The Order of the Wordness

To say I didn’t write yesterday would be misleading, because there were lots of things going on in my head–I simply didn’t put any of that stuff down into the computer.  Nothing to edit, nothing to write.  First time that’s happened in some time.

And the good news is I didn’t freak out.

"I haven't put a single word in my story in ten minutes--my god, the walls are closing in!  Help!"

“I haven’t put a single word into my story in ten minutes–my god, it feels like the walls are closing in! Help!”

Like I said I worked on scenes in my head, mostly for the upcoming Act Two, but I branched out into Act Three a little.  Safe to say I know the ending of this novel–and pretty much every one that happens after this.  I’m nothing if not ready–though some would say, insane.  But there’s nothing wrong with a little crazy, right?

I might also have a few people who’ll beta read part of Act One.  I always fear that, because the last time I sent something out for beta reading the person told me they couldn’t get past the third page, and that I needed to cut the first two parts–without reading any of it, of course.  But I’m thinking about sending out the first part, then if that goes well the second, and then the third part, which is pretty much half of Act One.  Then sit back and wait for the comments to come in.

There is something that concerns me, and that’s word count.  This first book is long . . . real long.  Act One is 140,290 words, which, if I use the Harry Potter word count metric, is just short of both a Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.  Once Acts Two and Tree are in place, this one story will pretty much end up about the length of those aforementioned novels, plus The Goblet of Fire tacked on for good measure.

Which is the main reason why I decided to publish the individual acts alone:  throwing the whole story out there would be a little insane, and I don’t need War and Peace comparisons.  (For the record War and Peace clocks in at 561,304 words, and I have read it.  You get a definite feel for war in Russia in the winter, trust me.)

But then there’s these guys . . .

We all know George R. R. Martin, he of the “Don’t Get Too Attached to That Character” school of writing.  When you get into The Song of Ice and Fire series, the first book, A Game of Thrones, is 298,000 words.  And that’s the shortest book.  Second is A Feast of Crows, which is three hundred thousand, and they go from there.  Total count for five novels is one million, seven hundred seventy thousand words, and the remaining two novels will crank this up to about two and a quarter million words.

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series started out small, with The Gunslinger ending up fifty-five thousand words–King was probably having a bad day.  The remaining novels in series ran between 170,000 and 250,000, those the last book, The Dark Tower, ended up 288,000 words, bringing the series total to one million, two hundred and ninety-five thousand words.

But if we want to talk about massive word counts, let us head over to the Wheel of Time.

Robert Jordan’s fantasy series is huge:  eleven novels, with the shortest of them being about a quarter of a million words, the saga has a total word count of three million, three hundred and four thousand words.  Now, that brings it in just short of the ten novel series, Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson, which has a total word count of three million, three hundred twenty-five thousand words, but after Jordan died it was decided to bring in another author to finish Jordan’s final novel, A Memory of Light.  Brandon Sanderson finished that novel, and when it was published it was cut into three novels because–have you been following this thread?

A Memory of Light was huge.  How huge, she says?  The book was turned into The Gathering Storm–297,502 words–Towers of Midnight–327,052 words–and A Memory of Light, the original title, and that ended up with a count of 353,906 words.  Let me do some quick adding here, and . . . the final novel in the series was 978,460 words.

A million word novel.  Yeah, I can see that.

Come on, little fella--let's do this!

Come on, little fella–let’s do this!

 

You throw that into the mix, along with a prequel that’s just over a hundred thousand words, and the entire Wheel of Time series is 4,410,036 words, or 684 chapters, or 11,916 pages of good, fantasy fun.

I should also point out that David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest ran five hundred and seventy-five thousand words, and I seem to remember a lot of people trying to read that–“trying” being the operative word here.  But that sucker sold, and is probably still selling today.

So, is this where I’m heading?  Writing about these kids for the rest of my life?

Well . . . there are worst things that could happen.

A Hard Rain About to Fall

Even with all the stuff I had to do last night–I paid rent, I ordered shoes, and watched American Horror Story, which is getting stranger by the minute, which means I’m loving the hell out of it–I started in on Part Three and Chapter Six.  This part going to be a strange one, let me tell you.  Not AHS strange, though the story may just get there eventually.

Part Three is broken into six chapters.  Each chapter is a day out of the first week of school–5 September on–and each scene is a part of that class.  Some of the scenes will be short, some long.  The first day has three scenes:  getting to breakfast, an intro to history, and then off to flight school.  Flight school is gonna be long and technical, because you gotta know stuff if you’re gonna float about on a Class A PAV, let me tell you.

