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  1. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Walk It off, Kid: Rzero's Progress Journal

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by Rzero, Mar 1, 2019.

    Yeah, that's a goofy title, but here's my progress journal:

    I’ve been contemplating starting this thing since I joined the forum in October, but I put it off and put it off. I’ve lagged lately in my writing. My daily totals are down, and I think it might be helpful. It’s worth a try at least, and if it does me no good, or worse, distracts me from writing, I’ll just stop. No harm done.

    A little background, in case anyone ever reads this, though I don’t know why you would:
    (So, here’s the thing: I was going to write a paragraph or two, but it turned into an “artist’s journey” bio over a thousand words long. I’m just going to hide it under this here spoiler button so it’s easier to skip. Man, that thing got away from me, which is something that happens frequently. I’ll get into that more later, I’m sure.)
    I’ve wanted to be a writer most of my life. My mother has a book we made when I was three or four. I made up the story, and she drew the pictures. It’s kind of fantastic. It’s about a dragon who goes to a beach to find some people to eat and sees a group of children playing. They’re having so much fun that the dragon realizes he’s lonely and would rather have friends to play with than eat people.

    So technically, I wrote (dictated) my first book around 1984. I made up a few more stories as a kid, but I don’t think I ever finished any of them, a pattern I would continue for many, many years. I never seriously considered writing as a profession though, until I properly discovered poetry in the ninth grade. It was e.e. cummings that did it for me, well, he and Jim Morrison. I was in hooked. I even won either second or third place (they only announced first and two runners up) in the city-wide arts festival poetry competition that year and had my poem published in a monochrome, plastic-bound, construction and copy paper book they printed a few hundred copies of total, I’m sure.

    By the time I graduated in ‘98, I’d written well over a hundred poems, maybe twice that. I used to number them like Emily Dickenson, but all these years later, I can’t remember how high they went. Out of those, a handful were pretty good, at least if you enjoy abstract, blank verse written by teenagers. Somewhere in there I won another contest for my high school’s yearly lit magazine. They never published it though. The kids voted, and I won $25 to Barnes & Noble, but whichever grownup was in charge banned it from the final version. Fucking grownups.

    I don’t know why the poetry stopped flowing, but it did. It may have happened around the time I quit smoking pot, so make of that what you will. By that time though, I was obsessed with movies and thought I wanted to write and direct. When I was twenty, I think, this would have been right after the millennium, a friend and I wrote a solid, if somewhat skeletal outline for a script. It was a standard fare coming-of-age party movie, but it had a good story, something akin to Dazed and Confused or Go. The project stalled when my writing partner hopped a plane to Dallas to check into rehab for a speed addiction with plans to move back in with his parents for a while after. I quit that day too.

    I picked up the script again a couple of times over the next year or two. I filled in a laser detailed outline and almost finished a rough draft. If I could find it now, I might try to finish it. At the time, it was a current generation story. Now it would be a rave era period piece, which would be much cooler.

    I have a tendency to abandon a project as soon as another idea occurs to me, and that’s exactly what happened to the script. I was over the whole movie thing apparently, and from 2004 to 2008, I wrote outlines, synopses and multiple chapters of at least a dozen novels, novellas and short stories that are unfinished to this day.

    One of my two main focuses during that period was a fantasy epic trilogy called Aelera’s War. Sometime before the book begins, Aelera, the benevolent goddess and creator of the universe is murdered by another goddess, her lover. She wants the throne, of course. Another goddess (there’s a whole pantheon) in charge of motherhood and reincarnation hides Aelera’s soul in a newborn baby girl before she and other deities loyal to Aelera seal the barriers between the two realms to keep the child safe. The world is entirely cut off from the gods.

    The first book focuses on Kalisa, the reborn goddess uniting the world to battle the forces of the evil goddess’s daughter, basically the antichrist. The second book tells the story of said antichrist, and the third book brings the two storylines together in a war for the planet and all of creation.

    It was way too big a project to tackle with no experience, and now it’s semi lost. Tens of thousands of words worth of outline and notes plus the first three chapters are trapped on a dead hard drive. I can likely have it all retrieved for about a grand. If it isn't lost forever, I will write it someday. It's the greatest story I've ever concurs. I consider it my magnum opus, so it's penciled in on the new slate for several years from now.

