Writing Progress: Week Ending December 15, 2012

No defense is the best offense? Or other somesuch words of unwisdom:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

As is also often the case, there’s not really a story or explanation for why I wasn’t able to write this week (or in other words… I have no defense; thus the lame joke with which the post began).

Lots of little things going on, none of which makes for much of a compelling story on its own but which, when taken in aggregate, meant that I had no real free time for writing last week.  The largest of the little things that added up was probably Holiday Preparations.

And I expect more such Holiday Preparations to consume the majority of my time this week as well, such that I won’t get much or any writing done before the actual Holidays themselves arrive.    But by then we’ll have out-of-town guests (thus the frantic nature of our preparations) so I don’t expect much writing time then, either.

Basically, I’m looking at the remainder of 2012 and I’m thinking that there won’t be much new wordcount coming out of me before the clock strikes Midnight and 2013 rises to begin its shift.

So, I’m getting close to the point where it’s time to post mortem 2012 and then to lay out goals for 2013.  Inasmuch as I am able to find blogging time in the next few weeks, you can expect both of those from me.

But enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.  How do you plan to spend what little remains of the year that was 2012?  Are there any Holiday festivities which you have already enjoyed or look forward to enjoying in the coming week?  Do you find the Holiday season impacts your writing productivity, and if so how?

Writing Progress: Week Ending December 8, 2012

I’ll save the pithy commentary for the body of this week’s update:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

As is often the case, there’s a story behind my not having done any writing last week.

This time, it’s because I was playing at being a Single Parent.  Dear Wife had a work trip for which she was gone for a few days, during which time I was B.T.’s sole care-taker. 

You could say, then, that I have a newfound respect for the trials and travails of actual single parents, and my pre-existing respect for Dear Wife and all that she does in our home for our family has deepened. 

At the end of the first day as a Single Dad I was tired.  Too tired to write, but with just enough energy to find less mentally-taxing ways of entertaining myself.  So I played a little Zelda, which I haven’t done in quite some time.  By the end of the second day, I was exhausted.  After I finished all the regular chores that need to be done each evening – dishes, preparing lunches for the next day, and so on – I was too tired even to try my hand at a video game.  I retired to bed at my earliest opportunity.

I went through third day in full Night-of-the-Living-Dead mode: mostly a mindless, shambling zombie-like entity that survived mostly by acting out of rote memory.  By the afternoon of the third day I was so close to the cusp of shutting down completely that I actually resorted to “self-medicating” by going to the office vending-machine and purchasing a caffeine-laced soda.  (I don’t drink coffee, so an afternoon cup o’ joe was not a real option.)

Thankfully Dear Wife returned toward the end of the third day, so I was able to get to bed somewhat early-ish.  But it took several days for me to recouperate fully.

This week is looking likely to be busy in other ways.  At least Dear Wife doesn’t have any more work trips planned for the immediate future.  Hopefully I’ll be able to find time to wrap up “The Story of V” and get to “The End”.

How about you all?  How was your week?

Writing Progress: Week Ending December 1, 2012

It was actually a pretty good week for me, again (all things considered):

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 1,437 words

Grand Total: 1,437 words

I’m pretty happy with that amount of progress.  At this point, with a total of about 3,900 words, the “Story of V” is pretty close to being finished.  I expect I’ll “The End” within another 500 – 1,250 words, give or take.  The end of this short story really is in sight.

What I think is particularly remarkable about the progress I made last week is that I was able to do that while also being pretty decently productive on the old Home Project front.  The last couple weeks have been some of the most productive Home Project weeks for Dear Wife and I that we’ve had in a while.  (Our list of things to do in the Home Project before we can call this done, for now, is still pretty long, but we’re making good progress on it.)   So I’m pretty proud of finding a good balance between writing and other stuff that needs to be done, even if just for a single week.  I don’t expect this next week to be similarly well-balanced.

