Tag Archives: Random

So, how’s the writing going?

What writers are thinking when you ask them “how’s the writing going?”:

  • Great! Do you have an hour for me to explain the plot to you in detail?
  • I’ve finished numbering all the pages. Now it’s time to select a font.
  • My main character’s a jerk. He never does what I tell him.
  • Why are you asking? You know I haven’t actually worked on the book in weeks don’t you?
  • Oh crap! I’ve forgotten where commas go! And what the hell is a semi-colon?!
  • My daily writing goal is 800 words a day. I’ve written 799 and I have no idea what to write next.
  • Great! How’s your diet coming along?
  • If I stare at a blank page long enough my eyes start to see colors. Eventually those colors will turn into words, I just know it.
  • Oh fine. I haven’t been spending my writing sessions reading comic books, I swear.
  • I like doing this better than my day job. I don’t mind if it never pays off. I really don’t.
  • My fingers hurt.
  • My back hurts.
  • My brain hurts.
  • I need a hug.
  • Where’s my coffee?
  • Great! How’s playing video games working out for you? Just kidding. I miss them so much!
  • I think I’ll write faster with a new keyboard.
  • I think writing by hand is best.
  • I’m going to buy myself a new leather notebook and fill it with stories.
  • I don’t need writing prompts.
  • I’m doing research on the internet. Google knows every Spanish word right?
  • Great! How’s living in your mother’s basement?
  • Answering my e-mail is writing, right?
  • I could use a snack.
  • My friend’s writing is so much better than my own.
  • I can write a better book than Twilight.
  • Great! How’s that rash been clearing up?
  • I write best if I wake up at the crack of dawn.
  • I write best after I’ve had a few drinks late at night.
  • Don’t panic.
  • You just want me to ask about your book don’t you? Conversational reciprocity, eh? Well, I’ll have none of it!
  • Any day now I’ll know where the hell this story is going.
  • Great! I’ve only rewritten the first line ten times!
  • I never forget witch words to use.
  • I haven’t mixed up my character’s names.
  • All of my character’s names do not begin with the letter C. Though they could.
  • Drawing fractals IS working on the book. Or it was anyway.
  • I need another notebook for the bedroom, in case I have any good ideas. And a waterproof one for the bathroom.
  • Great! I’m thinking of tweezing my eyebrows.
  • Microsoft Word doesn’t think my title is a word.
  • I like OpenOffice. It counts my quotation marks as words (really).
  • What I really need is a typewriter. Or a typewriter sound for my keyboard.
  • I’ve been thinking of trying Balzac’s writing trick. Just kidding!
  • Great! So when are you and Deb gonna start having children?
  • Seriously, where is my coffee?

What we actually say:

  • It’s coming along.

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Writing with distractions

I can only write one book at a time.

I’ve tried working simultaneously but inevitably I have to put one project down to pick another one up.

This can be a bit of a problem for a guy who has at least five books stuck in his head.

I’ve tried working on two different subjects at the same time. When I started Fractals: A Programmer’s Approach I was also working on revising DM. One involved a lot of research and writing programs, and the other involved revising storylines, clarifying characters and trimming a lot of fat.

But I only have so much RAM and inevitably work on one (or both) suffers.

For me writing a novel requires a knowledge of the material that is almost sub-conscious. Not to be cliché, but you have to be living and breathing it. Apparently I can only live one life at a time.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream.

Even as I’m nearing the halfway point on Surreality I’m already thinking about its sequel. At the moment I’m thinking about good locations around Columbus. I’m not going into much detail yet, but I’ll give you a hint: I need at least three of them.

Why does our mind cast about instead of staying focused?

Part of it I think is to keep ourselves fresh. Working on a novel, especially to the obsessive level necessary to keep everything straight, is tiring work. And it’s slow. At 800 words a day I should have Surreality finished in another two months, only to give it promptly to my Dad who could probably read it in the course of a few afternoons. Sometimes it’s nice to play everything out, to live in another world for a while.

And books nag at you.

DM in particular pops into my head from time to time. I spent a year writing it, and it’s been two since I’ve really worked on it. Atlantia wants me to pick up where I left off so I can get to its sequel (and the book after that). And new ideas pop up unannounced: What about a detective story in Youngstown, OH? What about a prequel to DM?

It’s tempting to let these books goad me into working on them, but that only keeps me from doing the real work necessary to get them read by anyone aside from a few alpha and beta readers. (BTW I should probably not have any more alpha [rough draft] readers. Rough drafts are more embarrassing than you’d think).

I can’t decide if I want to be the sort of author who always has this problem, or the kind who actually gets to finish everything he started. I have a feeling it won’t really be a choice I make either way, either ideas will stop working or I will (so to speak).