    My other main project at the time was a dark urban fantasy of sorts called Lucifer Posey and the Apocalypse Nymph. Lucifer is not the devil. Characters just have names like that: Athena Payne, Heroine Moon, Donnie Valentine, etc. I was told by everyone who ever read it that the name Lucifer Posey grows on you very quickly, so the initially off-putting to some but nonetheless intriguing title was working fine, I think. Again, that was just alpha reader feedback. Of course I loved it, or I would have changed it regardless.

    That book is difficult to explain properly, but the best I’ve come up with is that it’s a bit like Sin City, if there were monsters and all the characters had completely unexplained super powers, the theory being if everyone had them, it wouldn’t be a big deal. All the supernatural elements, even the extremely dangerous ones, are dealt with as extremely commonplace. It’s dark and poetic and seedy and dreamlike. There’s a herd of ghost children who eat anyone who stumble into the part of the city where the sun never shines, a mute, telekinetic serial killer who lives in a church basement, a terrorist apocalypse cult, sewer-dwelling vampires who rot like zombies and all sorts of wacky stuff like that.

    In 2008, I let a toxic relationship get in the way of my writing. All projects stopped dead within months. That relationship lasted a little over two years, and I haven’t written much since. I picked up The Apocalypse Nymph periodically over the years, adding a chapter or two every few years, sure that of all my projects, it was the most attainable goal. I never completely got back into it though. A few years ago, a vicious review from a terrible friend left me unable to write on it again. It was the only story to survive the great hard drive crash of 2015, and I plan to take it back up when I’m through with the current phase of my new plan.

    It’s very character driven and compelling (I’m told,) but it’s also a 20k word mess. I was discovery writing with no battle plan whatsoever, which is not my method, apparently. I was constantly editing and rewriting and making mistakes I didn’t know were huge red flag mistakes common for beginning writers. Having recently done a great deal of research, I no longer feel like a miserable failure for being unable to finish it. I was just doing it wrong.
    In summary, I’ve wanted to be a writer most of my life. I wrote poetry in high school and even won a couple of local contests. In my twenties I wrote most of a movie script and worked on dozens of still unfinished short stories, novellas and novels. I more or less quit writing about ten years ago. I had written a couple of hundred thousand words and never completed so much as a piece of flash fiction.

    in 2018, facing a career change, I realized that I was more depressed about the fact that I wasn’t writing for a living than I was that my business was failing, and really I'd been itching to get back to writing for months. I read and audiobooked more novels in 2018 than I did the first thirty years of my life, and all that fiction on the brain was begging me to write my own again. I did some research, a lot of research actually, into everything I had done wrong over the years and came up with a new plan. In October, I decided to outline five short stories and pick one to write and finish without getting sidetracked or quitting. I knew I had it in me if I could just get the work done.

    It’s now five months later, and the plan, like all plans, disintegrated on contact with reality, only this time I’m still working. Things are going better and I’m writing more than ever before. I’m 20k into a 50k-ish novella, with several short works FINISHED! Okay, I don’t know if they’re finished finished, but I have first and second drafts completed, which is more than I could say before October. In fact, the novella is already slightly longer than the book I worked on, off and on, for well over a decade!

    I don't know if public accountability is even a motivator for me, but this might be fun either way. I've never kept a blog or an online journal before. I’m going to try to race through about five months’ worth of achievements in a few posts and go from there. I have a thirteen tab spreadsheet obsessively outlining my daily quotas and word counts for every project I’ve started since October, so it should be pretty easy to fill in the gap.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I like the title of your Progress Journal. I think it perfectly describes the life of even a best-selling author. Beta had more corrections than you thought? Walk it off, kid. Agent rejects it? Walk it off, kid. Publisher wants major changes? Walk it off, kid. Bad reviews? Walk it off, kid. Book sells but the studio has it stuck in Development Hell? Walk it off, kid. :)
     
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  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like the title too. :D It's so relatable.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What an interesting journal! You obviously can write, and write well. You certainly aren't ever at a loss for ideas. What can I write about? I dunno.... These issues plague lots of new writers. They have the desire to write because writing is wonderful. However, difficulty with basic written English, plus a lack of story ideas—except for rewarmed clichés they've seen done before—ties them down. You have already jumped those hurdles with ease.

    Lovely to have had such a supportive mother, by the way. A heartwarming story.

    You have summed up your one big issue here: I have a tendency to abandon a project as soon as another idea occurs to me.

    That's the issue you need to work on. It's an issue over which you have total control (unlike toxic relationships and other life events that can interrupt the writing process.) If you can learn to focus your peripatetic fountain of new ideas onto your current project, rather than getting diverted onto something else all the time, then you'll have jumped that last hurdle.

