Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Year of Writing: Eighth 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 consider how good it would feel to have a whole book finished and another on its way. Remember that feeling because that is the most efficient motivation to keep you going.

Day 1. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

There are three different sorts of daily writing goals you can have: word count/page count, content, or time. The first are based on numerical evaluations, the second is based on the events that happen, and the third is based on how long you do it for. Each have their own individual benefits and negatives. I am suggesting basic daily writing goals here for two reasons: it’s hard to do a day-by-day series of steps when “inspiration” is your planning method, and I personally find that most of my inspiration comes after I forced myself to start.

Since we’ve experimented with content and word count, now we’re going to think about time.

Day 2. Edit your query letter.

You should have four different queries for your previous book at this time. Pick the one you like the best and do another draft of it.

Things to remember:

This is a letter. Just by having that in mind, it has helped me to know what is appropriate to say and how to say it.

This is where you talk about what you like about your story. This seems obvious, but there are many occasions in which people focus on getting down the important details and not the fun ones.

Remember, you might be the exception to the rule, but you’re still going to have to prove it. Fatalism and being God’s Chosen one is a pretty common feeling amongst authors. Indicating that an author or his book is destined for greatness makes him look more like one of the common people than one of the elite. Any indication that a story will be the next bestseller or that “God gave me this idea,” will require a heaping amount of evidence that probably won’t fit in a query. Agents want to love your book, but they don’t think they will. An author has to prove to them he’s great, not just tell them. They won’t believe him.

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. Edit 10 pages of the book.

Because we’re writing out of order, how you choose to tackle editing is up to you.

Day 7. Write the beginning.

Really, you should decide this when inspiration strikes. The thing about leaving the beginning for later is that it allows you to understand what the book is about and better foreshadow it. You will often come up with more interesting ideas for how to begin somewhere in the middle. If you have yet to be inspired by anything, it might be time to just bite the bullet and begin the story. If you don’t like it, you can always change it later.

Day 8. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

At this point you should be at least 30,000 words in. There is a chance that while writing this way you have found yourself with most of the events already in place. If you were efficient, it might seem like the story is going to be really short. If you’re like me, however, you probably still have a lot of ideas you need to do. If that is the case keep going, add some things in and try to make them flow. If you are a member of the first issue, then focus on getting the story with a continuous plot line. If you end up short, your job will just to be to fluff it out.

Some people find this process of lengthening easy, while others (like me) find it ridiculously hard. While I write a great deal more than I should, it often becomes I’ve said what I needed to. When I am short, I need to come up with new ideas. Don’t worry about size now. It will need to be done, and if you’re good at it it will be fun, and if you’re bad at it it will be a good challenge.

Day 9. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Day 10. Take your first project and give it to someone else to read.

You must find someone you respect, who you believe likes you, and who you understand. They don’t necessarily have to be a good editor, although it helps. It’s more important to find someone who you like and trust than someone who will be really good at what they do. Knowledge is useless if we don’t want to believe it. Most importantly, make sure to pick someone who will actually read it. Every other trait can be thrown to the wind if they’re the only one who will do it.

Because many authors start in a “I want to show you what I’ve done phase,” and maintain a, “I need proof this is what I’m supposed to do with my life,” the first critique is always hard. There are a few tips to preventing this:

Decide if you like or don’t like it. Do not wait for other people’s opinions to tell you if it is “good.” The number one reason feedback hurts so much is because it’s our hopes shattering. If you have a basic idea about how good you think it is, you’ll be safer. You’ll either like it and won’t take it too hard, or you don’t like it and you’ll understand what they’re talking about.

Give them a hardcopy of the manuscript. This is easier to read, but, more importantly, allows for you to ask for it back when they haven’t finished it in months.

Tell the person exactly what you want. At this stage, you probably do want some actual feedback, but it’s okay to say, “I want to show you what I’ve made,” rather than, “Can you tell me what you think?” If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Be honest with yourself about what you want and need. Despite what Christianity tells us, it’s okay to want things.

I always tell people, “I don’t want you to be harsh, but I do want you to be thorough.” “Harsh” criticism will come out bluntly without a lot of forethought in making it palatable and clear. They will say, “It is boring,” instead of explaining, “I feel I would be more invested in the characters if I knew who I was supposed to route for.”

Lastly, make a point about talking about how much you trust them, how much their feedback means to you, and how you’re giving it to them because you know they’ll do it, unlike all those other bastards. Press importance that they go through with it and they will be more likely to do it.

