My Novel Idea

Last year, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and succeeded in completing a 50,000 word novel in those 30 days. I am still proud of that success and it is in fact the motivating experience behind this blog and my (less successful) 100 Days, 100K experiment. As of now, I am beginning the re-write process on that novel, not only polishing it but expanding it to the more usual 75-100K words. Note that this means my posting on this blog, especially short fiction pieces, will slow noticeably (I’m sure both of you are heartbroken). On the upside — if you can call it that — I will be writing more about the process of writing, specifically in this case about the process of working through a novel re-write (which I have never done before).

 

NaNoWriMo was fun and hard and exciting and frustrating, but most of all it was the perfect distillation of my greatest weakness as a writer: the desire to get the damn story told, already. Any of you have have read the fiction I post here can likely attest — most of it is short (1000-2000 words) and pretty rough around the edges. Both are strong clues that I sat down with an idea and pushed it out of my head (probably with the help of some wine or a few beers). I like a lot of what I write in that fashion, but when I look at those things later, they are not nearly as strong as other stories that I spend a lot of time on. The novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo was just like that. Obviously, I did not write it all in one sitting, but I did formulate an idea and then push that bastard out as fast and strong as I could. I think the novel has a lot of merit, but it is also rushed and rough.

 

The interesting thing is that it is not the novel I planned in the weeks leading up to the start of NaNoWriMo. I plotted and worked on another novel for a whole month prior to last November, but when it came time to pull the trigger, I flinched. That idea is too important to me, I think. It feels, in my head, like my Great Novel, and so I am afraid to start it. The novel I did write was much easier, much less important to me. Don’t get me wrong, I like what resulted and I hope that I love what comes out of the rewrite, but I chose that idea among the many floating in my head simply because I thought it was one I could finish in a month. Of course, I did not finish it in a month, because I am about to start finishing it now, but you see my point.

 

I hope to finish the rewrite before November. If I do and it goes well, resulting in a book I am proud of and feel is my best work, maybe I will take this year’s NaNoWriMo to finally face down that Great Book looming over me.

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100 Days, Not Quite 100K

When I “officially” launched this blog on my birthday, I instituted what I called the 100 Days, 100K (words) project — an attempt to motivate myself to work consistently enough to produce a novel’s worth of writing, fiction and otherwise, in one hundred days. Having successfully participated in National Novel Writing Month last year, I figured it would be easier. After all, 1000 words per day is only a little more than half of what you have to do to write 50K in a 30 day calendar month, right?

 

It’s never that easy.

 

The first thing I realized is that writing a novel is actually easier in its own way than writing a large number of shorter works. Once you get rolling, anyway, a novel sort of just rolls out in front of you. My writing process mostly involved going for a few mile run and thinking what happens next or how I was going to get where I needed to be later in the work, then sitting down and pumping out a couple thousand words. The consistency of both the story and the schedule made working easier. Not having the singular focus of a novel’s plot and characters and setting, though, meant that coming up with, fleshing out and producing each individual work of the last 100 days took more time and effort than working on the novel.

 

The next lesson was in time management. Last November, were were between sports and in that cold but not winter-wonderland season. In other words, it was easier to find time to write than the middle of the freaking summer. Seems I should have thought that one through. Not only did my son have a very intense baseball schedule — I am not complaining; I loved being at almost all of his games — but we had family vacations and a lot of school and related activities (many of them to do with or because of last December’s shooting, so we were much more obliged to be a part of them). Even simple facts like later summer bedtimes for the kids and more social gatherings and libations for the adults contributed. In other words, it was much easier to not find time to write.

 

Finally, I did not realize how much I would rely on outside motivation. One of the great dangers of the Stats page is being able to see how many people are reading your work — or, more to the point, how few. This was especially difficult to parse moving occasional writings from Facebook to a more consistent blog format. On Facebook, friends hit “like” easily; they want to offer you encouragement. That does not always translate to them clicking the link, and only rarely in commenting on the post. I was hoping to watch my writer page like goes up, my per-post views grow steadily, and my followers list get ever longer. Those things did not really happen and at times it became a source of insecurity for me, who would sometimes stop me in my tracks on a piece or motivate me to do something other than write.