Now, as you can see, my focus on the short story has come at the cost of forward momentum on “Book of M”.  That’s unfortunate, of course, but that’s how it goes.  In the meantime, I’ve felt really good about the progress I’ve made on “Story of V”.  And I think that bit of time away has reinvigorated my creative faculties, as I have a renewed interest and desire to push ahead with “Book of M”, as well as a new desire and new ideas to go back and fix the parts I’ve already written.

I’m weighing that right now: is it better to forge ahead knowing there are problems with what you’ve written, or update what you’ve written? What if the planned changes to what you’ve already written will alter the course, even if only modestly, in the direction the story will take?  I realize these are questions more relevant to “planners” and “architects” than to other kind of writers, but I’m curious how others of you handle this.

So, today, besides asking about your own projects and what’s up in your life right now, I thought I leave you with those questions.  Do you revise in mid-draft?  Do you hold off on making changes, but write going forward as if you had?  Or do you stick to your plan (if you have one) or stay on course with what you’ve already written, and pick up the pieces later?

Writing Progress: Week Ending November 24, 2012

It was Thanksgiving last week, and between travel and holiday festivities, I didn’t write too terribly much, but still:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 506 words

Grand Total: 506 words

This brings me to a total of almost 2 and a half thousand words on “Story of V” (the code-name for the currently untitled Short Story project), at what feels like something close to or just shy of the midway point.  Which means that I’m roughly on target for my goals for the total length of this project: in the 4,000 – 6,000 word range.

So that’s encouraging.

It’s slow going, but hopefully soon I’ll have a first draft of this story done.  And maybe then… maybe then I can find alpha and beta readers.  I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Other than that, there isn’t much to talk about in my writing world.  So why don’t you tell me about yours, instead?

Writing Progress: Week Ending November 17, 2012

Another week that was surprisingly good on the wordcount front, all things considered:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 1,180 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 200 words

Grand Total: 1,380 words

I did at last hear back about my standing on the Super Secret Project.  And it was not unsurprising.  Which is why you no longer see that listed among my active projects this week.

Someday, I may revisit my plan for the Super Secret Project, and actually write the thing, even without a market for it.  For now, however, it will not be appearing in the anticipated essay anthology.

Of course, I had been excited about the prospect of writing this, and I’m disappointed by the result.  On the other hand, however, I’m relieved to know for certain, and to have the freedom to arrange my writing time (limited as it is) around other projects (namely the short story I started in the prior week, code-named “Story of V” for lack of a real title, and of course “Book of M”).

Speaking of “Book of M”, this week went fairly well.  It was the largest single-week wordcount I’ve made on “Book of M” in over two months.  And it felt good to get some of that writing down.  I managed to overcome another difficult transition element in the story.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again: managing transitions is probably the single biggest difficulty I’ve faced in writing this.  I mentioned last week the excruciating frustration of writing only very little bits at a time, all herky-jerky like.  Transitions are one of the biggest reasons I find this painful.  It’s hard to manage your transitions when you’re putting down so few words at a time.  It’s hard to even know where the transitions are.

So it is that I strongly suspect, when this thing is finished and looking for Beta readers… that it’ll be in a terrible and almost unreadable state.

I also worked a bit on the short story this week, but didn’t do much with it.  I had to spend a good bit of time thinking abou the story and what I wanted to accomplish with it and how I was going to get there.  So I didn’t have much forward progress.  I’m feeling my way toward the story I want to tell.

And that’s writing, for last week.  I expect this week will be somewhat more muted in my writing progress, for reasons that may be obvious. (Or they may not.)  We shall see how it goes.

Now then.  Tell me: how was your week?

Writing Progress: Week Ending November 10, 2012

This past week was, I have to see, was a legitimately good week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 219 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V :

  • Wordcount: 1,764 words

Grand Total: 1,983 words

I wasn’t going to start working on a new short story until I heard back about whether I’d be moving forward with the Super Secret Project.  I didn’t want to get involved in another creative project when I’ve already got more on my plate than I can legitimately spend any time focusing on.