But first I’m getting some minute details out of the way first.  Like their uniforms, which fit perfectly because they were tailored in London by some old guy who had The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo taking their measurements.  They have little messenger bags for their books and, soon to be discovered, computer equipment.  (Yes, they still have physical books, but there’ll be a lot of access to those internets.)  And they are identifiable by little stars as to their grade level in school and their coven.  Yeah, covens:  just like little witches.

There’s also a storm blowing in off the Atlantic, because it makes things interesting later in the chapter.  And it gives my flight instructor reasons to go over the gear they wear and how it’ll help with the crap they may fly in.

Once more I took my time as I wrote, editing all along the way.  I’d write a paragraph and then move it somewhere else in the story.  I’d add things to sentences I’d already written and flesh out details where needed.  It was a little bit crazy writing, like my mind knew what it wanted to say, only I couldn’t get it all out in the right order, so I just sort of moved things around until it looked right.

It worked, however, and by the end of the evening I had close to a thousand words written, which is the most I’ve done in a week.  I also didn’t feel like I was doing the literary version of pulling teeth, because even with all the page dancing the words came out good and well.  It doesn’t matter how they come out:  in the end, when you have the words on the page, that’s what counts.

I’m getting back up to speed slowly.  I’m hoping that I can top a thousand words tonight, which is a good benchmark for getting up to where I need to be, word count-wise, if I want to finish this story by the end of February.  I need to start my edits this weekend, and keep moving onward.

I feel good right now about my work.  I’m happy to say I do.

 

Evaluation to Station

The musical selection is a little tricky, so hang on.  First up, Piano Concerto No. 1 and Pirates, from Works Vol. 1, by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, followed by Pictures at an Exhibition, also by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, then Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die, by Jethro Tull, finally capped off by Station to Station, by David Bowie.  Yeah, quite a lot there.

Writing was not that good, however.  Everything seem to conspire against me to keep me from doing anything.  First the computer decided it needed updates, so I couldn’t do anything because I knew I’d end up rebooting at some point–which I did.  Then my right eye started giving me problems:  itching, watering, putting junk in there.  I had to get up and rinse it out a few times, and even after that it just annoyed the hell out of me.  Then it was my back.  Yeah, it wanted attention, so I’d have to get up and either sit in a comfy chair, or walk around a little.  Anything but write.

But I was still in there plugging away–even though it was, as I’d said yesterday, a difficult scene to write.  There’s a real problem with working all day then coming home to write:  nothing you dream up while on the first job ever sounds as cool when you write it out for your second job.  Oh, there words were there, but I felt like I was emotionally detached.  I do know why, but I’m getting there, because I was feeling the scene more towards the end–maybe because I found some understanding about what I needed to say.

I was unable to finish the scene, however.  Too much pain, too tired, brain swimming in some crazy muck:  you name it, I had it.  After writing a whole lotta words over the weekend, I felt stunted last night.  I felt as if I were forcing the words out again, and thinking of that scene as I got up this morning, I feel like I need to give it the once over tonight before writing anything new.  Yeah, I know, no editing during NaNo.  As my adviser is going to tell Annie here very soon, and in no uncertain terms, “I’m not bound by your rules.”

I’m already thinking of the next mile stone ahead:  forty thousand words.  Very likely I can hit that by Sunday.  My NaNo stats keep telling me I’ll reach fifty thousand by Thursday, the 21st, and at that rate I except to hit my goal of fifty-four thousand by the following Saturday, and likely sixty thousand by the time I need to return to The Burg.  Yes, next Friday I leave for a week at home, and even with a six hundred mile drive ahead of me, I’ll do my best to get my word count in before the end of the evening.

The trick for me isn’t going to be winning NaNo.  It’s going to be finishing this novel in something that doesn’t require six months of work.  Realistically speaking right now, if I reach sixty thousand words by the end of November, and this novel ends up being about one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty thousand words, I’ll need to keep NaNoing into the middle of January.  It can be done.  It’s just a lot of work.

But . . . I need to do this.  I’ve started it; I’m going to finish it.

Daily word count:  1,846.  Total word count:  31,327.

 

Lower Level Assessments

Let get the music out of the way, as always:  Genesis Platinum Collection, by–I think you’ve guessed it–Genesis.  Only one recording?  It’s just short of four hours of music; it was plenty.

