Writing Progress: Week Ending July 2, 2011

It’s been a rough week on the wordsmithing front.  Here are the details:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 0
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,015 words

Grand Total: 1,015 words

After a pretty fantastic week with over six thousand words, a mere thousand is a big letdown.  But it’s not a big surprise.  I knew this week would be leaner than last week on wordcount – though I didn’t expect it to be quite so lean.  So, what happened this week?

Well, I started out by losing two whole writing days to a pressing concern in the backyard.  A veritable jungle of bamboo has been steadily expanding, and was now threatening to engulf the AC compressor unit, which would have rendered our home uninhabitable had the bamboo succeeded.  But after spending most of the evening two days bushwhacking through the Casa Chez Watkins Outback, I was pretty exhausted.  After the second day, I succumbed to a growing urge to play a video game.  I was too exhausted to have the energy to do anything creative, anyway.  But I find video games, in small doses, can be surprisingly rejuvenative.

When I finally did have time to write, I was beset by a challenging problem: one of the main characters in my “Book of M” hasn’t yet a name.  At one point I’d been using a particular name, but I’d rejected it.  The problem is… without a name, I find it difficult to connect with the character.  I don’t really know how to write about the character if he hasn’t got a name.  And seeing as he’s the co-protagonist, this has begun to hamper my ability to work out the plot of the book.  Compounding the problem: I don’t feel like I can just randomly “come up with a name” and call it good.  Although I don’t intend to go into Tolkienian detail, with regard to languages in this world, as an amateur linguist I consider it a matter or principle that I should address language in my work in a realistic manner.  That means that even if I don’t work out the actual nitty-gritty details of the languages spoken in this world, that at least the names of the characters are phonologically consistent within their cultural and language groups. 

The two co-protagonists are from different culture and language groups.  (Incidentally, this also means that I have to work out how and why it is that these two characters are able to communicate with each other, seeing as how they natively speak different languages.)  The primary protagonist, I have an idea of what her language is supposed to sound like.  I built that sound around the character’s name, which I’d already settled on fairly firmly early on.  I made a few notes regarding her language.  But her co-protagonist… him I’ve been less sure of. 

So, before naming him, I’ve been trying to think about the culture he comes from.  And the language.  I’ve been toying now with the idea of doing a Germanic/Celtic cross-over language for his people.  Right now, I have no idea what that would sound like, or look like – except that it would certainly have some sort of palatal or velar fricative.  You know, the “ch” in the Scottish “Ach” and “Loch” and the German “Ich” as in “Ich bin ein Berliner”.  So, basically, I used what little writing time I have to begin a study and survey of the phonology of German and of a Celtic language, in this case, Scottish Gaelic – to see if I could come up with a melding of the two.  Then, I’d be able to come up with a name that was phonologically consistent with this hypothetical language.   So, that ate into some of my writing time as well – and I’m not near done with that linguistic survey, yet.

So, that’s where I stand.  How was your writing week?


23 thoughts on “Writing Progress: Week Ending July 2, 2011

  1. Ooo…figuring out languages! That’s always fun, heh. And hey, progress is progress, you know?

    I also find it pretty much impossible to write about nameless characters, so you’re not alone there! But you’re in the preliminary stages of that particular project, right? So you’ve got plenty of time to build/explore the characters and figure out names as you develop the cultures and languages more before writing the actual story. (I like to think they all kind of grow together.)

    Hmm…I’m kind of in the middle of editing a chapter right now, so it’s hard to say where I am numerically. Won’t know ’til I’m through with it. (Got about 3,100 more words to get through.)

    This week I’ve been improving/rewriting two chapters (one was originally 7,900 words and the other almost 8,500), breaking them into smaller sections so they’re paced better and are easier to digest from a reading standpoint–without doing away with vital details. These two just don’t seem to want to go down by very much, though, like some of the others!

    • I’m glad there’s at least someone who understands my inability to conceive of a character while that character remains nameless. As for the languages – at this stage I figure they’ll mostly remain abstract concepts. As I said, I don’t intend to go into Tolkienian detail with these ones. I just want to give the impression of fully-functional languages, but I don’t want to invest the work needed at this stage. (I do plan to do that for my “Project SOA” book-that-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever… but that project I now realize will be many more years in development before it’s ready for the prime-time.) Regardless, while I want to have much of this worked out before I write… I want to get it worked out in as timely and efficient manner as possible… because, gosh darn it, as much as I love writing background material and getting my ducks in a row, I want to write this book!