    Discipline yourself to grab ANY new idea that takes you off track—and put it into a 'gonna write later' notebook or file. If you find yourself thinking about that new story, just stop. Go back to the one you were working on when the new idea struck. Think about your Work In Progress all the time, till it's done.

    I suspect you might benefit from keeping a couple of WIPs on the go at once and jumping between them—just to keep from getting into a rut—but do ensure they're both getting worked on.

    You'll get there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  5. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Thanks! And if I can apply all I've learned from getting knocked down by happenstance and my own terrible decisions in life to my twenty-years-late start (or reboot) in the world of writing, I might persevere. At present, I'm barely at the point where I can take helpful advice kindly given by other writers without wanting to cry, but even that's major progress, so off we go. I want to publish this year, even if it's a piece of flash fiction paid in subscription to a magazine I won't read, and the first novel is tentatively aimed at 2022 with smaller projects in between. God knows in what order that will all happen if it does at all. Either way, that gives me time to toughen up throughout the process. I just can't stay down.

    ETA: Great. Now I have a Chumbawumba song stuck in my head. That could be there for days.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  6. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    So far, so good, for the most part. Taking one project at a time and seeing it through to conclusion is by far the biggest component of the new plan. The quotas and word counts and WF support system are all vital, but as you say, that's my hurdle. There are some self confidence issues actively attempting to sabotage me at every turn as well, but I understand that's true of the vast majority of writers. Stephen King says it still plagues him after all these years. He's just learned to push through it and trust his wife and editor. I should get those. :)

    I'm only indulging whims that produce small side projects. Since I started this new endeavor, I've written over 40k (not counting notes and outlining, of course,) only half of which has been on the WIP. That feels low, but I'm writing on it consistently (which I've never done,) and have first or second drafts of four shorts, with one more near completion (which I've never, ever done!) All other distractions go into the ever-growing TBW folder, which currently houses notes and outlines for about thirty-five stories, including twelve old projects. God willing and the universe don't implode, I will finish a first draft of this novella in the coming months.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I feel that if you are most comfortable working on several projects at once, keep that up. Lots of authors work that way. The key is, you must finish them. Or you'll never really be able to get anything published, and you'll have neglected one vital part of the process—Writing The End. It's just as important to learn to do this, as it is to figure out how to begin.

    Do you have any idea why you have always struggled to finish a story or novel? Do you lose interest? Do you find yourself stuck, not knowing what happens 'next?' Do you get too distracted by possibilities you see elsewhere? Do you worry that maybe, when you finish, your stories won't be good enough? So you constantly put off that moment of truth by never actually finishing? (An interesting thing to explore, actually. Fear of success and fear of failure are often more connected that we realise. And normal to many authors as well.)

    I finished mine (finished the first draft in 2001!) but I go through phases of thinking 'this is the worst damn book,' to 'hey, this is pretty good.' The author's mental seesaw, eh? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
     
  8. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Yes.
    No, but I will now!

    I'm kidding, but really all of those things are true to some degree. I have a couple of shorts (currently trapped on that dead hard drive) that I lacked the confidence to finish only pages from the end. For the most part though, the grass is always greener in the lawn I just concocted. I'm almost always most excited about the newest idea. Historically (because hopefully I can keep these demons at bay now,) I put projects on the back burner or abandon them entirely, sometimes because I'm stuck, but usually because I'm distracted by one of those shiny new ideas. Jumping back into one months or years later is extremely difficult. My mindset has changed. I'm also self conscious about imperfections on the page, or worse, what I've written is so stylized and repeatedly polished through dozens of editing passes, that I can't match the tone and quality with the new material. I think anyone who reads that project I've abandoned over and over could easily identify the splits where I stopped writing for a year or three in between. That's another reason I'm not editing this one until I type "The End" and drop it in a drawer for six to eight weeks while I work on other projects. I read this advice from a number of writers, and it has the potential to solve several problems for me.

    Just tonight, I thought of a new story. I answered the door for the pizza I ordered, and the delivery driver was a disgustingly pretty, extremely petite, nineteen-ish waif with anime eyes. I don't live in the best neighborhood. It's not terrible, especially compared to certain neighborhoods in larger cities, but it occurred to me that Dominos has never sent a female driver here in all the years I've ordered from them. In fact I can't remember ever having food delivered by a girl of the size even a small dude could toss over his shoulder without effort, which this girl was. Instantly a conspiratorial murder mystery popped into my head, wherein the MC has these exact thoughts and then gets arrested the next day because she was never seen again after that delivery. I could see the framework for an entire story involving the MC being shunned and attacked after he's let go but kept on the "persons of interest" list, encounters with several characters, including the girl's violently unstable boyfriend, all slowly leading to multiple huge reveals, one of which is truly sickening. The whole thing has a sort of Gone Baby Gone/Gone Girl/Mystic River feel in my head. That's not really my genre, so maybe I'll stick it twenty years in the future or add a robot or something. Wait, no. One of the twists just turned supernatural. Solved.