Writing didn’t go as easily as I thought it might yesterday.  I really felt the urge to screw away, to go do something besides sit at the computer and type.  It is true, you know, that you do get a little loopy when all you do is sit and write for hours on end.  And I’m trying to save a little money at the moment, so I’m falling into a routine of doing very little other than staying home, writing, and going out for a walk now and then.

Oh, and playing with software.  Remember I Isis and Studentssaid I wanted to show you how all the kids and my Director of Security would look like, standing on a path as they entered the school?  Yeah, here it is.  Wow, they look so small . . . just like stick figures.

I got to where I was getting so feverish with the cabin that I needed something, and it wasn’t cowbell.  I finally said the hell with it, packed up the computer, and headed out to Panera for dinner.  While there I ate my salad, drank my smoothie, listen to music and wrote a few hundred words, digging deep to find what I wanted to say and put it out on the computer.

I was back in that mood where it seemed like everything I wrote didn’t feel right, and I was constantly searching for the right words.  Well after sundown I hit eighteen hundred words and decided to chill out and watch Jaws, a movie I’ve seen many times, including in the theaters when it was first run.  But since I know how it ends–the shark blows up, which it couldn’t have actually done, poor Roy, eaten by a big fish–I felt an urge to finish up the scene I’d left behind.  I pulled off another four hundred and change words, and pushed my word count into the two thousands for the night.

Then I had a dream about an idiot I’d once had as a boss.  Hey, it can’t all be goodness, can it?

Lectures and sightseeing is over in the story.  I’ve put my two main characters in a position where they are about to get into some prime strangeness, and the next scene will be difficult for me.  Difficult in the sense that I gotta reach down and pull out some feelings that I haven’t seen in a while.  I’m not completely certain I’ll hit my mark, but I’m not completely worried I won’t.  This is a first edit.  If I need to change things later, I will.

The NaNo Page says I’ll hit fifty thousand words on the 21st of November.  That wold be fantastic, because I return back to Indiana the following day, which is a ten-hour drive for those who have forgotten my stories of Trips to The Burg.  Then a week there before I return to the Home Away From Home.  I’ll hit fifty thousand during that time, and I’ll clear fifty-five as well.  And I’ll keep going, because . . . Well, because.

Daily word count:  2,352.  Total word count:  29,481.

Cape Ann Rains

We got some dead beats in our Camp NaNo cabin.  No, really:  out of eight people, only five of us are writing, and the other three have obviously decided that writing is a whole lot of work–just like gathering wood for the evening’s fire–so they’ve run off to do something like, like swim in the lake or make out in the forest with someone from another cabin.  One can only hope they squat down to pee on some poison ivy and spend the rest of the month with itchy genitals.

While I’m in my cabin with my bunky, I also have another cabin set up where we can sneak off and chat with someone from another cabin, and it’s great fun, mostly because we’re chatting about all the other writers who seem to take great pleasure in talking about what they’re writing, but the actual writing part–not so much.

It’s always sort of like this with any kind of NaNo:  you have those who are busy writing their butts off, getting down the good and bad, and working hard to get their daily word counts . . . and you have others who spend their time asking things like, “What software should I use?” (which gets asked almost two times a day for most of the month), “What do you do when you get a great idea for a novel, but you don’t know where to go after a couple of paragraphs?” (spend a few weeks plotting things out; it works wonders), and lastly, going on about something you’ve been working on for decades, but won’t ever publish because a description of the work sounds like it’s some crazy, stream-of-consciousness, fan fiction that is constantly being updated and edited because of changes happening in the world right now.

Fiction:  I do not think Day Fit means what you think it means.

Anyway . . . the first part of my Camp Novel (not to be confused with “camp followers”) is finished, with the word count jumping up just over nine thousand words.  I knew this was happening, and after finishing my writing for the day I went out and bumped my goal to thirty thousand words, because I’m likely going there, and it’s a cheap shot to say I’ll shoot for twenty-five thousand and blow past that in a week.

Nine thousand words of set up, getting ready for what I call The Darkening Calm.  What is that?  More setup, really, but it’s working towards the feeling that things in my school are not nice, that the intuition of some instructors is correct, and something bad is going to happen soon.

When?  Well, I have four sections to this story–you figure it out.

Though yesterday felt like a grind at times–after all it was the 4th of July, or as I like to call it, “Turning Drunks with Fireworks Loose”–I was in a chapter I wanted to finish.  I wanted to finish it because I wanted to say what needed to be said.  I kept changing things as I went along because I need it to be right.  Even though I was flipping back and forth between Google Maps and Scrivener because part of the scene took place inside a moving car, and I was naming real streets in a real city, I didn’t want to stop.

