Post Script Process Analysis: “Story of K Final Draft”

Editing by David Silver

Time to slash and burn…

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. Continue reading

The Unbearable Awfulness of Something I Wrote Last Year

facepalm by Jes

Facepalm: I write the prose that makes the ancestors weep…

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.

Noooooooooooooo!

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.


Image Source: “Facepalm” by Jes, CC BY-SA

Post Script Process Analysis: “Story of V Second Draft”

"I Tend to Scribble A Lot" by Nic McPhee

Someone’s been editing…

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.

Continue reading

Revisions & “Project 2012”

I’m still outlining my current novel project.  But some of you out there are revising novels.  The first quarter of 2012 is already almost half over, but if that “revising a novel” thing describes you, then you might still find this to be of interest.

Writer Merrilee Faber has launched on her blog what she calls “Project 2012”: a one-year plan to revise an existing first draft and start and finish a new first draft for a new book during the 2012 calendar year.  She’s got a pretty tight program for how to achieve those two concurrent goals, and a few interesting tools to help along the way.  So if this sounds interesting to you, maybe you should check it out.

What follows are some links to some of the first few interesting posts she’s put up on the project:

http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com/category/project-2012/

http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/project-2012-from-first-draft-to-submission/

http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/project-2012-program-outline/

http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/project-2012-and-a-plan-with-a-capital-p/

http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/project-2012-starting-your-revision-step-1-the-read-through/

Plus, here’s another tool that one writer – Kerryn Angell, a particpant of Merrilee’s “Project 2012” – built off of Merrilee’s tools:

http://www.kerrynangell.com/2012/01/project-2012-starting-your-revision/

Of course… as I said, I’m not revising.  I’m still plotting and hopefully soon writing my first draft.  So what I’m really doing  here is posting these links up for my own personal future reference, come that time when I am finally revising (Project 2013?  2014? Somewhere in-between?)… But hey, if you are revising, it doesn’t hurt if this helps you out, too.

Writing Progress: Week Ending January 28, 2012

Another highly productive week of writing is behind me.

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 3,241 words

Grand Total: 3,241 words

Once again, my progress for the week was well-distributed across multiple writing days, demonstrating the fact that if I have the time to write, I can, in fact, write.  And these last two weeks I’ve been able to smuggle a lot of time across the border, so to speak, and I’ve been really productive.  The reverse will sometimes be true, I expect, in the coming few weeks  – because Dear Wife and I will need to focus a lot of our limited time-resources on planned House Projects, the current phase of which we want to finish roughly by the midpoint of February.  Pursuit of these joint-2012 goals – which are otherwise irrelevant to this blog – rank higher in importance, and I’m excited for this work to get done.  But nevermind that.  What about the writing, you ask?

Well, as I reported last week, I missed my self-imposed deadline for completing my prep-work for “Book of M” again.  I still haven’t finished the outline (at least… not as of the end of last week).  But I’m really quite close – in the last 10% of the book close, or so I think.  When last I visited with my characters, I was pondering the plot problems presented when one airship is reportedly significantly faster than another – and yet to have the final climactic moment happen at the prescribed time and place, I needed said second, faster airship to catch up with the first much more slowly than it’s speed would indicate.  In other words, the first, slower airship needed a bigger head start.  I’ve thought about it since then, and come to what is probably the answer as I realized that I still had one major plot thread that wouldn’t be adequately resolved in the final climax – I needed to resolve it first, and doing so would probably resolve that relative airship speed dilemma.

Anyway, that’s a bit specific with regards to the plot.  But you get the idea.  I’m right on the cusp of outlining out what happens in the climax.  And the great part: I have some idea exactly what that climax is.  When I started this outline, I really wasn’t sure where I was going to end up.  I had a few inklings, but no firm idea.  Now… I’m pretty sure I do know.  So that’s some big progress.  And while I’m truly excited to start the next phase, I do have that nagging voice in the back of my head that’s telling me: this is really good, but it’s not great.  You’ll have your work cut out for you in revisions, that’s for sure.  First I still have quite a bit to do, though, if I want to finish this by month’s end, and finally, finally start writing that first draft…

That was my week in writing.  How was yours?

Writing Progress: Week Ending January 21, 2012

Well, I had a really good writing week, and all-things-considered, I’m feeling pretty good:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 3,495 words

Grand Total: 3,495 words

My progress for the week was pretty well-distributed across several good writing days – despite having several other days off due to other ongoing committments.  And I made good strides toward my goal of finishing this outline process by the 25th – i.e. by Wednesday.

At this point, I anticipate that I’ll miss that deadline/goal.  But not by much.  I’m still learning, at this stage, about what I can accomplish in a given time period, and about how fast I actually write.  This will have been at least the third time I’ve missed a self-imposed deadline on getting the prep-work for “Book of M” done so I can start the actual draft.  This time, though, I’m really close.  In my outline I’m at approximately the 50% mark, or just a little short of it, for the novel. 

I’m guesstimating, of course, because I’ve reached a very murky part of the plotting for this novel.  The weird thing about this story is, since the very beginning I’ve had a very clear vision of how this story starts, and that vision has only gotten clearer.  But I’ve never been entirely certain where it goes from there.  I had a small catalog of scenes and goalposts in my head, but no connecting thread.  The hard work I’m doing now is sussing out that connecting thread to see where it leads.  So I still don’t know how this thing ends.  I’m finding out as I go.