    I typed some notes (and now have to type a few more) so I won't forget, saved the file and went back to my WIP. I put about 900 words on it today. (I got a little behind this week. I'm hoping to beat that number tomorrow.) It wasn't my best idea, but it was certainly exciting, and still I was able to put it off, so progress.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think one of your problems could solve itself. If you confine yourself to only writing down the basic idea for a new story, then shelving it—like the pizza girl murder thing—you won't have to contend with a change of style when you go back to it. It will still only be an idea, not a partly written story.
     
  10. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Right. That's why I typed some notes and not actual paragraphs. That style thing is really only a problem when I'm well into a story, pages or even chapters, but I'm not going to dedicate that kind of time to anything but my WIP right now anyway, because I might get too into it. I can't get distracted with that one in particular, because it wouldn't be a 3k short story. That's a 10-20k novelette at the least, probably much more than that.

    ETA: You're correct though. Shelving it, which is a struggle, is the only solution.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  11. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    The next several entries in this journal are to be an overview of my past five months of progress. I wasn't keeping meticulous notes until late November, so the following covers a lot of ground. Why not start with my current counts and record from there? I don't know. It feels important to get it down, so that's what I'm going to do. As a friend put it recently, "It's so hard to write a book, we want to document the process... [It] will show what we went through when all is said and done...something." I believe this was in response to my self-depricating assertion that I don't know why anyone would want to read it in the first place. Maybe it will be helpful to my many biographers over the coming centuries. Yeah, right.

    As I've already touched on, I read and audiobooked more novels and short stories in 2018 than I ever have in a year, approximately three times my record and almost twice the number of books I completed my first ten years out of high school. Somewhere in there, I caught the bug again. After years of barely writing, it was time to try again. This coincided with an inconvenient fact I was even slower to admit than to realize, that my struggling business of seven years was no longer struggling, but good and properly failed. I was more scared than depressed. I'm pushing forty without a degree or a career, for fuck sake. What bothered me more than anything though, was the simple fact that I wasn't doing what I was meant to do in the first place. I should have been writing all along.

    If I try and fail, at least I tried. If I never try, I automatically fail. It's hardly unique, as revelations go, but it's as true for me as anyone else who's ever uttered the words, and in my case, the latter's already been put to the test for twenty years. I was a failure as a writer, because, despite the fact that I put in a lot of hours those first few years, I never made a real, professional level drive at the task. I also felt I had no choice but to consider this my last chance. I knew that if I couldn't make it work this time, it would officially and forever be nothing more than a hobby. I couldn't screw this up with bad habits, old pitfalls or half-assed efforts. This time had to be different, so I started with research. Why not? I do hours of research before buying a $20 pair of water resistant earbuds for the gym. Why had it never occurred to me to seek advice on what I consider my calling? I can't entirely say. I suppose I always believed that it should have come naturally to me. I'm articulate with inclinations toward creative vocabulary choices. I have a strong penchant for storytelling, a natural talent for dialog and a highly visual writing style. Most importantly, compelling stories coalesce in my brain with minimal effort on my part. I tell myself I should be able to turn these talents into a novel without even trying, right? Well of course not, dipshit, I'm forced to reply. If it were that easy, it would have happened years ago.

    I searched the internet. I found advice from writers, publishers and every blogger with half an opinion. I learned about daily word counts and a number of things that had never occurred to me, as well as several common sense techniques for staying on task and fighting through blocks, in other words, the sort of "bullshit yourself into productive habits" cliches I like to think I'm above, but know deep down I'm not.

    Somewhere in there I also discovered while reading about the authors who's work I was consuming like mad, that many newly famous novelists, sci-fi writers especially, were still getting their start the same way Ray Bradbury and Stephen King did, by publishing short stories in magazines. I'd honestly had no idea this was a twenty-first century phenomenon. I didn't know these anthologies were still around, let alone popular and abundant. By the beginning of October, I had formulated a plan. I would outline five short stories, choose the one I felt most confident I could finish in a reasonable amount of time, write it and start submitting. I wouldn't use anything I'd worked on in the past. I wanted a complete fresh start.

