Halfway There (…maybe)

I finished the first legitimate draft of Chapter 8 of The Book this week.  It’ll need another draft before it’s presentable, since I want to change a few elements, but it’s brought me to the cusp of 60,000 words.  If this is roughly the midway point, then the overall length should be about what I expected.

 

So many pages...

Or, knowing me, it could end up like this

 

Although the writing process itself has gone smoother, these last two chapters have really been taking their time coming out of me, each turning into month-long endeavors.  I suppose it’s because the plot is ramping up, and there are several important scenes (one of them the longest, yet) to which I’ve paid more-than-usual detail in an effort to ensure certain things are getting across properly.  It remains to be seen whether or not those efforts have been successful, but I’m sure there will be plenty more tweaking to come.

It’s always an interesting contrast.  The further along the story, the better the grasp on the plot and characters and the easier the ideas come, but at the same time, the harder it gets to juggle everything in a precise and cohesive manner.  I’m curious to hear other writers’ thoughts – do you find it easiest to write at the beginning, when your concept is still unpolished but you have more freedom, or do you have a better time toward the end, when your path is narrower but the direction is clearer?

 

Bene scribete.

Writing Exercise

If, like me, you’re constantly bogged down by the slog, then you probably understand the frustration that comes with, well, writing too dang slow.  In an effort to take the fight to the troublesome pest and kick that writing into motion, I’ve come up with a little exercise (though I’m sure I’m hardly the first to do so) to help encourage getting those words down more freely.

It’s fairly simple.  Take a character from your story, pick a starting place or incident, and then write without stopping for ten minutes.  Without stopping.  Don’t correct mistakes, don’t touch backspace, don’t think too hard, just follow the flow of your thought process.  Write whatever pops into your head, as quickly as you can; if your mind is only a sentence ahead of your hands, you’re doing great – you might be surprised what your brain will come up with when you force it into high gear.  It doesn’t have to be canonical, it doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t even have to make sense, so long at the end of those ten minutes you have something that vaguely resembles a chunk of narrative (I’ll usually get around 500-600 words).  The best part is that you can tell your self-consciousness to take a hike, as you never have to show these to anyone.

 

So here’s one of mine that I’ll show to everyone.  (>^-‘)>  I started with the primary protagonist from The Book, put her next to a river, and everything else just came as I typed.

  The vermillion dragon lay peacefully next to the riverbed, organizing sticks in a star-like pattern, setting the end of each one next to the middle of the one before, at a slight angle so that the entire design would be saw-like. The last one was imperfect, so she began again.
  “Um…hello?” a gentle voice appeared beside her.
  Xenasi started, turning her head to look at the one who invaded her solace. It was a deer.
  “I am a deer,” said the deer.
  “I see that you are…” she said warily. “Though I’m not sure why you can speak.”
  “I am the kind of deer that can talk,” he said bashfully.
  “There is such a thing?”
  “Before you stands proof that there is.” He slumped down into a sitting position. “I have a problem.”
  “Why would you approach a dragon with a problem? Would it not occur to you that I might rather eat you than help you?”
  “It occurred.” He squinted and wrenched his face and looked away. “But I thought that you wouldn’t.”
  Xenasi blinked. “I…I guess I already ate. What should I call you?”
  “Malbulous,” the deer sighed.
  It was a ponderous name. Though it seemed unlikely to be the source of his problems. “What is this problem that you would approach a dragon to help?”
  “Well,” the deer whapped a hoof against the ground in frustration. “Well, my super-awesome-doe-girlfriend left me.
  “And…what? Why…um…what?”
  “She left me for another deer. A stupid buck whose antlers are way too big and he’s probably trying to compensate for something with them. So, anyway, I want you to eat him instead of me. He is bigger than me, so you’ll have a much more satisfying meal. I promise.”
  Xenasi had just told the deer that she had already eaten, so she was not sure how to respond. I suppose I could stash the carcass for later. “I suppose I can help you. Where is this other buck?”
  “Just down the river a way,” replied Malbulous. “If you hurry, you can probably catch him. He’s probably just…getting all over my doefriend.” He got up, but only so his subsequent sulk would have more room to express itself.
  “What about your girlfriend? Do you want her alive?”
  “Of course…”
  Xenasi stood and shook off for some reason. “What are you prepared to offer me for this favor?”
  “The tasty body of that stupid doe-stealing buckhead. Remember?”
  “Well, I thought getting that would just come out of doing that,” the dragon nonsensed.
  The deer began to gallop away. “This waaaaaaaay!”
  Xenasi narrowed her eyes, but spread her wings and took flight, easily outpacing the deer and making her way down the river, eyes searching for the other buck of whom he spoke.
  It was only after a few minutes that she came across him, getting all cuddly with the doe who was once with Malbulous. Unsure of why she was cooperating, Xenasi swooped down and lunged at the unsuspecting buck. The buck jumped in fright, and tried to dart away, but was not so fast as the approaching dragon, and came to meet his end below her claws and between her teeth.