Consider giving them a deadline. Be generous but not too generous. Ask them to have it back in a month, and let them know if they realize they’re not going to do it to give you back the manuscript as soon as possible. Tell them you’ll want to give it to someone else because you really need some feedback. The honesty will help them know to prioritize the project and not think it doesn’t matter.

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.

Day 15. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 16. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 17. Write for 15-minute intervals.

Day 18. Begin editing the first book again.

Now that it’s been a month, you can look at the novel with fresh eyes. Normally, I let them sit for years, but this isn’t a deliberate choice.

Again, if you can hack it, I’d say sit down and read the whole thing in a day. But odds are, that’s a ridiculous request. We’ll cut it down to 30 pages.

(Note: When I say “page” I refer to an 8 x 11 word document, single spaced. If you are of the normal mindset and think of it as double-spaced, double the count.)

Day 19. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages of first project.

One of the issues I have with my Year of Writing articles is that I allow you to take breaks from time to time, for various reasons. My personal impression is, however, that stopping work on an in-progress book is not a good idea. It can be done, and many people have been able to pick up projects they dropped for years, (I do it all the time) but if it isn’t an accident, don’t test it. Working on it every day allows an author to keep his head in the game. It is easier to start up each morning when you’ve worked on it a day before.

So I’m suggesting splitting it up. Write half your usual amount and edit half your usual amount. You might consider alternating days—edit day one, write day two—or even finishing your second project before doing this edit on the last.

I don’t recommend the latter suggestion because you’ll want to start editing the second book when you finish it.

Day 20. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

Day 21. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

Day 22. Edit 10 pages of second book.

Day 23. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages of first book.

Day 24. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

Day 25. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

Day 26. Do another draft of the query letter.

Look at it from the cynical perspective of an outsider. Remove any thought that luck might be with you.

Day 27. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

Day 28. Write for TWO 15-minute intervals. Edit 15 pages.

This should finish the fourth draft of your first book. If it is longer, consider continuing to split the time between the two until you finish.

If you still have any big issues with your first novel, now is the time to change them. If all you know is that you’re not in love with it and aren’t sure why, wait for the response back from your critique.

And that is the end of the eight month! In hindsight, I calculated and decided if the year of writing was to start in July (for arbitrary reasons), this would be February, hence the mere twenty eight days.

How are we doing? Discouraged yet?

Think about all you have accomplished, remember the feeling of pride, and aim for that goal.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Year of Writing: Seventh Month

So, you just finished your first novel. Or maybe you’re still working on it. Maybe it’s a little longer than you planned, or you’re behind. It doesn’t matter. If you find you’re getting up there in the word count, still focus on finishing; you can cut it down later.

While length is something to consider, there is a lot of flexibility in it. The 80,000 to 100,000 mark is a safety zone, while books up to 150,000 words and novelettes of 50,000 words have been known to be produced. It’s rare, and it’s not something an author should be dependent on, but if you find yourself with more words than you have room to say, it is sometimes okay to go overboard. While remembering that size is a very powerful factor in the accepting process, there are times a book is as long as it is. Allegedly, you’ll be able to cut it. If you can’t, then maybe it does need to be that length. But, remember, proving that something “needs” to be a certain way is a lot harder than been creative about making it the “right” way. Challenge yourself first; it will be more beneficial.

But assuming you stopped at the appropriate 90,000 words:

Day 1. Edit last 5,000 words.

Finish up that second draft you’ve been working on. You’ve now had a second glance for a whole bunch of typos and Freudian slips that have snuck in there, allowing for the upcoming process to be on a larger scale.

Day 2. Write a third query letter.

Now that you have your first inclination and experimentation out of your system with the last two, write another draft of the query letter. You might find this is worse than the others, or that it is much better. In either case, you’ve probably come across a great way to express at least one idea.

Day 3. Edit from 60,000 to 80,000 words.

Take the day and really dig through this section of the story. Focus on pacing and build up. Notice if things seem to be coming together or if they just abruptly change direction without reason, talking about things that have nothing to do with past or future.

Day 4. Look at outline of second novel.

A couple of months ago you played around with an idea for your second book. Take a look at what you’ve written and see how it inspires you. Notice some details you left out that might be problematic. Now that you’re experienced with the sort of hang ups this first book caused, you’re better apt to prevent them. Flush out the outline as best you can, maybe adding or changing it to encompass other inspirations you’ve had. Craft it like a carelessly written mini-story.

