Category Archives: writing process blog

Adventures of a Hybrid Writer–Hitting the Wall

Between weather, summer obligations, and other things going on, I haven’t been getting much writing done lately. Late summer harvest needs, life needs, preparing to go back to the part-time day jobbe needs…everything clustered about and combined with politics, horrible heat, and all, I just couldn’t get the words down on the screen. Oh, I did get some words down for a possible side project, but other than that? Nothing on either book.

That said, I did get some reading done, and I’ve worked a little bit on promotion. But otherwise, it’s been a lot of other stuff happening and going on, and I see the prospect of a lot more of it ahead because, well, August, and August is somewhat nuts. You’d think I would remember that from year-to-year. Of course I don’t.

Looking at my overall word counts, too, I realize that working on two books might end up slowing down my actual long-term production. I’m not entirely positive about that yet, but we shall see how it flows. But coping with the dog days of summer, the heat, the urgency with which I realize we have to use these long days of sunlight for other purposes…well, alas, the writing isn’t going as well as it should.

But that will change. I know it will. The temps are going down. Soon the smoke will go away. I’ll be able to breathe better, and I’ll be able to do more.

I hope.

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Adventures of a Hybrid Writer–Word Count

Hi. My name is Joyce and I used to be a diligent word count tracker. Back when I got serious again about writing, I started keeping a daily word count to keep myself honest–I think I was influenced both by Nanowrimo and by the trend at the time amongst many of my writer friends to keep counts. I admit, there was probably a bit of competitiveness about it.

So I kept count of words by project on a daily basis, and used to break out my writing by type–not blog posts, but I tracked novel vs short stories. Then I started hitting the wall, and realized that I was focusing on quantity, not quality, and fell away from the practice.

But I still think it is and was a good thing. Why? Well, for one thing, tracking my words helped me think about where I was in a project. While this isn’t such a priority if you are writing short stories and essays, if you are creating book-length works, then it’s helpful to know if you’re in the first third or the last third, or if you’re flailing around in the middle. It gave me perspective enough to know that “okay, I’m on track,” or “Crud, I need to do something different” when working on a book. Tracking also gives me the ability to notice the difference between pacing of short stories vs novels. At this point, if I’m working on one project, I don’t really need to be tracking things. But if I do something different….

Which is why I’m tracking words again this summer. I am doing something different, working on two novels at once. Though I was well into Challenges when I started tracking, and had an existing start on Klone’s as well, I wanted to see if either project suffered.

So far, it hasn’t. The count is roughly 2x Challenges to Klone’s. But both books are at about the same place in the story. The difference is that I am shooting for Klone’s to be a shorter book than Challenges. I’m learning the pacing for that shorter book, and counting is helping with that. Plus the word count helps me realize that having two different projects at once might actually be useful for productivity because I can still run with more words out of the day if I switch projects. That’s good to know.

The other factor for summer counting is so that I can quantify how different factors may interfere with production–travel, conferences, stuff like that.

The thing to keep in mind is that word count is an analytical tool and not the end-all, be-all. If you’re using word count to quantify what you are doing and not using it as a means to analyze your production process, you’re not fully exploiting the possibilities that tracking your word count can do. That tracker can tell you a lot about your process–if you let it.

And with that, I’m off to rack up some words for the day. Tomorrow is a travel day.

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Adventures of a hybrid writer–working on two books at once

I hadn’t really planned on writing two books at once this summer. Originally, my goal was to just work on Challenges of Honor. But I had about 15k words in on Klone’s Folly, and since I wanted to have it as a short novel to shop around to various presses…I decided that perhaps it was different enough from Challenges that I could work on Klone as a break from Challenges. Klone has also suffered from being put aside for other projects and I simply wanted to get the dang thing off of the hard drive and out into the world, whether as a submission project or a self-publication project. If I clear it off of the schedule, then I can get to more projects on the list.

I also wanted to find out if it was possible for me to do this sort of writing multi-tasking.

So after about a month of doing this, I’m finding the results to be…interesting. As I anticipated, when I hit a writing wall in one book, switching to the other gets me another 500-1000 words before I’m done for the day. Working on two books doesn’t seem to negatively impact my overall writing totals–I’m averaging about 2x the amount of work on Challenges that I am in Klone, but am roughly at about the same point in the book in both places. I’m shooting for a rough draft of about 60k-80k with Klone and about 90k-100k with Challenges.

Meanwhile, I am finding that yes, with two different types of books, it is possible for me to multi-task like this. Klone is a first person POV, somewhat of an urban fantasy in a rural setting. My current quick summary is that it is Frankenstein’s Monster meets Jane Eyre in contemporary NE Oregon with Sasquatch and other supernaturals and music festivals (though the opening is the only music festival piece so far; I may need to throw another one in). I’ve been going back and forth as to whether it slides into a romance, and I think it might, which would lead to the music festival reprise. My main character Reeni has just revealed herself to be a fire elemental. Hijinks ensue.