      I wouldn’t worry too much if you’re not getting much cut out of these chapters. While a goal of efficient, clean, readable prose is desireable I’ve found, at least for myself, that an arbitrary goal of “cutting X% or cutting X words” doesn’t actually help me achieve the true goal of clean, readable prose. Instead, it forces me into writerly contortions wherein I either say some things in ways that are direct, to-the-point, and utterly lifeless, or else I end up not saying things that really ought to have been said. That’s my experience, so far. (Thus, I usually end up adding more than I ever cut, in revisions.) Still… I always try to clean up my writing as best as I can, and I try, I really try to keep the wordcount under control.

      Anyway, good luck with those revisions!

      • Thanks. 😀 Yeah, that one chapter actually went up 501 words in the end, lol, but like you said I’m not gonna stress over it. It’s more interesting, imo, and better paced. Therefore it’s improved–which was my biggest concern.

        I gain some, I lose some. That seems to be the pattern so far, heh.

        It’ll be interesting to hear how your worldbuilding comes along! I’m already liking the sound of it. 🙂

      • That’s just how it goes, isn’t it?

        I’ll definitely continue to share stories of how things are going on the world-building and writing front as things progress… It’s been interesting, but I do feel like I still have precious little to show for my effort – a mostly empty wiki!

      • I have to have a name before I can write a character, and then usually the name is hard to change. In my writing, though, many characters (maybe even most — I’ll have to check this at some point) are living under names that aren’t the names they were given at birth. The birth names come much later, and sometimes not at all.

      • A variety of reasons, the main one of which is that they live in a place which is very conducive to self-reinvention. This reinvention takes different forms (some playful, some criminal, some transgendering, some escaping their families). There are also other reasons (a writer who works under a nom de plume, for example).

        It probably reflects the fact that I write about them before I know who they are, so learning their real names is part of that, and in some cases we never do learn their real names, at least so far.

      • Hmm. That’s an interesting, and kind of spooky sort of world, where no one is really who or what they seem, and anybody can recreate themselves in their own image. Liberating, perhaps, but also spooky…

  2. Got quite a bit done. Wrote most of the end of my current mystery. Prepared to go through my WIP, which has been resting for nearly four years. Counted the words in my second novel (170,715). Determined that the WIP will end up being shorter than that. Definitely.

    • Heh, that’s a long time to let a WIP sit and rest before coming back to it for edits and revisions! At least you’ll definitely be coming at it with fresh eyes! It’s probably good that your first novel, once you’re done editing it, will be shorter than your second. I keep hearing, from time-to-time, that publishers vastly prefer shorter works these days… Especially of new or first-time authors.

      • I think I was unclear in my original post. There are three novels. The first is done and (self)published. It’s 45,000 words. The second is available on the web but not on paper. That’s the 170,715 word one. The WIP is the third novel. They’re kind of a series, with the same (ever-expanding) group of characters, though I try to make sure that each can be read alone, too.

      • That is a bit clearer… In my head I read it as “returning to a finished WIP of the first novel for revision after having just completed a first draft on the second novel”. Still, it looks like your first was much shorter, after all. 45,000 words is sort of in a gray-area between very-very-very-long short story and not-quite-a-novel…

  3. Ugh. Nothing like hitch in the road to make things tricky, yes? And time spent tinkering with a name is just as productive as word count, unfortunately not as easily quantified…

    Good job with the bushwhacking and gaming, though. As much as I love writing and keeping daily goals, there’s something to be said for recognizing when you just can’t push it. Deadlines are great, but if you’re not feeling it, it’ll be crap anyway, so letting it percolate a little longer isn’t shameful — sometimes it’s necessary.

    Speaking of pushing, I had a half-dozen scenes to finish off for part of a manuscript. The dialogue was down, and some blocking, but it mostly read like a script. Needed to block and tag to print it off and get it to my reader. Luckily, she finds “shitty first draft” on the header of each page charming… ha! So sometimes, yes, I push through, knowing that if nothing else, I’ll have a starting point for further editing.

