Archive for the ‘TheNovel’ Category

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Jockeying for Better Position

October 26, 2008

“So, you’ll at least think about it, right?”  asked Merrick, hopeful.

Kaysa walked into the room, carrying a pile of papers from the election.  She glanced at Merrick on her way past and said, “Resorting to talking to yourself, now?”

Merrick jumped, and in his zeal to cover up the mirror he was peering into he nearly toppled the stack of books next to it.  “I’m not doing anything.  Er… I mean no, I’m not talking to… I mean, yes, I was just talking to myself.”  He cleared his throat.

Kaysa put her load down, put her hands on her hips, and raised an eyebrow.  “All right, let’s hear it.  You don’t jump like that unless you’re up to no good.”

Merrick looked down at the floor sheepishly.  He cleared his throat again and meekly replied, “I was just talking to TheAuthors about the next book.”  He raised his head just enough to see her reaction.

Kaysa looked surprised.  “TheAuthors?  Really?  What did they say?”  She frowned a bit, “What did YOU say?”

“I was just… well…  Ok, first you can’t tell Tam or Alina, and especially Alcander.  Ok?”

Kaysa looked unimpressed.  “I’ll reserve judgment until after you spill it.”

“It’s just that in ‘Alina’s Gambit’ I had a small part – it was a fun role, with a little adventure, but it was a pretty small part.  I mean, nearly everyone got more page-time than me, well, except for like your folks.  Especially Alina, she seemed to be in every chapter.”

Kaysa smirked.  “Well, Mer, I would expect a book called ‘Alina’s Gambit’ to involve Alina to some goodly extent.  How would it look if Alina just showed up at the end, announced ‘Here I am!’ and called it a day?”

“I know that, and I’m not bitter or anything about Alina’s part in the book.  I was just…” the rest of his sentence trailed off in mumbles.

Kaysa stepped forward a bit, “You were just what?”

Merrick huffed, and blurted out, “I-was-just-trying-to-convince-TheAuthors-that-maybe-the-next-book-would-do-well-if-the-main-character-was-me!”  Merrick quickly closed his eyes and waited for Kaysa to start laughing.  He opened one just enough to peek out.  Kaysa was smiling, but not jeering.  “So you want a bigger role in TheSequel?”  she asked.

It took a moment for Merrick to realize that she was taking him seriously, or at least giving him an honest opportunity to explain himself.  “Well, yeah, I mean I still want to be the funny one, but I was hoping I could make some key discovery that would unravel the entire story on page six, or something like that.  You know, something that people would remember.”

“If you managed to unravel the story on page six, I think TheSequel would end up being a short story rather than a novel.”

“Ok, ok, but something like that.  You know?”

“Yes, I know.  I’m sure TheAuthors won’t forget what you did in ‘Alina’s Gambit’, and I’m sure they will give you some good parts in the next one.  Come on, we have work to do.  The future and TheSequel will work themselves out in their own time.”  She began walking out of the room, but glanced back over her shoulder.  “Besides, if you want to do something people would remember, how about letting TheAuthors record an enchantment session of yours gone wrong?  You know, give yourself rainbow-colored eyelashes or something?  I know I wouldn’t be able to forget THAT any time soon.  In fact, I would probably have nightmares.”

“Hmmm.  Rainbow-colored eyelashes.  That has potential.  Thanks Kaysa!”

Kaysa rolled her eyes and said, “Oh jeez, what have I started?”

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"Alina’s Gambit" First Draft Completed

August 23, 2008

The first draft clocks in at 390 pages, 27 chapters, and just shy of 98,000 words.  What’s ironic is that the first draft has taken just under 13 months to complete, but only represents 769 KB of storage on my hard drive.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for so long for a file that small.

Now comes phase two: editing.  My wife and I have been reading the early chapters and making notes about things we wanted to change and add, but the vast majority of those haven’t been incorporated yet.  Additionally, while we’ve started the second draft already, there’s only about 2 chapters worth to show for it (the prologue, all of chapter 1, and part of chapter 2).  That should hopefully speed up in a couple of weeks.

We’re going to be going on a new schedule starting this fall where we work on the novel together in the mornings before our respective days really get going.  That will be an interesting change for me.  I have historically been a morning person, but the overwhelming majority of “Alina’s Gambit” was written in the evenings.

Our goal is to get the manuscript to the point where we can start sending it out by the end of the year.  We have just over four months.  I think it will be tight, but doable.  We’ll see.

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Nearing the finish line

August 15, 2008

Well, I managed to get roughly ten and a third pages done tonight – a new “single sitting” record for me.  I reached the climax of the story, culminating in the big chase scene and most of the cats being let out of their bags.  I couldn’t exactly stop in the middle, now could I?

The first draft now stands at just about 92,700 words.  It will probably be very close to 100,000 by the time all of the loose ends get tied up.

However, that will have to wait for tomorrow.  I’m off to bed.

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TheNovel Turns 1

July 22, 2008

It was one year ago today that I started writing TheNovel (“Alina’s Gambit” as my wife and I have started to call it in recent months).  In that year my wife and I have written over 80,000 words, which by our reckoning puts us past the 2/3 point in the story.

It has definitely been an extremely busy, fast year – not just for TheNovel, but life in general: I started a new job, my wife completed her first year of teaching math (she had been teaching English for the previous nine years), our daughter completed her kindergarten year, and I took on greater responsibility at our church.  The rest of 2008 promises more of the same, and I have another project starting in early 2009 which will consume much of my “free” time.  As a result there is some urgency now to get TheNovel finished and revised (at least once).

Probably the most pleasant surprise in the last year has been my attitude toward the writing.  For the first few months, I really wanted to see progress on TheNovel, and forced myself to sit down and write.  I was interested in the writing, but only so far as it could be used to generate progress.