I finished with almost three thousand words written for the day, and it’s been a while since I’ve done that.

Going back to school seemed to have done me some good.

The Greatest Discovery

When I look at the maps and the building designs I’ve produced for my next story, I see things.  I have visions in my head of the action that will happen there, I see people walking from place to place, I realize what some of these blocked out places are supposed to be–such as realizing that those open places on the second floor should be bathrooms–and I go to work making them so.

Camp is getting closer, it’s growing in size.  I’m taking it easy this time along, and I realize I need to set up a spreadsheet so I can track my progress.  Not that I need to do that, but it’s fun.  Next to cooking smores at night while sipping on lemonade and Wild Turkey as you discuss the crap you’ve churned out that day, watching your word count grow is one of those things that gives you a sense of accomplishment.  I realize that’s one of the reason some of us watch our counts, because it’s a conformation that we are actually doing something.

Which brings me to the Deep Though of the Day:  how does one get motivated for such things?  Yesterday, yet again, I observed a question that seems to come quite often around these times before a NaNo event–how do you find the motivation to write?  How do you psych yourself to create?  How do you go about writing?  And one of these pleas came with the code, “Don’t tell me ‘just write!’  There’s more to it than that.”

Um, no.  There isn’t more to it than that.

As I’ve pointed out from time to time, writing is a lot of work.  Maybe not the actual act of writing, but creating a story can be a pain, because creativity requires a bit of blood, sweat, and tears.  I told someone I may spend a quarter of my time physically setting up a story, but when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, I’m thinking about my story–or the next story to come.

Most of all, I’m writing.  Figure if I’m doing a thousand words every ninety minutes, then a twenty-five thousand word story is going to take you two thousand, two hundred fifty minutes to write.  That’s thirty-seven hours and thirty minutes, in case you don’t have a calculator handy.  If it takes you two hours to write a thousand words, then you’re looking at fifty hours for the same wordage.

Look at that time.  To write a novella, you’re going to spend at least one working week writing.  To produce a short novel, you’ll need a couple of week to two-and-a-half weeks.  To write a novel that clocks out between eighty and one hundred thousand words, you’ll need four to six weeks.

It is all about writing.

For a long time I wouldn’t write.  I had a voice that kept saying, “You suck, so why bother?” and I wouldn’t write.  What I did, instead, was look for my motivation, my reason to write.

What I found was this:  if I don’t write, then I’ll never finish the stories I want to tell.  So start writing, baby.

I believe it was Stephen King who had one of the simplest formulas for getting rid of writer’s block.  It went like this:  sit down at whatever you use to write.  Start writing.  Write down names.  Write out your grocery list.  Write down addresses.  Write out songs you love.  Write out names of cities.  Keep writing.  It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you are writing.  After a few pages of that, start writing your story, because if you have a story in you, it’ll come out.

For ten years my problem was this:  I thought I needed a reason to write.  I thought I needed motivation.

I didn’t.

I only needed to write.

Waiting For the Good Things

The month of WirMovember is finally behind us, and it seemed that if, for some, it could have lasted a few more days.  Last night I saw friend after friend post up on Facebook that, yes, they’d reached their fifty thousand words, and they’d won!  Yah!  How much did they reach their fifty thousand words by?  50,023.  50,102.  50,048 . . .

You get the idea.  They made it across the line, and I gotta give them props for it, because nailing fifty thousand words in a month isn’t always the easiest of things.

Which brings up a couple of conversations that occurred last night.  One was with The Muse—yes, she was around last night, mostly wondering what I was going to do next, as by “next” she meant, “You aren’t going to spend all your time trying to model space stations in 3D rendering programs all the time, are you?  I thought you were a writer.”  Of course she’s correct, I am a writer, and I can prove it—

We were discussion the frustration that comes from being creative:  how people around you don’t understand what you do, how you work in a vacuum, and how you have to spend so much time waiting for something to happen.  For example, how do you get people to buy your self-published works?  Or how long do you wait for someone to get back to you, letting you know that they’ve bought your story, and in another few months you’ll see your words appearing in print?

It’s not a lot of fun to be in any of these situations, not really knowing what to do next, and what’s going to happen if it doesn’t come.  You keep pressing on, in either case, but sometimes the very act of pressing on is a killer, because you feel a bit more isolated each time something doesn’t happen.