Well, I didn’t hear back on Super Secret Project, though I’m comfortable guessing that my proposal didn’t make the cut.  Either way, I had time to write this past week… and I’ve been feeling creatively stuck on the Book of M.  I’ll get back to that in a bit, but first I’ll spend a little talking about the new short story.

Like the last short story I worked on, this one is based on an idea and flash fiction first posted here on this blog.  Like that one, this will expand upon the idea of the flash-length story, add new depth, new dimensions, and new characters, and re-examine the plot.  While my last story wasn’t successful in the sense that it did not accomplish my writing-career aims I still considered an artistic success – I felt it was better than the previous short story I had written.  Both of those turned out to be novelette-length stories: both were over ten thousand words in length.

This time, I feel more confident that I’m writing a true short story.  Unlike last time, I’m not taking the basic plot sketched in the flash short and running in a whole new direction: I’m keeping the same plot structure.  But I’d been unsatisfied with the flash short because I didn’t feel it accomplished what I’d wanted it to, mainly because it lacked some important development of the main characters.   So what I’m doing with this story is I’m mainly fleshing out the characters and filling in the plot to make the story complete.  But overall, it’ll have the same structural arc.

At just over seventeen hundred words, it’s already longer than the flash it was based on.  I expect it to be about 4,000 words when it’s done, give or take a little.

Past experience would suggest that when I say “I expect it to be about 4,000 words” that what I really mean is “It’ll probably be about 6-7,000 words”.  We’ll see, but in this case I don’t think so.  I really think it’ll stay fairly short.

When it’s done and polished, I’m sure I’ll send it off to Writers of the Future or something like that.  And I’m equally sure it won’t win any prizes.  But it’s the short story I feel like telling right now, and that’s that.

As for the Book of M… I’ve alluded to some frustrations I’ve been having with it, lately.  “Creatively stuck” is one way of putting it, but it’s not really an accurate way of putting it.  I don’t have writer’s block.  I know basically what happens next… I just need to write it.

Rather, two things have been bothering me about it.  First, there’s my progress, or lack thereof.  The past couple months have been painful in how slow it’s been.  It’s literally been fits and starts: a week with 500 words here.  A week with 200 words there.  And lots and lots of weeks of plain flat nothing in between.  The writing and progress has been so disjointed, there’s no continuity in my writing head.  Each time I sit down to write, I’m starting from scratch.  I expect that it’ll read the way it was written: very disjointed and incongruous and fidgety.  Which is to say: not very good at all.

I realize this stuff can be fixed in editing.  But it makes it harder to write in the first place, never mind editing, because I’m so disconnected from the story.

Maybe now’s just not a good time in my life to try to be working on this thing.  I don’t know.  But the thought of arresting my progress entirely, the thought of giving up – even with the promise of coming back to it later – it’s even more depressing than the ugly and slow progress I’ve had these past few months.

So I keep going as much as I can… and I resign myself to the realization that not only am I writing complete and utter crap, but I’m writing it slowly.

And that bothers me, too… because it’s not like I’d figured on finishing this any time soon, as it was.  Even at what I considered a modest and successful pace of 2,000 words a week, I knew this thing was going to take me years to finish.  But at the abysmally slow pace of… what… a few hundred words a week, on average?  I can’t say there’s any likelihood at all that I’ll ever finish.

Yes, I know, it wasn’t likely I’d ever be a published fantasy novelist in the real world as it was.  But it’s downright impossible to be a published fantasy novelist if you can’t finish a single fantasy novel.  I’m not getting any younger here… and, unfortunately, my novel mostly isn’t getting any more written, either.

Enough of my grumbling.  Maybe you’ve had a better week, in writing and/or in life, I hope?  Why don’t you tell me about it?

Writing Progress: Week Ending November 3, 2012

It’s kind of sad when I think that a week where I barely topped out over 500 words is a good week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 566 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 566 words

Be that as it may… I wrote over 500 words last week, so I have to count that as a good week, right now.