Challenges is straightforward epic fantasy, with two third person leads who are strong females with kids–and dealing with Gods, magic gone awry, a dying strong female elder, and all sorts of slight-of-hand political games involving the Gods, an ambitious colonial empire that wants to recapture a rebel colony, and all sorts of stuff. I’m writing a lot of active female leads, not so many men. Hey, it’s a self-pub project–part of my Goddess’s Honor series–and a direct sequel to Pledges of Honor. There is a market for it, albeit not a huge one. My Goddess’s Honor books and short stories keep selling at a decent rate, which makes me happy.

Both books seem to be nourishing each other. I hit the wall on one, and find that winding down with the other book seems to free up my mind to work on the first book reasonably well the next day. It also appears to be less mentally fatiguing than devoting the same amount of time and word count to just one book. Most typically, I’ll get in about 2k on Challenges, then swap over to Klone and get in 500-1000 words for the day without flogging myself along. The switch also seems to work well for summer writing, where I might be breaking up my writing day to do horse things or other outdoor stuff early on in the day, then writing during the heat of the day. I’m also finding it easier to write after dark and later into the evening.

But most of all, I don’t feel as hammered as I would if I were working on both books.

Interestingly, too, both books have seriously jumped the rails with regard to my detailed outlines. In a good way, as I’m throwing in more complications and shoring up plot holes in the process.

Will I do it again? Well, I have other, older projects that need to be dusted off. Now that I’ve finished the Netwalk Sequence, I need to get to these other ideas that have been sitting around. At last count I had about 9 book-level projects I wanted to work on. I don’t know if this concept will work on two books that I’m starting from scratch as it really helped that I was picking up on Klone after I’d gotten some work done on it already.

But that may be the next adventure of a hybrid writer.

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Starting a series of writing process blogs, or, adventures of a hybrid writer

One of the resolutions I made for myself after this past week at the Fishtrap Summer Gathering was to start working on a series of writing process blogs. This got inspired by a gathering organized by Kim Stafford the next-to-the-last day of the conference where we were to bring books that inspired us as writers. I went looking for some of my writing books and rediscovered Jay Lake’s Process of Writing: 2005-2010. As I thumbed through the book, I remembered how much I enjoyed reading Jay’s writing blogs–but I also realized that the earliest blog posts were written when Jay was at a similar place in his career as I am now.

The thing is, though, Jay wasn’t setting out to establish himself as a writing expert. He was analyzing and recording his growth and process as a writer. Because of the type of Day Jobbe work Jay did, that involved a lot of metrics. Word count. Time it took for him to turn out a book from first draft to publication, broken down into each step. Other analyses using data and stats to look at how he was progressing as a writer.

But that wasn’t all. Jay talked about voice, about rewriting, about looking at his overall writing process. He discussed themes and how political issues impacted his writing. If you’ve read any of Jay’s works, you realize that he was a very literary, slipstream speculative fiction writer who was just coming into his own when cancer took him. Jay wasn’t just a writing machine; he was a mindful writer seeking to improve his work’s quality as well as the quantity of his production.

(and right now why am I hearing Jay’s voice saying “Joyce, stop canonizing me!“? Gotcha, Jay)

In any case, I realized that one way to revive this blog posting habit of mine as well as perhaps help myself and maybe some other writers is to commit myself to writing a regular analysis and commentary about the process of writing. I am no Jay Lake. I know that. I aspire to high levels, but instead of soaring with the eagles, I’m pecking around on the ground with the finch fledglings (like the hordes that have descended upon our bird feeders). But I deal with some situations that may be unique to me–or not. I change locations pretty regularly, splitting my time between three places. I appear to be plodding along acquiring more readers over the past year and a half. I occasionally sell a short story. I’m trying to get the rights back to a cozy apocalyptic novella that I want to expand and self-publish. I’m preparing to edit my first anthology (I hope…haven’t seen any submissions yet, and it’s a closed group).

I also want to take my self-publishing to the next level, with a completed science fiction series and a fantasy series in progress. At the same time, I am working on an urban fantasy novel that I hope will be saleable to a mid-level small press publisher. I’m getting ready to shift gears to some Western-themed fantasy and science fiction work.

But most of all, I want to increase my accountability–and if doing that means I have to write about my writing at least twice a month, then that’s what I will do. It’s likely that I’ll have a flurry of posts in the next month or so, because I want to write about the lessons I learned at Fishtrap. Mood management. Marketing thoughts. With any luck, that’ll be enough to prime the pump and keep me going.

And oh yeah. Feel free to ask me questions. That’s good for both me and the asker of questions.

Onward.

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