Tag Archives: writing life

Failing to success

 

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Low Memory – image by Luca Oleastri

After writing about a novel a month for three months as part of Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge, I thought why not try for one more novel in the following month. With the challenge, there was some flexibility, in that up to half of the novel could be written in the previous month. The challenge  ran through June, July and August. I began the first novel on May 18th, and wrote about 14,000 words by May 30th. Less than half the novel. I finished the last of the three novels on August 22nd. So it took a bit over three months to complete the three.

 

I decided to have a go at writing a novel within a calendar month (yes I know about nanowrimo). I started Low Memory on September 1st. Come September 30th, I hadn’t finished. I’d written 53,000 words and the novel wasn’t finished. It feels like the story wants to be longer, so I’ll continue to the end. All three of the challenge novels were 50,000 words or under.

So I failed. Failed to write a novel in a calendar month. But guess what? There’s success in there. It feels like the novel will come to an end in the next few days. Probably close to 60,000 words. So, even though I didn’t write a novel in a month, I will have written a novel in around 35 days.

I’ll call that a success.

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Three months down, three novels complete.

Ice Huntersglass baysmDeuterium shine small

I’ve done it! I’ve completed the challenge. Three months. Three novels.

I started in on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge on May 18th. Under the terms of the challenge, I could write up to half of a novel in the previous month (as in, write up to half of June’s novel in May, half of July’s novel in June, half of August’s novel in July). I finished up Deuterium Shine on August 22nd. Three months and four days.

Two science fiction. One thriller. Obvious from the covers, I hope.

Two from series. One stand alone (Deuterium Shine, though that might need a sequel).

Short novels, I’ll admit (41,000, 45,000 and 50,000 words respectively). Most of my previous novels run to about 60,000 words. One or two have crept up over 80,000 words. Still, it’s 136,000 words for the three months, only around 1400 words per day (though there were a few side tracks in the novels I cut out, so still closer to my usual 1500 words per day actual writing).

Now to get them tidied, copyedited and out into the world.

Writing these has been the: Best. Fun. Ever. Right now I’m working on a few short stories, but I’m thinking I’m going to continue with writing a novel a month for the rest of the year. Might as well, since it’s, you know, so much fun. Who knows, I might complete a few more novels by year’s end.

Onward.

Images by; Algol (Ice Hunters), Claudio Arnese (Glass Bay), Savagerus (Deuterium Shine), all Dreamstime.

Two thousand days of writing every day

quito2000daysA thousand days back I posted about writing every day for a thousand days. That’s almost three years. Now, after five and a half years, I’ve hit that two thousand days mark. Funny thing, that happened almost a week back and I missed it. Too busy scribbling away, I guess.

Now, I guess that for someone who’s a writer the idea of writing every day is pretty obvious. Somewhere over the years I guess I let that tumble away. I suspect I also bought into the myths that writing is hard and I needed to rest my brain and that I needed to gather my thoughts and I needed to think about what I was going to write before I wrote it.

Kind of, I guess, like a tennis player thinking about playing tennis before entering a tournament. Thinking about has its place, but exercising the muscles and getting out on the court figure pretty highly too.

But more than all that, I’ve seen more success with my writing from that. I’ve won a couple of contests, I’ve had numerous professional stories published, and I’ve indie-published a whole lot of novels, stories and collections. Those would not have happened had I not put my focus back on writing. So, I recommend it.

And about missing the actual milestone day, I think a part of that really is that the habit is so established that, even though I track my word count and other marks for each day, I feel like I’ve fully integrated the habit. I recommend that too.

Novel number 1 completed

Ice Hunters.jpgAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m taking on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge to complete three novels in three months. I’ve finished the first novel. 41,000 words.

A shorter novel for me (usually I hit around 60,000 words), but it’s still kept me busy. (Hence fewer posts).

The rules allow me to bank up to half the novel from the previous month (I wrote 12,500 words in May, so that was a good start). I’m now working on the second novel, banking words for July. It’s still fun, even if a bit intimidating.

The first novel turned out to be hard science fiction, a series book in the same universe as my book Asteroid Jumpers from earlier this year. The image is a draft cover for the new book – illustration by Algol | Dreamstime. I plan to have the book out later this year.

The second novel is looking like a thriller, in my Emily Jade series.

 

Writing what I love for the fun of it

gallostI’ve written a few books now. I write because I love to write. Sometimes there’s the temptation to write into current trends. Someone even suggested that I should write some romances because they sell really well.

Hmm. It would be nice to have have a book sell really well. Absolutely.