I might’ve been able to do another 200 or 300 words, but I hit a smallish roadblock as I was writing.  I discovered, as I introduced an important secondary character, that I had no idea what that character actually looked like.  No clear vision of him.  So I spent somewhere near to an hour or so looking up inspirational images on the internet.

One of the things I feel like I often get complimented on, in my writing, is my description.  I don’t know if that’s really a good thing, or just people stretching to compliment me on something, anything.  But assuming it’s a genuine compliment – to the extent that it’s actually a good thing – I think I owe that at least in part to the very visual way in which I approach writing.  I “see” a lot of what I write, and I describe what I see.  For better or worse, I expect my readers to be able to see the same thing I see.

And so it was, when I reached the point where I was introducing this important supporting character, and upon realizing I couldn’t “see” him… it quickly became incumbant upon me to cultivate my mental image on him.  Luckily, there’s no dearth of images easily searchable on Google.  (Unluckily, the search times I came up with for this particular character have not produced an awful lot that’s been particularly evocative and inspirational to me.)  So it took me a while to come up with anything that started to tickly my imagination the right way.

There are limits, clearly, to the benefits of writing in such a visually-oriented way. 

How was your week in writing?  Are you very visual in what you write, or else how to you typically approach writing description and evoking the world of your story?

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 27, 2012

Look, I can explain this:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

Yeah, I wrote nothing.  Zero.  Nada.  Bupkiss.  But I can, in fact, explain.  Remember the “super-extra double-secret” project from last week?  Well, just re-read last week’s writing update and you’ll know what I’ve been doing all week.

Literally, every single free moment this past week was devoted completely to fashioning an airplane for B.T.’s Halloween.

And, if real-life were a video game, I would (to borrow a running gag from Pat Rothfuss’s blog) be able to say the following:

Achievement Unlocked:

Fashioned Halloween Costume By Hand, From Scratch, For My Kid

That’s right, the airplane itself is done.  To be fair, that wasn’t the whole of B.T.’s costume.  Since he can’t reasonably wear the airplane itself all the time, there’s a secondary element to his costume: the pilot’s uniform.  And that area wasn’t my domain, but instead Dear Wife’s.  She fashioned a cute-as-a-button U.S. Air Force-style flight jumpsuit from things we had lying around (and including some actual flight patches courtesy of an ex-Air Force pilot in our extended family).  He looked as completely convincing as a 3-foot 2-year-old can be.

So it killed the week, but I’m a proud and happy dad just the same.

I’ll probably post more, later, about the airplane with pictures when I get a chance.  Maybe even by Halloween itself.

So, how was your week?

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 20, 2012

I was perhaps premature in declaring an end to my “slump”:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 157 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Extra-Double-Super Secret Project 2:

  • Wordcount: Eleventy Bajillion words

Grand Total: Infinity words

Okay, obviously I’m joking there, about the Extra-Double-Super Secret Project #2.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  On the other two projects: Well, “Book of M” saw little productivity this week.  This wasn’t entirely unexpected on my part.  I could’ve done more, I think.  I should’ve done more.  But it still wouldn’t have been a whole lot.  If I’d been more efficient and a better writer in the time I had, I’d probably be looking at 500-ish words this week, instead of less than 200. 

I fully expected, on the other hand, to have little or no measureable productivity on the Super Secret Project. As I mentioned in the comments on last week’s update, the Super Secret Project is a non-fiction literary analysis sort of piece.  It’s my proposed contribution to a collection of such essays, the collection itself being likewise a proposal itself.  I don’t know whether the collection is a sure bet or not.  But my proposal for it isn’t a sure shot at all.  I’m told to expect to hear back near the end of the month.  Until then, there isn’t much to write on the essay.

But there’s research – of the reading kind, of course.  So I’m busy reading up on different things that touch on the topic of my proposed essay.

Meanwhile, there’s Extra-Double-Super Secret Project #2.  I jest in including this among the “writing projects” I track here.  The Project does exist, but it’s nothing whatsoever to do with writing.  Rather, it involves the manufacture of a costume.  You know, like you do this time of year.  Allow me to illuminate through the telling of a story.

