Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Year of Writing: Ninth Month

At this point you’ve either quit or are feeling pretty good about yourself. In the likelihood that you’ve been reading through this whole thing in one sitting with either mild interest or actual anticipation of completion, just think about how good it would feel to have a whole book finished and another on its way. Do you know what that might be like? Remember that feeling because that is the prime thing to keep you going.

Day 1. Write for FOUR 15-minute intervals.

At this time you should be around 50,000 words, about halfway through the second project. If the time guidelines are keeping you behind, you’ve tried them long enough, you might consider going back to word count, or even trying page count.

Day 2. Edit a short story.

Remember those left over short stories? The ones you’ve barely looked at? Take a break and look at one.

Day 3. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 4. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 5. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 6. Revamp your outline.

Look through your outline of this second book and change things to fit the new way the world is. Check and see if you’ve lost anything that you actually wanted. Consider if you should put the effort to put it back in, or if you should go with the change in direction.

Day 7. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 8. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 9. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 10. Take a day to read five unpublished short stories.

Go to any writing site/forum where people post their unpublished work, such as fictionpress.com. Read a few short stories. Writers often comment that we learn the most by reading the works of the greats, but I believe it’s by looking at “bad” writing. By defining what bad means to ourselves, we can better understand why and how not to follow in their footsteps. If an author doesn’t know what are typical actions, he is more likely to repeat them.

Be careful, however, because it is possible to get a writer’s voice in your ear and start mimicking their style, good or not.

Day 11. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 12. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 13. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 14. Edit 10 pages.

Editing can get confusing in “time frame” technique because it is likely you will write a totally random amount each day. At this point, however, you have probably come to some sort of conclusion as to what works best for you in deciding how best to edit.

Day 15. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 16. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 17. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 18. Talk to your friend about first book.

Here is a big IF. Out of every possibility on this list, I think this is the most likely to have worked out in your favor. About one month ago we gave your book to your friend. They have probably not read it. If this is the case, ask them if they will listen to you read a few chapters. Find someone who can give you a modest form of feedback. Even if it you only can read a synopsis to them, do it.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, you are a force to be reckoned with and you actually managed to hear word back. Go into the situation with the understanding on what kind of person they are and know how to direct them accordingly.

Make sure they talk about the big picture (their overall impression and opinion on the large-scale events, including flow and magnitude of reaction.) Ask them about little details. Let them talk for a while before putting ideas into their heads, but then feel free to pry deeper into their opinion. Don’t let them get away with 1) Being too nice or 2) Trying to be clever. Tell them when you feel they’re saving your feelings. Remember, when someone is spending a lot of effort on saying things in a smart way, you can just ask the question: What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Lastly, their impression of your work doesn’t matter. They are the janitor who tells you your shirt is tucked into your underwear before you go and speak in front of a large crowd, or thinks your joke isn’t funny. He isn’t as experienced as you, but he can still be the thing that prevents an obvious mistake from happening. Don’t be concerned if they like it or not; just ask yourself why they like it or not.

Day 19. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

At this point we should be around 70,000 words, this means only 20 to 30 thousand more to go. Start wrapping up.

Day 20. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 21. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 22. Edit 10 pages of second book.

Day 23. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 24. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 25. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 26. Edit first 30 pages of first book using friend’s feedback.

Remember that your priority is to solve your friend’s problems, not use their solutions. Try to figure out what reaction they had (often no reaction) that was wrong, then consider how to solve it.

If they said you have too many characters, consider if they meant that it was boring or confusing. That will tell you who to cut. If you don’t want to cut anyone, it will give you other options, such as spending more time with one specific character rather than equally talking about all of them. If it is confusing, you might just need to name them more memorable names. You are the expert and you can be creative; don’t feel forced to do exactly what they told you.

Day 27. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 28. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 29. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 30. Edit 10 pages of first book.

Day 31. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

You’re almost done with your second novel. Hopefully you have not gotten discouraged with your short stories submissions yet, nor by your friend’s possibly water-downed or awful critique. If that’s an issue, stop worrying whether or not you’re “good enough” or “meant to do this.” If that really is a consideration as to why you want to be an author, you might consider another field because, as any of the greats will tell you, those questions will never be answered. Three more months to go.