    Between October 4th and November 2nd, I concocted and outlined five short stories (all tentatively named, obviously):
    There's Someone in My Head, but It's Not Me, a dark morality tale about a man on the brink of suicide who strikes a bargain with a voice in his head to commit various heinous acts in exchange for instant and magical fixes to the string of bad decisions that recently led him in short order to utter ruination in every aspect of his life.
    Hippocampus Desiccatus, a sci-fi thriller about a couple who wakes up in an opulent and futuristic house in the desert to find that their memories have been erased. They quickly learn that their amnesia is the result of a drug with which they injected themselves in order to escape the memories of personal loss and other horrors resulting from a recent viral apocalypse that left them, so far as they know, the last living humans on Earth. Things turn darker as the wife slowly discovers that the husband may be lying about his memory loss and God knows what else.
    Kaya the Super Dog vs. Patrick the Vile Rabbit, a whimsical, if slightly dark tale of a super hero from the future who follows her arch nemesis into the past to stop him from conquering the world. In a twist of fate, the time machine meant to transfer the villain's consciousness into the brain of a human in the twenty-first century malfunctions and instead lands him in the body of a velvety black rabbit belonging to a little girl in the ghetto. The super hero similarly ends up trapped in the body of a blue healer belonging to the little boy next door.
    The Time Travel Clock, a fantastical but highly depressing very personal story about drugs, time travel and inevitability. Three friends discover, completely by accident, that a special batch of ecstasy consumed in the presence of a magical clock gives them the ability to jump backward or forward in time into moments in their own lives, quickly resulting in Kafkaesque calamity.
    The Android's Acolyte, a seriously disturbing horror story about a software engineer/CEO who conducts a solo beta test on his own creation, a sentient operating system who mentally conditions and cultivates his hitherto dormant inner serial killer.

    During this time, I listened to Stephen King's own audiobook reading of On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft, which at this point I consider almost a bible, though for the purposes of this analogy, it's worth noting that I take the actual bible with a hell of a lot more than a grain of salt. After a bit of lurking on various forums for writers, I joined WF (a stellar choise.) Some time in late October, on a total whim, I tried my hand at flash fiction, finally completing my first project ever! It's a paltry 849 word vignette about a test pilot trapped in a capsule in space, using his last breaths and the black box recorder to curse the scientists who doomed him and generally tell off everyone in his life with whom he has a beef. It's not great, but it's funny to me and, more importantly, served as an invaluable confidence booster.

    Between November 3rd and November 21st, I refined, reworked and analyzed the hell out of my five outlines, realizing along the way that none of the five had little enough plot to fit into a short story word count. It was novella or bust at this point. I chose Hippocampus Desiccatus (with the worst working title of the five) as my soon to be WIP and workshopped a few plot points on WF. I formulated a convoluted but workable word count quota system based around my custody schedule and set my start date for November 23rd, the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, and on November 16th, I composed my second piece of flash fiction and entered it in the monthly WF contest. It received a compliment in the comments but exactly zero votes. A win would have been nice. Even a vote or two would have sufficed, but hey, that's two stories down! I had trimmed over 80 words from the first draft to fit the 500 word entry criteria. After the contest, I reverted it to the 528 word version, of which I am far more proud, but I think it deserves a third draft. I might even do sequels.

    Next time on the never ending onslaught of mundane recollections I'm calling a progress journal, Chapter III: A Very Bad Beginning.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  12. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    AS promised, a very bad beginning: So Friday the 23rd came, the day after Thanksgiving, and I was sick as hell. Okay, let's try again tomorrow. Saturday, the 24th I was feeling a little better, and despite the fact that I was wildly unhappy with what I put on the page, I managed 484 words on the WIP. (Somewhere in there, I also started calling it my "WIP." I've been trying hard to get over my aversion to textspeak and emoticons, but it's not easy after twenty years of fighting the trend.)

    I accomplished absolutely nothing Sunday, and on Monday, there was an eviction notice on the door of my computer store. Hooray! Even better, it had apparently been there since before the holiday, and they wanted me out immediately. Double Hooray! I managed to finagle a short extension from the landlord, but I still had weeks worth of sorting, donating, trashing, boxing and moving to do with only a few days to it.

