusion of the main part of the Home Project, there are still so many little and medium-sized things that need to be done to finish the job).  I managed to do so well mainly through the mechanism of staying up way, way too late on Friday night, which is not a feat I want (or am able) to frequently replicate, as my body can’t seem to handle a lot of sleep deprivation.  (And besides… I’ll get plenty of that sleep deprivation again soon enough, though I’m certain not to get any writing out of that.)  I expect the next two weeks will be substantially worse on wordcount, due to some significant family engagements.  Should be fun and happy but also very busy. 

While my writing last week was notably productive with respect to the wordcounts of the last several weeks, it does come with an important caveat: this is likely one of the few times I’ve come away from what I’ve written knowing already that I will probably be deleting a large chunk of what I wrote: by my best-guess, probably some 300-400 words worth.

It’s unusual, when I’m editing a story, for me to delete large chunks of wordcount, or to reduce the length of a manuscript.  Typically when I edit I’m either rearranging material I’ve already written, rewording what I’ve written, or adding brand new material.  So the end result is most often a longer manuscript than what I started with in the edit phase.

But I also haven’t tackled a project of this size and complexity in years.  So at first it might seem surprising that I’d already be thinking of such a large edit here, but everything about this process is likely to be surprsing.

In this particular case, I was having trouble with a transition.  (I’m sensing a theme here.  Learning to handle transitions with more grace and style might be one of the major skills I’m developing with this project.)  The characters were waiting for the arrival of something they’d recently spotted coming their way.  (To wit: the aforementioned airship.)  They didn’t really have the option of escaping (if such were their desire): the airship was faster than they were, and they are located in a vast, featureless desert.  But there was an interminably long time between their first spotting the airship and its inevitable arrival.  At the time I wrote it, I was operating under the assumption that the airship would’ve been between a half hour and an hour away.  A little research on airships and some number crunching suggested it would actually have been about 10-15 minutes away.  Either way, they had some time to kill.  And I had to try to kill it gracefully in the story.

Which was painfully hard to do.  What came out was boring, pointless, and didn’t really advance the story.  It was such that, immediately upon completing that section and having written the arrival of the airship (which I liked very much), I stopped and commented on my manuscript: “I may have to delete this entirely.”

My plan was to let it stand and keep chugging on with additional wordcount and let my hypothetical future alpha and/or beta readers (someday) help identify the problems with the passage (if any).  But by the next day I’d had enough time to think about what I’d written that I’d figured a way possibly to fix it without waiting.  So I may do just that.  I’ve done enough edits and fixes on my manuscript already that I’ve created an extra folder named “Draft 2″ so I can keep track.  With this problematic little passage the only thing I wanted to keep was the description of the airship when it’s finally close enough to make out the details, and I think I can fix that.  Or I might still just chug ahead: forward momentum has been elusive in this project of late.

Well, that’s all I can say about my week in writing.  How was yours?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2012 12:18 pm

    Sometimes you just need to write it before you know you’ll have to cut it. I’ve had the same thing happen many times, even when working with an outline. I’m at the point where I’ll have to cut a LOT of the book, and do major restructuring. It may be unrecognizable in the second draft, but that seems to be how I work – also why I show my first draft to no one.

    And oh! I missed that subtle hint there ;) You will be busy, but at least this time you’ve got some experience so it won’t be as overwhelming? Maybe? Good luck!

    No writing for me yet. This week I’m finishing up a bunch of lose ends, and non-writing projects. Next week I hope.

    • September 25, 2012 8:39 am

      Oh yes, we’ll be busy come time. (The little brother hasn’t yet arrived; he’s still in transit.) And yes we have experience. But we also have an irrepressable toddler to deal with at the same time as we’ll have a new little one. So something tells me we’ll stil be just as exhausted…

      Your writing process sounds a lot like the writing process of many other writers – most indicative, to me, of the process predominately of “discovery writers” (or “Pantsers” or “Gardeners”, take your pick of preferred terms). So that’s not at all unusual, I think.

  2. September 11, 2012 1:24 pm

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had to cut or re-write stuff I thought would work but didn’t, lol. It’s always nice to be able to find a way to make your favorite ideas work!

    *sighs* I’m getting close to the end of the novel with my editing…and I can tell, lol. Fluffed so much stuff at one point…eh, it’s coming back to bite me now.

    (Funnily enough, this has to do with airships, as well. The (big) one in my novel is not exactly conventional (aka “real”) and is supposedly built more like a flying submarine than anything else, lol, according to one of my character’s observations; he’s a former air guard captain turned aeronautical engineer with a broad interest in the latest technologies, you see. As such, I feel like I should learn more about submarines (looking into their hydraulic systems now) to understand what all a submarine-airship hybrid might hypothetically contain and come up with specific details he’d likely take notice of in comparison to traditional airships. Of course, this will probably all be mentioned only in a couple of sentences, yet I plan for those sentences to be super relevant in the next book. Gotta lay the foundation now…)

    So yeah. This is annoying because I’ve actually set a deadline for myself (for once), and now I have to pause to do research so stuff plays out somewhat realistically. What’s more, sometimes I find the research is so fascinating that I get, well, distracted. (For example, I found this operator manual for submarine hydraulic systems that was printed back around the time frame my novel was inspired by (WWII-ish)–and let me say, I’m finding it quite fascinating.)

    Ah, well. That’s what I get for not doing it right the first time…lol.

    • September 25, 2012 8:42 am

      Hey research is necessary stuff. You can’t be faulted for enjoying it. ;) And it’s good to have deadlines, and to abide by them when possible. But if circumstances change (like you find you need to do more research than you had planned for), then I think there’s no shame in adjusting those deadlines accordingly, where possible (obviously not always possible when the deadlines are externally imposed).

  3. September 11, 2012 4:40 pm

    Well stated, T.S.; I frequently don’t know whether I’m going to have to cut something until after I’ve typed it up. It can feel like a time-waster, but I try to think of it as a sort of “calculatus eliminatus” principal (any old “Cat in the Hat” video fans have that song in their head yet?): Sometimes the way to find something (e.g. the story told at its best) is to find out where it’s not.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my writing progress, these last days. I don’t know if it’s due to having worked out a better outline than usual, or having just come off a NaNo-type month and kept the momentum, or what, but my current project is coming out of me at a better rate than I expected. Maybe it’s mostly to do with me just not wanting to leave this story for anything short of pressing necessities. I am *badly wanting* to write like I haven’t in a while. I gotta say, I like that zone.

    • September 25, 2012 8:46 am

      Like I mentioned in my reply to Bazelli, that sounds to me like a very common way of working among a particular type of writer.

  4. September 15, 2012 8:56 am

    A technique I sometimes use when there’s some time to kill in a story is what I call the Jump. When I see too much “this happened, then a said b, then that happened, then c said d…” I jump ahead in time and move forward from there, building in a quick recap of what was skipped. (I learned that from an old-time radio program called “I Love a Mystery.”)

    Sometimes it is better to Tell than to Show. :-)

    Oh, and I’m making the same assumption that Theresa is. :-) Good luck.

    • September 25, 2012 8:51 am

      Yeah, I’ve seen that technique used a lot in stories, and that’s largely the same technique I realized I’d need to use to fix the problem in what I wrote. I just don’t understand why it didn’t occur to me until after I’d written it that this was the way to go…

      And thank you for the good luck wishes. :)

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