Day 5. Edit from 80,000 words to end of book.

You might need to split this up if you went far past the 100,000 word mark. Finish up the third draft of the book now. This is extra beneficial because you’ve just read the end in its entirety right before reading the beginning. Considering those are the two most interesting and important parts of the story and that one should reflect the other, refreshing your memory will allow you to know what to change about the beginning.

Day 6. Edit the first 30 pages of your book.

We are now back at the beginning. If you are anything like me, the beginning has probably been edited to a ridiculous magnitude. You might have already begun to memorize it you’ve looked through it so many times while you were “writing.” Stop it. That’s bad. Memorization really screws with editing skills.

While I recommend sitting down and reading the whole thing in one sitting, I have never managed to do it myself, so we’ll just cut it up.

Things to focus on at the beginning:

Subconscious decisions.
Introduction of voice, character, and setting, foreshadowing of theme, and (at the inciting incident) plot.
Giving the reader his motivation.

It is typical for your subconscious to make decisions for you. This is especially common in the beginning. When considering how a story starts, our mind tells us: in the morning, with a boring/typical life, “comfortably.”

Question some of the decisions you made. If you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve created (and you do need to decide if you are satisfied or not—we’ll assume “I don’t know” means you aren’t), think about the way you started and ask yourself if there are positive benefits behind the choices you made. What does having him wake up in the morning do for the work? How does starting with an average day in an average world in an average life help the story? Why is the temperature of the room perfect, why isn’t he poor, why isn’t he tired, angry, horny, or hungry?

While none of the decisions you made were wrong, there are probably a good many that are sacrificial. An author could start a book by talking about a man waking up, eating breakfast, going to work, and coming home without any problems—it is possible for that to be fascinating—but probably nothing more needs to be said about those events then a singular sentence, and it is more likely the audience won’t care. Making a chose against what your subconscious told you to do allows creativity and lends to interest. He may be doing just everyday things, but instead of starting with brushing his teeth, consider having him dancing in his car.

The first 30 pages should indicate to the reader exactly what it is he’s going to read. While it’s important to have doubt, the audience needs to commit to the book before they can have any fun, so letting them know this will be funny, romantic, violent, scary, etc. will tell them if they should go on or not. Give them enough information about the five elements of writing (character, voice, plot, setting, and theme), and have it say something they already know and love, but is obviously withholding something more: “Robert remembered sleeping with Kathy, but that didn’t mean the kid was his.” We introduce a tired story, yet the audience still doesn’t know if it’s his child. Give them something they already understand and then add a secret.

Then the next step is to make them care about the answer—i.e. want the answer to be something specific.

Which brings us to the reader’s motivation. The audience needs to want something to happen. The sooner the story offers that, the better. Introduce options and make teams. Have Robert be a jackass and the mother be destitute. The more the reader wants Robert to eat it, the more invested (and thus interested) in the story they will be.

If you write in a double spaced format, double the amount of pages you edit.

Day 7. Edit pages 31-60.

This is where the work starts to get hard. This section is most likely were the work starts to ramble. Make sure your inciting incident is big and a viable sounding propulsion. This is meant to force the protagonist into action, so it has done its job if it makes sense as to why he is suddenly changing his path and if he is actually changing his path.

Essentially, what were his plans for the day before the inciting incident? What are they now? If they aren’t different, it’s not big enough.

This is where the first stakes are put in, so consider why it is important for him to succeed and make sure to indicate that here. If he starts off without much push, he’s not going to get very far.

Be creative. The inciting incident doesn’t need to have explosions or violence. It just has to be important to the character. Consider what he cares about and punish him for it. He wants to be an actor? Have his “friend” get a part on Broadway, and have him find out in the most embarrassing matter. He wants the girl of his dreams? Have him humiliated in front of her. Just keep emotions high and know how to manipulate your protagonist.

Day 8. Edit pages 61-90.

Now we’re in the middle. Being the hardest parts to write because they are the less guided areas, the advice I can give is to make sure that all scenes end in a different place then they started. It is common to copy television episodes and try to consistently reset, not dealing with the ramifications of the latest events. (Mostly because there are no obvious ramifications.) Just remember each moment should affect the next. If you can take out Scene B with Scene C unaffected, then maybe Scene B doesn’t need to exist.

Keep the momentum growing. The key words are cause and effect.

Day 9. Write a short story.

Take a break from editing and make a new short story.

Vary it; make it nonfiction this time.