Outlines might be a solution for some of you to this problem, though I’m the sort who hates intermediate steps. I try to work everything out in my head, so that when I write I can just write. But it leaves very little in the way of notes or other materials for other authors to pick up on, or even myself to remember where my head was. Books really are living things that live in the particular moment I choose to write them.

How do you deal with distractions?

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This post has been scheduled for 1/15/14 at 6:35am

Sometimes I schedule blog posts.

I like it not only because it means the blog tends to be released at a consistent time, 6:35am, but because it let’s me get to ideas when they’re fresh in my head which is not always immediately after I get up.

Other times an idea will strike me but I miss the window for writing about it. Writing a post about Black Friday right now wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially since January and February tend to be the months I spend the least money after the post holiday shock.

I like to feel like I’m having a daily conversation with everyone who comes to read this blog, but I’m also keenly aware in part because of my own habits, and what I’m able to observe from stats, that a lot of you don’t read the blog the day it comes out. A post can tank on its first day, and be one of my most popular by the end of the month, so what does a day or two’s advance writing do to change the reader’s experience?

Sometimes I “write the week” so I can focus on other projects that have been falling by the wayside. The first week I was working on Surreality I wrote all of my blog posts on Sunday so I could ride out the week with my head solely on my characters. Inevitably though, those are the weeks when I tend to have the most ideas I want to share with you.

Last month when I was on jury duty I had some time to kill before I reported in. I wrote Wednesday’s post Tuesday morning describing my time spent downtown assuming I’d have duty for the rest of the week. By noon I was released and Wednesday morning I was driving back to work as my post from downtown hit the web. I could have posted late on Tuesday instead of the regular time on Wednesday, but I kind of like to maintain a consistent release schedule (except when I don’t like last week 🙂 ).

A blog’s kind of a weird cross between the immediacy of other social media like Facebook and Twitter, and longer form non-fiction like articles and books. Ultimately I want my writing to be fresh even if it wasn’t brewed twenty minutes ago. Even if it’s topical or seasonal, when those things roll around again I want my writing to have something to say.

Do any of you “write the week”, or on “focus weeks” do you let the number of posts decrease? What works for you?

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Personal Writing Quirks

It’s been an off month for the writing, and the first week of January didn’t shape up too well either, what with the being sick and all. A few days of sitting on the couch reading comic books (mostly Y: The Last Man) and watching The Cosby Show on Hulu+ set me on the path to the mend, so here I am, your thrice weekly voice in your inbox, or wherever you read this blog.

Thursday is the two-year anniversary of the blog. If you’re interested we’re registered at Amazon, Bundle Dragon and B&N if you want to buy gifts (just kidding). Believe it or not, the blog was not really a New Year’s resolution back in 2012, which probably explains why I’m actually still doing it. It was, and still is, a great place for me to write about things I normally don’t make the time for, whether it’s thoughts on writing, little short story ideas, experiments, or the occasional techno-babble tirade.

I’d be concerned about the month gap in working on my novel were it not for the fact that this seems to be the way I work on every project. Observe:

1) My first finished novel draft, Atlantia, took four years to complete (back in highschool). At least 70% of the book was written in the last year.

2) Surreality’s initial draft and subsequent drafts were worked on steadily for a month or two, dropped then finished in a fit of productivity.

3) DM had about 30K words written before I set it aside for a while, then added another 170K words in about four months of straight work.

I wish I was the kind of writer who stuck to the X words a day every day way of working, and indeed I can keep it up for long periods. But something always seems to knock me off the rails for a bit. And when I get back on them it’s like I’ve thrown the third red log into the train to get it up to 88 MPH:

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Image Source: Futurepedia

I also seem to have a sinusoidal curve when it comes to ridiculous turns of phrase. My wife/editor tells me it’s every other chapter. I thought it had to do with my writing quickly, but even my slower 800 word per day pace has produced a few sentences that were upside-down and backwards, so to speak. This is after I’ve read the words out loud even.

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The trick to fixing it seems to be distance. No matter what my pace, if I’m looking at something I wrote today, I’m probably not going to find every flaw. Which admittedly is why some of these blog posts are a little imperfect, thank you again for your understanding of this. But put a week between me and the piece, and suddenly I am an editor again.

One more quirk. When I was shooting for 1600 words a day it took about an hour. Now that I’m shooting for 800 words a day it can take 30 minutes to two hours! I think some of this has to do with endurance training. If you write 1600 words a day for many days, it will seem normal and a reflex. My 800 word pace is a little more in flux because of trying to decide between rewriting, reworking or regurgitating existing text (okay not so much that last one but I could come up with another “re” word. Maybe reconstituting?). When I blog, 500-600 words comes easily in 25-40 minutes, as long as I’ve been consistent the last few weeks. Today for instance, it’s a little longer.

In other words writing every day makes writing every day easier. Who’d thought?

What are some quirks to your writing process? Are you pretty consistent, or a little more see-saw like me?

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