I doubt, though, that I could write a convincing romance. I don’t really read in the genre. I’m sure that would show. Chasing sales based on trends feels like hard work.

Lately I’ve been coming back to writing the kinds of books I loved to read while growing up. I could list a whole lot – The Godwhale, Ice and Iron, Icerigger – and I wondered to myself what if I just wrote some things along those lines? Would it be fun? Would the novels work?

One way to find out: give it a go.

Turns out writing like that is a blast. It’s more than that old adage of ‘write what you know’ and kind of ‘write what you love’.

My novel Astjewel of jeroid Jumpers comes from playing with the ideas and tone of Gregory Kern’s Cap Kennedy/F.A.T.E. novels. The Jewel of Jarhen was one of my favorites (though back in the eighties, I only had the first six and now, thanks to the Internet, I’ve discovered there were many more in the series). I also loved the Tim White covers, though many of the volumes sported covers that looked much more like 1950s SF

So, in Asteroid Jumpers I have an investigative crew, including an alien, battling through against impossible odds. I don’t know that my Captain Arlon Stoddard would quite measure up against virtual superhero Cap Kennedy, and the novel is unlikely to ever be mistaken for one of Kern’s (Gregory Kern was one several pen names used by prolific English author Edwin Charles Tubb – back in the day I read several Space 1999 novels by E.C. Tubb, fully unaware the authors were one and the same). Asteroid Jumpers is not intended as a pastiche, or even an homage, more just a ‘this is what the kid in me enjoyed reading, this is what the kid in me likes writing’.

And I had a whole lot of fun in the writing of it.

Should I write more about where my novels come from? What do you think?

At the risk of getting myself in trouble, some NaNoWriMo thoughts for writers

National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – is a celebration of writing, described on the website as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing”. The idea is to write a whole novel during November.

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I think NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing. It gets people writing. Gives focus and milestones and goals. Fabulous.

One little niggle though, and I may be wrong, so feel free to shout me down. It seems to me that participants are encouraged to write fast and sloppy. Get the words down and come back and fix them later.

As if ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ are irrevocably linked.

I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.

For a time I tutored in a university creative writing programme. I hold a Masters of Philosophy in creative writing. As part of my job I even run writing workshops for children. I’m not sure any of that really qualifies me to give NaNoWriMo advice (or any writing advice for that matter).

Nor have I ever participated in NaNoWriMo.

So, my thoughts are really just the opinion of a relative layman.

That said, I have written a novel in a month. It just happened to be June of this year, rather than November. I’ve written several other novels this year, mostly though, taking more than a month (forty days seems to be my around-about duration).

So, if I think ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ is not the best approach, what do I think?

Why not write fast and the best you possibly can? Those two can go hand in hand. Really, that’s how I strive to write. I can’t say if my writing’s any good or not (that’s up to the readers), but whenever I sit down to write, I don’t go sloppy. I write the best I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but I’m always working to write the best I can.

I think if you write sloppy, that might be how you’re training yourself to write. I doubt that Venus Williams plays sloppy when she’s practising. I hope the guys who put a new roof on my house didn’t hammer sloppy. I don’t do a sloppy job on my taxes and come back to fix it later.

Write the best you can. Every time you go write. Even if you’re aiming to write a novel in a month.

So, that’s my two cents on NaNoWriMo. Have a great month. Write a great novel. And as you write, do the best you can.

2014 in review

2014 in review

2014 has been kind to me. I’ve acheived a couple of lifelong goals: having a story published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, and winning a writing competition – The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest.

I also wrote more than ever before. In 2012 I first took on measuring my output and writing every day. That year I managed around 507,000 words. 2013, still writing everyday, I hit 519,000. Last year I also made sure I only submitted stories to paying markets (that’s a long story for another time).

This year my current count is over 566,000 words and I might even hit 590,000. As well as the two pro “sales”, I sold numerous stories to semi-pro markets (some of these publishers have been very supportive as I’ve developed my writing: I have a soft-spot for them). The second half of the year has seen a slow-down on acceptances, but I keep writing new stories.

As well as numerous short stories and collections published indie, I managed to get out The Deluge, the sequel to The Tunnel in my Hidden Dome universe. Current writing plans have the third book The Eye out next year.

Speaking of next year: more focus on novels; more focus on getting things to publication; still writing every day; still learning about craft; more learning about business; less goofing off – I might have to give up a block of time to the new Tomb Raider game due out in 2015, but writing will still happen :-).

Overall a pretty good year (actually, an astoundingly good year). It’s given me a lot of energy to push on and feel confident I’m on the right course.