In the last couple of months, however, I’ve found myself just wanting to write, and TheNovel has provided a convenient outlet.  When it’s my time in the evenings (after the chores are done and my daughter is in bed), I usually have half a dozen or more things that I need to do.  These last couple of months I’ve found myself pushing all of those things off until I have my pages done for the day.  I’ve found that if I don’t get started on this before 9pm, the pages just don’t get done.  If I can start writing about 8:30 or so, I can usually get my pages done by 10pm, and that leaves some time for the other things.

TheNovel has become a priority and one that isn’t a chore anymore.  I think of everything I’ve learned in the last year about writing, that has been my biggest accomplishment.

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Characters that refuse to obey

June 19, 2008

“Alina’s Gambit” has surpassed the 70k word mark, and we’re bearing down on page 300.  CJ is officially done with the school year, so she has more time to devote to editing and rewrites.  She was terribly excited about getting to work on TheNovel, and what she’s cranked out so far really takes the manuscript up a notch.

Laurell K. Hamilton has mentioned at least a couple of times on her blog how the protagonist in the “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series, Anita Blake (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) would sometimes hijack the scene that Laurell was writing.  She would set the scene up, put Anita in it, and Anita would just run with it – sometimes in a direction very different than what Laurell had envisioned.  I always thought that was such an odd predicament for the writer to be in.  How can the character not do what the writer writes?  I think I found one possible answer to that question.

I had a scene in mind since the early days of the novel, and had it all planned out how the scene would further the plot, develop the characters, clean up the oceans, provide free energy to the world, etc, etc, etc.  Last week it came time to put that scene down on paper.  In the scene, Alina (the protagonist of “Alina’s Gambit”; you didn’t see that one coming either, did you?) would forward an idea of what to do next, and her three friends were going to try to talk her out of it.  Alina’s logic was going to prevail, and away we would go.

Except that Alina’s friends turned out to be more persuasive than Alina.

The problem, you see, was that Alina’s idea was a little on the illegal side, and if they were caught it would destroy all of the hard work Alina and her three friends had put in so far.  I spent over a day stuck at that point, trying to give Alina a strong enough argument to counter the friends’, but I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t find a reason that was good enough to justify breaking the law.  I had set up the four characters to be good people who occasionally make mistakes, not ones who intentionally set out to  do wrong.  If I wrote the scene like I had originally intended, it would be so far out of character for the four that I was worried that the reader just wouldn’t buy it.  The characters didn’t exactly hijack the scene, but they were quite vocal about where the line is drawn.

I think I understand a little better now what Laurell meant, and how it isn’t such an odd predicament after all.

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TheNovel Update

May 26, 2008

We are just shy of 62,000 words (a boundary I expect to cross later this evening).

I’m beginning to notice something interesting.  The scenes that I find fun to re-read were a blast to write in the first place.  For those scenes, I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I looked up I realized I had cranked out four pages or more – all without realizing how much I had written.  I’m wondering if more of the book should be that way.  I wonder if I find myself continuing glancing down the page to see where the end is, then I’m obviously not having enough fun doing the writing, so perhaps whatever it is I’m writing is bad.

The other extreme, though – having a story that never slows down – is definitely bad.  For example, the movie Armageddon wasn’t really a movie.  It was a 150-minute action sequence.  I always thought the more action you could cram into an action/comedy, the better.  After 1998 (yes “Armageddon” really is that old), I found that you can actually have TOO much action.  (Oddly enough I have yet to stumble onto a movie with TOO much comedy.)

I’m not willing to change how I approach the novel at this point, mostly because I still don’t really know what I’m doing.  I’m just writing the story how it seems to work.  I do intend to look at how the book turns out, and see if the parts that I considered “slow” wind up being the parts my wife and I revise heavily.

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Priority Management

April 15, 2008

I tried working three jobs at the same time for a brief period in college.  They were all part-time jobs, and even though I was pulling a full class load, the overall time commitment wasn’t unbearable for a kid in his late teens/early twenties.  What did wear me down, though, was how fragmented my focus was.  Switching gears several times, especially when I was only able to devote 30 or fewer minutes on a given gear/project, really made for some hectic and emotionally exhausting weeks, not to mention less-then-stellar quality.  It was only a “brief period” for me because I chose my mental sanity over the extra spending cash and dropped one of the jobs.

These days, I again find my focus becoming increasingly fragmented.  Besides work, family, and church, I have a couple of major projects brewing.  One of these is TheNovel.  Another is a side-programming project that I’m working on for “the family biz” as I like to call it.  My brother, my dad, and I have a venture together where I’m the CTO, and at the moment that involves writing the software tools that they use on the business side.

At the moment, these two projects are at a head.  Both need active involvement from me to move them along.  I’m not waiting on anyone or anything to be able to work on them.  There’s no one I can delegate to.  How do I decide which to work on?

Perhaps I can work on one for an hour each night, and then switch to the other.  I’ve tried that in the past, and one of a few things tended to happen:  I didn’t really get going on either project, and so didn’t really get a whole lot done on either; I really get going on one, and feel guilty when I didn’t want to stop to work on the other; I get depressed thinking about the quantity of work involved with BOTH projects combined, and didn’t start on either.

Since both projects still interest me greatly and are both still valuable to complete, I don’t want to let one die.  That leaves me with deciding which one I should postpone so I can focus on the other.

At a point like this, where all other factors are equal, I always choose the one where my lack of progress is holding up someone else.  In this case my dad and brother are waiting the newest incarnation of the software to be done so they can start using it.  No one is clamoring for new pages on TheNovel yet, so that will need to take a back seat for a couple of days.  Once the software project is out the door, I can focus on TheNovel again.

How do you decide when you have too many things lobbying for your precious time?