 

All that said, it has been a very educational experiment and I will come away from it a better writer and a better blogger. I think the blog needs some format and focus changes, and my goals as a fiction author similarly need some review, if not revision. I did accomplish something on the order of 50K words over the course of the 100 days, about half of which is fiction that may or may not, depending on the particular piece, be workable into something I can sell. I still have not decided whether I want to deal with Gatekeepers (editors and publishers and the like) or strike out into the wild frontier of self publication, but that’s a different post.

 

I do want to thank those of you that have read and liked and shared and commented and followed. You’re awesome.

30 Days, 10K

As you can probably guess by the title, things are progressing far more slowly than I expected. There are some real life logistical issues, but the real problem is that I have not been able to find a strong rhythm for daily writing. I generally do write every day, but sometimes it is only a hundred words or two.

Part of the problem may be that I am not working on a specific project like I did during NaNoWriMo. Because that exercise was built specifically around trying to finish a novel of a minimum length, it was easier to set daily goals. Writing short stories and flash fiction, it is harder to make myself try and achieve a set goal. It may be necessary to restructure my approach in order to have clearer writing milestones in place. I don’t know exactly what that will look like but I will see what I can do.

As always, thanks for sticking with me an if you have suggestions, I am all ears.

10 Days, .6K

It seems this exercise is getting off to a slow start. While I can blame some of it on a bad cold, it’s also an issue of poor time management. But then, that is what this is about, and it’s early yet. I certainly have to pick up the pace, but it is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll see what the next 10 days brings.

 

Now, that .6K (i.e. 600 words) isn’t quite accurate. I am trying to only “count” finished words (in this case, the .6 is the 599 words of “Empty Aisle” sent to NPR for their 3 Minute Fiction contest). I am about 2400 words into another story (about 1/3 to 1/2 the way through) but since so much happens in editing I don’t want to count it yet. Plus, I have been offering daily “Six Word Sci-Fi” stories on my Twitter feed — check them out if you have not yet — which should account for another 600 words at the end of this exercise.

 

Back to work!

Day 0

It is the day beore for my “100 Days, 100K” experiment begins and the official launch of this blog. I can’t deny that I am a little nervous: Will I be able to make the goal? Will the writing be any good? And, most of all, will anyone read it?

There won’t be a lot of this sort of self reflection/personal details. Not only is that not what this blog is about, but also, if I do it right, the fiction and occasional essay that appear here should speak for me — my beliefs, my fears and my philosophies. Story is important and it is through story, whether a sprawling literary novel or a chat over coffee about your day, we unpack our lives and our belief systems.

As I go through this process of writing “for real” after so many years of doing it in disorganized spurts and in a haphazard, half-assed way, I want to share it. I want comments and criticism and, mostly, company. While I will eventually get to a place where I will try and sell what I write in one form or anther, what I really need is people reading and interacting. So the best thing you can do for me is sharing this blog with people who you think might be interested. The more people that read my stories, the more likely that I will learn the skills and techniques I need to become a “real writer” and, eventually, be able to make a career of it. I appreciate your help and support in this.

Tomorrow is day 1 and my first goal is a story for NPR’s “Three Minute Fiction” contest. Remember, I may not write 1,000 words a day for each of the 100 days and it may be a few days between updates (I want to post complete stories and lengths will vary). Stay tuned and stay with me. It should be a fun ride!

100 Days, 100K (Words, That Is)

This blog won’t go officially online until my birthday, but I am still working out little details like Facebook updates (which is what this post is all about).

But as long as I have got you here, I figured I would announce my first continuing effort this blog — 100 Days, 100K. My aim is to write 100,000 words in the first 100 days of this blog’s life — most of it fiction, the¬†occasional¬†non-fiction article and probably a few essays/rants. The goal, for me, is to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly. What i do not want is to tell myself I will write 1000 words a day for 100 days because it is way too easy, especially in the blog format, to write 1000 words of crap.

If you have suggestions for how I can get to that 100K mark while remaining entertaining and interesting, let me know. Thanks for reading.

I.E.