 

That’s the kind of thing that I end up with when I do these.  Just a stupid little passage written spontaneously while barreling over the slog.  I hope it goes without saying that it’s not an accurate representation of the character or my finished writing.  (>^-‘)>  Or would have gone, as I just said it.  You know what I mean.

Anyway, it’s something that helps me loosen up a little when I’m feeling brainclogged.  What kind of techniques do you use to battle your inhibitions?

Next time, we’ll take a look at extending this exercise into zero-drafting.  Until then, bene scribete.

A Sample

I’ve thrown up a general information page/tab for The Book, where I’ve uploaded the current draft of the first chapter for anyone interested in taking a glimpse at what I’m rambling about.  (Feedback is always welcome, of course, be it words of praise or scathing hatred, so long as you can answer the most important question – does it make you want to read more?  (>^-‘)> )

Dummy Cover

I also whipped up a temporary cover so the page wouldn’t look so naked (I never claimed to be artistically inclined, though!).  Perhaps I’ll add a progress report of some sort in the future, as well.

 

Bene scribete, friends.

The Book

Since much of this ‘blog will be concerning my attempt at producing a book, I should probably introduce it in some fashion.

 

What a book might look like if you were a cartoon.  A boring cartoon.

A book, in case the modern audience has forgotten what…whatever this is is.

 

If you were a cartoon, it might look like that (a lazy cartoon.  Tsh).

Why write a novel?  I guess storytelling has always been something really important to me.  I’ve wanted (and still want) to be a lot of things in my life, but a writer has for as long as I can remember been first among them.  And, if you want to do something, sometimes you just have to…well, do it!  Technically, I suppose this is the third book I’ve tried to write.  I started one when I was ten, and another at fifteen, but both fizzled out when I got bogged down with the difficulty of figuring out how to get from one point in the story to the next.  Luckily, I’ve gotten a lot better at plotting in the interim and naturally have much more writing experience this time around, so this one’s getting finished, dangit!

So, what’s this thing about?  Well, that’s a good question, comma, myself.  One of the most important questions there is when considering a narrative.  One which I should…really have a better answer to by now.  Let’s try this – the first of a four or five part series, it’s a medieval fantasy (young adult-ish?), following an adolescent dragon as she investigates a strange disturbance to the land originating from the nearby human settlements.  Neh?  As the author of a work, when you have all the low-level details ever present in your mind, it can sometimes be a little tough to weed out the high-level premise and distill it into a good succinct pitch line, so it’s an issue I’ll likely keep returning to.  I’m still trying to find a balance between being too generic and giving too much away.  Maybe I can cheat a bit and ask those of you who have read the beginning how you’d describe it in a sentence if someone asked you what it was about?

O.K., so, what’s it called?  Uhhhh, hmm.  Don’t have that yet, either.  There’s a title for the second book; does that count?  No?  No.

When will it be done?  …  All right, maybe I should stop asking myself questions that make me look bad.

I’ve been working on it for a little over a year, now.  I have a couple hundred pages at various draft stages, and at least as much to go.  Progress has been slow but fairly steady.  I’m terribly meticulous when writing, hence the sluggishness – I’ve still yet to effectively shake the bad-bad-bad writer habit of mentally editing every sentence several times before I put it down (I’m even doing it now, gah!).  Well, at least I have the major elements outlined, and things seem to be getting smoother as they go, if only slightly.

Anyway, my hope with this thing is to give a window into what all goes into writing that first book as it happens, at least from one quirky space fish’s perspective.  Maybe if you’re looking to write (or currently writing!) one yourself, it’ll help to see someone else going through the trials along with you.  Perhaps you’ll pick up some ideas on what (not) to try, or maybe if you’re having an easier time than I am, you can just follow my struggles as a way to feel better about yourself.  (>^-‘)>

Otherwise, well – writing can be kind of lonely!  You spend a lot of time in your own head.  I need to talk about this stuff, to share the enthusiasm, but I’m not sure there’s anyone I can do that with in person.  So, Internet, you will be my sounding board, willing and responsive or not!  Come and join me as I take time away from writing to write about writing like a super responsible person.

 

This person is SUPER responsible.

A super responsible person.

 

The pictures help, right?

Bene scribete, all.