There’s very little you can do about it, too, because writing is pretty much a solitary sport.  Yes, you can hang out in cafes and clubs and write away—I’ve done that, and I actually enjoy it—but you’re still on your own.  You don’t have cheerleaders standing behind you yelling, “Go, Cassidy, Go, Cassidy, get that next two hundred words . . . Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, Go!”  Not gonna happen, at least not in real life.

But herein lies the rub:  if you don’t write, and keep at it, you not only get rusty, you get worse.  And this brings up the second, very short, conversation I had last night . . .

It was really a pop up IM while I was on Facebook, and it was from a friend, a fellow NaNoer, who said she’s been torn apart by another woman simply because my friend had forwarded the opinion that you have to write every day if you want to become a better writer.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she was insinuating that writing was a skill as much as it was a talent—which, if you know anything about any creative endeavor, that’s absolutely true.

I saw a quote pop up last night from Clive Barker, a few words of wisdom that he was offering from one writer to a whole lot of others.  It’s short, it’s sweet, and there is a whole philosophy in them:

 

Writers write. That may be an obvious thing to say but [it’s true]. There’s no such thing as a potential writer, there’s only somebody who is doing the thing. It’s like saying you’re a potential boat builder. No, you’re a boat builder when you’re building a boat.

 

Stephen King pretty much offered the same advice.  If you want to get better, you gotta write.  Think of that creative portion of your brain as a muscle, and then think about what happens if you work it on a regular basis:  it develops, right?  The reverse is also true:  you sit on your ass and do nothing with that muscle, it atrophies, it becomes weak and useless.

Where do you get your writing work out?  Places like . . . here.

This is the real paradox.  You have to keep writing to get better.  After a while you’ll build up a body of work—but what do you do to get it out there for people to see?  There are no easy routes to any of this, for if you write every day, you’ll end up with a lot of stories—stories that want to be published.

All you have to do after that is convince someone to publish you.

I write every day.  If I’m not working on a story, I do posts for my blog.  I’m very good about this, because I feel the five hundred or more words I write every day allow me to work on my craft.  I need to come up with new posts, new ideas, new titles every morning.  This is the process I use that allowed me to grow, to become a better writer.

To work out at the gym, so to speak.

This doesn’t mean I’m slacking with the stories.  When speaking with the Muse, I told her what I’ve done in the last thirteen months, from the start of NaNoWriMo 2011, to the end of NaNo 2012.  When I started working out the numbers, it was a bit surprising to me, even though I’m the one who wrote all of the following.

It worked out like this:

 

Her Demonic Majesty; novel, 86,000 words.
Echoes; novella, 21,000 words.
Couples Dance; novella/novel, 52,000 words.
Transporting; novel, 45,000 words added to complete story.
Diners at the Memory’s End; novel, 54,000 words.
Replacements; novelette, 12,000 words.
Samhain in Transition; novelette, 9,600 words.
Kolor Ijo; novel, 69,000 words.

 

With the exception of the first novel everything else was written during 2012.  Adding up those numbers, I’ve written about 349,000 words.  If I throw in Kuntilanak (novella, 25,000 words) and Captivate and Control (novelette, 10,000 words), then I kick that total to 384,000 words.

When I kick in the blog content . . . I always strive to do five hundred words a day.  Sometimes I go over (like with this post), so the word count average is bumped, but for the sake of not getting too crazy, I’ll say I average 550 words a day.

So thirteen months would be 395 posts, but there have been some double posts, so lets say I’ve completed 400.  The math is pretty simple:  I’ve published about 220,000 words for this blog since last November.  Probably a little more, but I’m not going to take the considerable time necessary to look at every post to get an exact total.  That’s just crazy.

What is my final count?  568,000 words for the last thirteen months.  What does that look like in real life?  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was about 257,000 words.  Stack a couple of them together, and when compared to what I’ve written, those are still short about fifty thousand words.

Then if I add in my other stories, you could throw a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on top of those two Order of the Phoenix novels, and that would represent just about everything I’ve written in the last year and a half.

Has all that writing made me better?  Yes, it has.  I’ve become better at researching, I know how to use my skills much better, I know how to watch out for things that can hurt my writing, and I’ve sharpened my editing skills.

You have to write every day to get better, to develop your skills, to understand your craft.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you need to get that in there.  And keep at it until you finish what you’re working on—

I mean, no one ever sailed off on just the keel of a boat.  And no one who ever called themselves a writer sent out unfinished stories.

Get to work on that boat; you have some travelin’ to do.