    All else was put on hold. It had to be. After the move, I had days worth of organizing to do before we could walk through our living room again. Thank God the work staved off some of my depression over losing my store, but I probably could have gotten at least something written if I'd felt up to it. I didn't though. I also gave myself a couple of damn days off at the end there. I deserved it, and my back was killing me. I didn't get another word on the page until December 8th.

    I mentioned my quota schedule before. To see this thing on the spreadsheet, it looks like a two-week, repeating pattern of utter nonsense. It's not. I decided early that I would set these quotas without worrying about the daily count so much as keeping up with the grand total. This seems to be the best strategy for me. Some days I just can't get any writing done. Other days, if I force myself to hit a number, I'm going to put something terrible down on the page. If I have to delete that later, I just have to make it up in the schedule anyway. I also have 1k-2k bursts of creativity, so it just makes sense to make the quota cumulative.

    Basically, the way it works has mostly to do with my custody schedule with my boy. His mom and I share 50/50 custody over a two week schedule. She gets Mondays and Tuesdays, I get Wednesdays and Thursdays and we alternate Friday through Sunday (2, 2, 5, 5, repeat,) none of this first and third weekend BS. Again, I'm just worried about keeping up with averages and totals, but the quota on an Oliver day (that's my boy,) is 350 if I don't have him until the evening (including school days,) 250 if he's home from morning to bedtime, 650 on days he's gone, with 850 in the middle of a five day stretch. across a two week normal schedule, that adds up to 7kw, 500 per day average. This was all adjusted a dozen times over the months, but that's where it eventually settled.

    Giving myself credit for the sections of text I ended up with during the outlining process, plus the two bits of flash fiction I wrote, I started out with 4559 words across five projects. Assigning the same quotas I'd laid out for the schedule, that gave me a good head start.

    Total: 4559
    Last Words: 849
    The Android's Acolyte: 2291
    Heads up: 443
    Hatcher: 528
    Hippocampus Desiccatus (WIP): 448
    Quota: +1859


    My first two weeks (after multiple false starts) went surprisingly well. I wrote only on the WIP.

    Weeks 1 and 2 (12/07/18 - 12/20/19):
    Total: 5720 (10,279)
    Hippocampus Desiccatus (WIP): 5720 (6168)
    Quota: +1079


    Not a bad start after such a terrible start, right?
     
  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Good morning. :)

    Considering all you have on your plate, I think you're doing great with those numbers. Keep it up! There's someone in L.A. who's rooting for you to succeed at this.
     
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  14. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    So here we are nearly fourteen months after my last entry. That's mostly because I stopped writing in May of last year. In short, I went through some emotional stuff I never should have given power to, but whatever. I was angry (mostly) and in no mood to write. It sort of stopped me in my tracks. At the time, I had over 30k on the WIP (which I was no longer calling a novella) and five short stories under my belt. I also completed an outline and a couple of chapters on book 2, The Android's Acolyte, but forced myself to stop and resolved not to let myself jump projects again. I have a real problem. I even put in about 12k worth of notes on another project I've had on the back burner for years. It's so hard to stay on just one task. Damn the ADD.

    Months later, though I couldn't say when exactly, I wrote a couple of children's books. On day, after reading my son my favorite Dr. Seuss book, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, I decided to try my hand at some children's verse. After a couple of false starts, I began a story called Crudnose, a charming tale about a little girl with major hygiene issues. That one got a little out of hand. It's currently over three-hundred lines long with a stanza or two to go. About halfway through that one though, I stopped and wrote There's a Jark Under My bed, the first draft of which took me all of a day and a half to complete. I'm so incredibly proud of it, and while I think it might need a second round of beta, I'm very stoked about submitting it to agents sometime this year. Now I just need to figure out how to write a query letter!

    I'm somewhat surprised that I took to it so quickly. It wasn't the first time I'd worked in verse though. The old WIP contains a gruesome, five stanza nursery rhyme about a serial killer, and it's one of my favorite parts of the book. Back when I wrote poetry all the time though, I avoided classical rhythm and rhyme scheme at all costs. Everything was abstract and free form. Now, dactylic tertrameter comes almost as naturally as conversation. (Yes, I had to look that up dactylic tetrameter. I couldn't remember terms like that from high school English.) I have two more in the works right now, including a sequel to the Jark story.

    When quarantine started, I took advantage of all the down time and picked up the WIP again. For about two weeks in March, I went over the first half (30k) and refined it a bit. The first few chapters had to be converted from third to first person, and I needed to re-familiarize myself with the whole thing. Between March 28th and May 12th, I wrote another 30k and typed THE END for the first time ever! It's horribly flawed, of course, and it's too short, but I think the story is solid. I'll get into some details in my next entry, I think. I have so many prides and insecurities, I don't even want to get into them yet. I'll be back though, hopefully soon.
     