Dear Wife and I had assumed for months now that B.T. would dress as a Fireman for our perennial festivities.  He’d developed an obsession for Firetrucks to accompany his obsessions for Trains and Planes.  We had a Fireman-themed raincoat and a little toy plastic Fireman’s helmet and gollashes.  Some black pants with reflective tape attached and voila!  We’d have a Freman costume.  The shortcoming in our plan?  We hadn’t stopped to ask the man himself what he wanted to be for Halloween.

You see… he wasn’t exactly vocal about his opinions in prior years.  He pretty much happily accepted whatever silly thing we decided to dress him in (a dragon and a puppy in the past two years).  But this year he’s bigger, more self-aware, and vocal.

So it was that one day when Dear Wife was reading to B.T. a recently checked-out library book that was seasonally-appropriate, she asked the little tyke what he wanted to be for Halloween.  B.T. had just been exposed to questions of dressing up as any number of traditional Halloween characters: ghosts and cowboys and whatnot.  B.T.’s totally unexpected response: “I want to be an airplane.”

Repeated inquiries have not swayed him from this planned course of action.  We’ve tried different ways of asking him “Wouldn’t you like to be a Fireman for Halloween?”  No dice.  We’ve tried asking him right after he’s just watched a little Fireman Sam or some other Fireman-themed program, or after reading a book with Firemen and Firetrucks in it.  This doesn’t change his mind.  His answer is always the same: “No, I want to be an airplane.”  The only change, in fact, has concerned the specific color of the airplane in question.  He’s gone from preferring a yellow one to preferring a red one.

So, what’s a father to do?

In part owing to some of the circumstances of the recent and on-going “Home Project”, which continues to drain time away from writing and other leisure activities, we are, shall we say, replete with cardboard boxes at the Casa Chez Watkins.  With those materials at hand, I hied myself off to the hardware store for some spray-paint (candy apple red in color) and duct-tape.

I may share pictures of the work-in-progress, if I get the opportunity.  But I spent a not-insignificant amount of time laboring with a box cutter over bits and pieces of corrugated cardboard.  There’s still lots to do.  But it’s been fun in it’s way.

So, how was your week, in writing or otherwise?  Planning on dressing as anything particular for the season of spookiness?

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 13, 2012

As promised, I’m out of the slump… at least for now:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 553 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 507 words

Grand Total: 1,060 words

As it turns out that whole idea I had about spending October writing a short story?  Yeah, so far, it hasn’t happened.  Instead, this week, I started work on my new “Super Secret Project”, which I’m both excited about and terrified of.  The “Super Secret Project” isn’t a short story.  But a potential opportunity came up and I had to move to try to take advantage of it.  I’m excited because it’s something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while.  I’m terrified because I’m not sure I’m up to the task of doing the job right. It’s a pretty ambitious and difficult project.

Right now, though, the Super Secret Project is pretty tentative: there’s no guarantee I’ll “get the job”, so to speak.  I’m hopeful, of course, and excited, but I’m keeping my expectations in check.  What I wrote last week on the Super Secret Project was really just my proposal for the project, what I’m planning to do.  It wasn’t a typical query, really, but like I said this isn’t a short story – it’s not even fiction.   Even if this project doesn’t go forward , I’m happy to have had the opportunity to start fleshing out my idea for it and start expanding my knowledge of the subject.

If the project does go forward, then my November will be about the Super Secret Project instead of about “Book of M” – so no “Novel Month” for me.  “Book of M” will be on the back burner until I finish the Super Secret Project.  On the other hand, if the project doesn’t go forward, well… I’ve still got “Book of M”, don’t I?  And that’s not a bad deal either.

Speaking of which… after four weeks of nothing, I finally got in a word edgewise on the “Book of M”.  That felt good.

So, not a huge week, but a good one nonetheless.  How was your week?