    Now, though, now I get to wait for her response, peruse and tweak those scenes, and read a couple of (hopefully) good books as a mental vacation before tackling another project.

    Hope your writing week is good! 😀

    • Heh. Bushwhacking is no fun, but it definitely had to be done. Gaming was maybe the opposite of that, I suppose. But it just goes back to my writing mantra: write as often as you can – but if the little (or big) but necessary things in life get in the way, don’t sweat it. Take care of what needs taking care of, then write. And last week, what needed taking care of was an overgrowth of bamboo.

      I got an “LOL” for your “shitty first draft”. Do you actually put that in the header? That’s hilarious. That’s an interesting work processs you have – working up from what is basically a script with dialog and basic blocking and filling in details and description later. I suppose, using that method, that should make a transition to script-writing later (when your books are optioned for the silver-screen treatment, right?) pretty easy. You just do the first-draft of the novel, and then you’re done, right? 😉

      This week looks to be another slow one, most probably, but hopefully is still more productive than last week…

      • Ah, a movie deal, wouldn’t that be lovely? I’ll work on shedding that “unpublished” label first… 😉

        And yes, seriously, “shitty first draft” is on the header of the first go. It’s helpful to remind me that things don’t need to be perfect. A tip picked up in the creative writing workshop years ago.

        And not everything begins as those script/dialogue scenes… those are from those little bursts of inspiration when I can hear my characters speaking — on repeat — until I get it down. Their nattering flows well, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the background, so I just sketch it out and wait to go back. I’ve been told my dialogue is very natural, so maybe this is why? Those lovely voices in my head?

        Incidentally, E.L. Doctorow said that writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. I agree. Haha!

        Re: inspiration. I find I work best on whatever scene is manifesting itself — not pushing myself to write something particular. I also don’t write linearly, so I tend to jump around a lot. Getting a whack of dialogue down is a great way to have something to jump off of later. And once I decide on themes, I can weave them into the background, too.

        Re: low production. Sometimes low expectations are a good thing. Those delightfully surprising bursts of productivity have to have something as a benchmark comparison. 😉

      • Yes, first things first. Publish. Then movie deal. 😀

        I’ll wager that, yes, focusing so clearly on dialog like that probably helps you get a very naturalistic flow to the language. I strive for it, too, but I know that my dialog is… sometimes imperfect.

        For myself, I work mostly linearly. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the desire at times to write scenes that occur elsewhere in a story. I satiate that by making copious notes on those later scenes, so that I’ll come to those scenes with a lot more meat on them than to those where I haven’t been pre-inspired.

        You’re right on production, too. Those good weeks feel great in part because they’re so much better than those weeks that are a little lower on the wordcount. This week is going to be another one of the latter type – I’ve been doing more reading/research than actual writing, so far.

  4. Ahh langauges! Right now I’m working with two language groups, though the MC can speak both so I don’t have to make up quite so much language.

    This weekend I made some good headway on the novel, finished chapter 1, and am midway through chapter 2 (about 5000 words or so). I’m happy with that. Hoping to finish chapter 2 while the enthusiasm lingers LOL

    • I thought it would be two languages for me, as well… And now, there are three language families – one that has splintered into a half-dozen separate languages, one which has continued more-or-less intact while simultaneously giving birth to a separate, mostly intelligible child tongue (it would be as if modern English was spoken alongside Shakespearian English in the same world at the same time), and one that is the last remant of one of a number of lesser-spoken languages. I guess I have a fetish for linguistic realism. Somehow, I want to make this all seem realistic, and yet not go through the work of actually writing up these languages in their entirety.

      I’m envious of your ability to plow right into your first draft… I don’t expect to be able to start on Chapter 1 at least until next month… My goal is to be ready by the end of July, but I have no idea if that’s even possible, yet…

  5. Pingback: On the Naming of Characters « The Undiscovered Author

  6. Well, also there’s the constant theme that you can change things, but reinvention is not total. Various people are trying to get away from their families, but usually their families catch up to them, one way or another. A mass murderer is trying to lead a better life, but she is who she is (and people remember what she’s done). A teenage runaway is adopted by a good family, but she still carries the scars (of all sorts) from what her original family did. A boy starts to live as a girl, and his friends accept this but his father doesn’t.

    If reinvention were easy, it wouldn’t make a very interesting story.

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