  15. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    So, would that one be considered a 'Terror Dactyl'? :twisted: :p
     
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  16. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    So I gave the project a two month cool down before diving into draft 2. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the aspects I've been fretting over endlessly. I think the love story works, for one. It definitely works better than I thought it would, at least. I think the pacing is about right, though there are a few spots where I want to add or expand scenes in draft 3, which is marvelous, because draft 1 came in short. I didn't want to make sweeping changes this time around though. I just tweaked little bits, shored up some contradictions, broke up some patterns and habits I didn't know I had, that sort of thing.

    I'm not sure about the ending unfortunately. I think there's a noticeable drop in quality in the last couple of chapters. I was in a hurry, I think, as I drew close to the end. What to do about it, I'm not sure. It's a big enough problem I'm considering scrapping the last 5k and rewriting it from scratch. If not, I'm going to have to tweak the hell out of every other paragraph. Worse, I'm not even sure I like the way it ends, which is a problem.

    I feel like I need a second opinion before I move on, but how do you talk someone into a 60k alpha read?
     
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  17. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    5k isn't even two/three days of writing. You wouldn't break a sweat if you'd write it new. I leave you to draw your own conclusion ;)
     
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  18. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I'm not the fastest writer. I can kill a couple k in a day when I'm really on, but I average about 1k. Rewriting though? I don't know. By necessity, I'll be second guessing everything I already wrote. Should be interesting though.
     
  19. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I hate that the size of my book is going to be a problem. Most of the books on my bookshelf are 200-300 pages, but these days that's considered an unpublishable novella. I've been through the thing twice now and deleted almost as much as I've added. There are places I think I can add entire chapters possibly in the third draft, but I'm incredibly unsure. I have it out to a couple of beta readers. I'm very hopeful that one or two of them can help me sort out my thoughts on these sections and the ending. Wow, am I ever unsure about that ending. Is it a brilliant twist, or is it an M. Night Shyamalan screw you that will piss off readers? How would I know? M. Night never seems to know. I'm proud of the writing. I like the characters (all three of them,) and I like the dialog. I think the pacing is good and I think my descriptive language is decent. The premise is definitely unique even if the background is a little tropey. Maybe if I can sort out this other stuff, I might have a novel on my hands.

    On a potentially brighter note, I think I'm ready to send There's a Jark Under My Bed to an Agent. I have a query letter written. I'm just not sure if it's exactly right. I will probably have to brave the query critique thread, but I'm not looking forward to that. For some reason, I've seen people be brutal in there in ways I've never seen in the Workshop. I can't guess why. Of course, part of the problem will be the fact that this is a query for a picture book, and all the advice I've read is very different from the advice for a novel query. I wish the whole query thing weren't so confusing. Still, I'm very excited!
     
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  20. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    My writing partner told me about this problem. Her story clocked in at 54k and she said no agents would even consider looking at it as a "book" without it being over 60k. I can't wrap my head around the pettiness of some people. Can you imagine someone doing that a few hundred years ago? "Sorry Mr.Shakespeare, you're a few hundred words too short for this theatre... sod off and don't come back."
    Yeah sure, there has to be a limit at some point, but by such a small margin underneath it, it seems counter-intuitive to find good stories.

    And I've got my fingers crossed for you with the Jark story, Rz. That front cover looked so apt, if I had kids, that would be the sort of thing i'd want to buy for them.
     
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  21. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    It's almost worse than that. We wouldn't have half of the books of the twentieth century. Most mid-century sci-fi is about that long. Just think, Asimov, Bradbury, PKD, even Vonnegut, tossed without being considered. No Slaughterhouse-Five? (50K) That would be a crime.

    I need to get that 60k as close as I can to 80, or apparently it has little to no chance in the 21st century as a first novel.
     
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  22. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Two things today.

    One: I think I've officially given up trying to make 80 out of 60. Reset (new name) is still out for a couple of betas, but the consensus so far is that it's well paced, and that adding significant amounts of text might ruin that. The latter half of that assessment is truer than my readers know, because the only ideas I have for expansion are fairly slow and banal compared to the rest of the book. So, 60k it is, and 60k it shall stay.