I suspect that means, as I reach the end of the outline, that I’ll actually have to go back and revise some elements of the outline earlier on.  Actually, I’ve done that already – going back and adding notes about things I want to show or foreshadow at earlier points in the story.  And that’s before I’ve gotten past the halfway.

As things progress, I’ve also become aware of two peripheral things: (1) I’m really in love with this world.  It feels rich and alive to me.  That’s probably consequent to the long time I spent writing out it’s whole history. (2) I’m really worried about the direction of the plot, as a whole, and about the potential reader’s attachment to main character. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending January 14, 2012

Based solely on wordcount, it was a pretty good week – not spectacular, but pretty good.  However, for me it was really something of a home run:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,446 words

Grand Total: 1,446 words

I’ve mentioned a few times over the past several weeks that I was struggling with something of an intractable plot problem.  I’d reached the start of what I plan to be the eleventh chapter of the book… and I wasn’t sure what to do next.  I wanted certain circumstances to force the protagonist and co-protagonist apart in chapter 11, but I needed to solve a world-building question in order to explain how it came about.  And I struggled for weeks to find a solution.

You could say I had writer’s block, but I don’t.  I still made progress, I just switched gears to focus on other things – the character profiles, primarily.  In the intervening time, I let my subconscious work on the problem, expecting a solution to come to me in a flash of brilliance.

At this point, I’d already discarded a couple simple half-solutions – ideas that seemed like they could be good ideas, but which didn’t feel right for the story.  But I was ready to sit down this week to continue working on my outline, and yet the real solution still hadn’t presented itself to me.  I resolved to write.

I’ve discussed before how I don’t really “believe” in writer’s block.  How it’s a convenient fiction, or an excuse: a phrase we use to describe a number of different creative challenges that writer’s often face but each of which can be solved and overcome.  If there is one great panacea to that malady we call “writer’s block”, it is this: to just sit down and write.  BICHOK, I’ve heard it called: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.  This, then, is what I did.

And I solved my problem!

But you saw that coming, didn’t you? Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending January 7, 2012

By one measure, it wasn’t a particularly good week, but by another it was actually pretty decent:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 917 words

Grand Total: 917 words

Compared to two weeks of writing time over the holidays yielding only a little more than 500 words, this is fabulous progress, more than double the rate of the previous two weeks.  Still, under ordinary circumstances I would consider anything less than 1,000 words in a week to be disappointing.  But since this was the first week back from the holidays, I’m actually pretty satisfied with this progress.

Most of that wordcount was a continuation of writing character profiles – specifically finishing up the background of the secondary protagonist.  His profile is a good example of why I find having the whole history of the world written prior to the start of the main body of the work to be important.  In his case, events that occurred more than 250 years earlier are directly relevant to his character and who is he.  Why and how could that be?  Well… you’ll just have to wait to find out. 😉 Continue reading

Writing Progress: Two Weeks Ending December 31, 2011

The Holidays went about as expected, writing wise.  Wrapping up the year 2011 and the two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, here’s how I did:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 543 words

Grand Total: 543 words

I barely even turned on a computer over the Holidays, so in many ways this is better than I expected.  In fact, I wouldn’t even have written this much if I hadn’t come down with what I think was a case of food poisoning in time for Christmas Eve.  (I was better by Christmas Day, mostly.)  So whereas I would’ve preferred to spend the day out-and-about with family, instead I was bed-bound for half the day.  Naturally, with a laptop as my only companion, I spent some time writing.

I focused on more character notes this go-round, writing the history of the co-protagonist.  I haven’t finished his history, yet, to the point of the beginning of the story, but what I have done gives me a few interesting story hooks and points-of-conflict with the main protagonist.  I’m not sure, yet, how I’ll resolve those points-of-conflict so the two can work together.  But it should keep things interesting.

As for the main outline, I’m still semi-stalled at the point which I’m calling “Chapter 10” where I realized I needed to stop and work out some character and world-building issues.  I spend a little time each day thinking about the world-building questions raised by the plot turn I had planned – what the implications of it are, and how it can be – but so far I’ve not answered those questions for myself satisfactorily.  But I’m getting closer to figuring it out, I think.

Now that the Holidays are over, I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle and putting some words down.  This week won’t be spectacular, wordcount-wise, but hopefully I’ll start building some momentum.

That’s how writing has been around these parts.  How has it gone in your neck of the woods?

Writing Progress: Week Ending December 17, 2011 & A Milestone

Las week was not a bad week in writing:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 2,259 words

Grand Total: 2,259 words

In the previous week I had reached the point in my outline for the “Book of M” where the primary antagonist was introduced.  Up to this point I’ve been pretty uncertain about the final direction of the book: where it was going and what was going to happen.  I hadn’t really settled on a specific climactic moment for the book, as yet.  Given that the motivations and goals of the villain are going to be an important driver on the plot, I decided that I needed to take a step back and really dig into the backstory of that villain, so I could understand him better.

So mostly that’s what I did last week: the majority of my wordcount last week was the villain’s individual backstory and goals and motivations.  I’m pretty satisfied with the progress I made.  Whereas before the villain was sort of a nebulous, ill-defined “bad guy who does bad stuff because he’s bad”, now I understand why he is the way he is, and why he does what he does.  Of course, his story turns out to be fairly tragic.  Some bad stuff happens to him, and this leads him to some pretty stark and nasty conclusions, which leads him to act on those conclusions in ways that are not at all rosy and cheerful. Continue reading