    Two: I sent in a query for There's a Jark Under My Bed. I was freaking out for a few hours after I hit send, but I'm calmer now, and mostly just excited. I've never submitted anything anywhere! Okay, now that I think about it, I won a couple of poetry contests when I was in high school, so I submitted those, I guess. This is a way bigger deal though. If she likes it, I get an agent! A real live person trying to sell my book. I think it's good enough. I hope it's the right fit.
     
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  23. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    So I started on my new WIP. I figured while I'm waiting on betas and whatnot for Reset, I might as well get started, starting being the hard part, and hard it was. I wrote a page or two (or less) each the first three sessions. I couldn't get a foothold. I was rewriting over and over trying to nail the characters and the voice of the narration, but I finally got it. Since then, I've been flying. Six sessions later, La Cavale is up to about 14k, and I shattered my record for words in a session with over 3.5k in a caffeine-fueled all nighter. I have to stop and figure out which scene comes next sometimes, but this book is writing itself for the most part. At least it has been so far. I still have tens of thousands of words to go.

    In fact, I'm in one of those spots right now, the ones where I have to figure out what comes next, which is why I'm procrastinating on WF. I made the mistake of leaving a section of my outline frustratingly vague:

    Over the ensuing months, Trevor and Shon become deeply, obsessively devoted to each other. Trevor skis past the red flags of their budding, codependent, toxic relationship like a slalom contender in the Olympics.
    So now I have to draw on my myriad experiences in like situations and write a doomed love story over a few more chapters. It's not easy, but like I said, once I get going on a scene, I can't be stopped. Now, if I just knew what scene to write next.
     
  24. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    So here we are almost a month later. I dropped 40k on the page in 31 days. I wrote close to 5k in one day. This is all great, but I'm afraid what I've written may be a self-indulgent mess with no literary merit. Mess is the wrong word. It's organized and I think the flow and pacing are probably okay, but instead of writing a few chapters of the doomed love story and moving on to the bad decisions that lead to the real core story, I wrote the entire 40k+ on the love story and long breakup.

    Once I got into it, I couldn't stop. I drew from experience. The couple falls deeply in love and slowly falls apart in painful ways. At first, I thought this would all be cathartic. I was exercising demons. Since, I've ridden a roller coaster of elation and real depression. I'm proud of myself for writing at a professional pace, and even if it doesn't necessarily mesh with the rest of my outline, I think it's a decent story so far.

    At the same time, I can't stop dwelling on past relationships, one in particular, that apparently I'm not over. The antidepressants are working overtime, and they're really not cutting it. It's also, as I said, self-indulgent. Masturbatory might even be a better word. Who would ever want to read this? It's almost solipsistic. Or am I wrong? Sometimes it feels like opening a vein on the page was a good move, and that the story benefits from emotional incite. I'm totally convinced of this about a third of the time. So is it good? Is it terrible? I honestly can't tell.

    It also suffers from smaller problems. It's nothing I can't fix in draft two, but I didn't future it up enough. It doesn't feel like it's taking place twenty years from now. I need to throw in more tech, I think. There's also a problem where there are too many sex scenes, and they're all entirely too explicit. I'll have to cut those out, or I'll be limited to the erotica section, only there's not enough sex to make it good erotica, so it would be disappointing to porn fans. I hate to delete them, because I think they're well written, but I feel they have to go.

    Maybe I'll make a little anthology out of the sex scenes, come up with various scenarios and fit the scenes into shorts. I know they sell a lot of those type of collections on Audible, Kindle too, I think. I don't know. Actually, I guess it will have to be two or more anthologies, because some of the sex is straight, and some of it is gay. Do I dare cross that line though? I mean, these wouldn't be soft core shorts. Like I said, they're explicit. I'll need a pen name.
     
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  25. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Have you finished the story? If you have, maybe just put it away, for, say, a year or so. Then go back to it. If you give yourself distance from when you wrote it, you'll be better placed to see what's worth keeping and what isn't.

    Just for fun, though, you could turn your actual experience on its head and write another story. Pretend the breakup didn't happen. Take your characters forward. Give them life problems to engage with together. If you're honest about the relationship, and treat the characters as unrelated to yourself, you may begin to see sides of the situation you aren't able to see at the moment.

    I've always maintained that the way to achieve catharsis in fiction, over a real-life bad experience, is to change things. Do 'what if's' and see where they get you. What if the breakup hadn't happened? That's where the real catharsis happens ...because in fiction you, the author, control what happens and determine the outcome. You're in control, in a way that you aren't in real life.

    Good luck! :)
     
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