Day 10. Edit pages 91-120.
While editing, if you know you want to do some major changes, do them now. Moving stuff around and cutting is perfectly helpful at this time. If, however, all you know is that you don’t like something but not how to fix it, make notes about it for next edit.

Day 11. Edit pages 121-150

Day 12. Edit pages 151-180.

If your book is 90,000 words long, then you’re finished with your fourth draft! Now that you’ve read through the whole thing, write down everything you know about it. Evaluate it to your own specific judgments: it is about whether you like it or not.

If you really like it, and I mean honestly truly, then put down any of the nitpicky doubts about it on a piece of paper, but don’t do anything about it yet.

If have any extreme decisions you want to fix, you might consider doing it now before you forget what and why it is.

Day 13. Write the fourth query.

Now that you have read through the whole thing, it is time to start taking your query seriously. This fourth one should combine everything you like about the last three queries.

Day 14. Edit a short story.

You have three short stories needing anywhere from one to three edits. Fix it up. If you have been working on the same one these past few months, then you might consider giving it to someone else to read.

Day 15. Start project two.

You need to put novel one to bed for a while now, let it rest so as to help you get a good fresh impression of it later.

It’s time to start on the next project.

You might think of it as being quick, as if we’ve just broken up with one boyfriend to jump into bed with another, but if you want a career in writing, material is important. I have heard stories about people submitting their work and being rejected to only be asked, “Do you have something else you would like me to read?”

This project could be a myriad of things. If you are nervous about investing in something else long, consider a series of short stories or a play script.

You already have an outline for a story planned out. By this time you might have lost your inspiration for it. If not, great. If yes, I know you’ve had other ideas to get you by. Just try to remember them. You may not have learned to notice them yet, but they do exist. Whether you’re completely inspired or not, it’s time to start working.

If you wish to work on the previously made outline, great. If you don’t, make a new one.

It is important to experiment and try new things while writing, so for this project, we’re going to do something different; we’ll need some sort of papered plotting.

You should already have your favorite scene written. If you haven’t made it yet, do it now. If you have, read through it and edit it.

Day 16. Write the inciting incident.

Writing out of order is my favorite way to work. I don’t do it very often because it’s hard to keep track of information. To help this, we have the outline to refer to. One of the primary things I get confused is if I’ve delivered information yet or not. Events and actions I can remember, but reveal of backstory is hard to consider when you’re jumping around. Consider that and make notes on when and where you did/want to give out past information. Allow it to change if you feel so inclined, but just keep good notations.

Skip over the introduction and go straight to the money shot. Start with the big event that propels the protagonist from inaction to action. This time, instead of writing a number of words, write for content. Write until something has changed in the story. While this may not be the whole inciting incident, it should be a dent in the storyline.

Day 17. Start writing the first disaster.

The “regular” plot structure goes introduction, inciting incident, first disaster, second disaster, third disaster (optional), climax, resolution. If you are not a formula person or a plot person, I suggest abiding by this fairly strictly as a form of experimentation. Of course, like anything on this list, it is flexible to being altered to whatever the writer actually wants to do.

The first disaster is the most free form. This should be a terrible event which forces the protagonist to change tactics. The inciting incident propels him into action while the first disaster makes that action no longer a viable option.

Consider the point of the story. While you may not know what it is about yet, it’s a good idea to consider it early on while trying to understand what the first disaster should be.

By this time, you have a good idea about how long it takes you to write something. Make a goal of where you want to get in the first disaster and get there. If you find out you bit off more than you could chew, finish it anyway and acknowledge the lesson. If it took less time than you thought you would need, you don’t have to, but give yourself the right to stop there without feeling guilty. Sticking to your guns helps you understand your writing better.

Day 18. Write the second disaster.

The second disaster is less random. As the first might be any by-chance problem, the second should be direct result of the choice that the protagonists makes. After the first disaster, he changes tactics. That shouldn’t work and then cause more problems for them.

Day 19. Write the third disaster.

Many times the third disaster is combined with the climax. Sometimes it is one last event before they realize what the climax is. If you didn’t put a third climax, work on another scene that you’re looking forward to.

Also an effect of a bad decision, this usually comes directly from trying to fix the second disaster and leads to the climax.

Day 20. Edit the first two scenes you wrote.

This style of writing benefits greatly from editing while you’re going. Again, if editing during the writing process becomes a personal obstacle (which it does for many) do what works best for you. This entire step-by-step program is not the way to write, it is a fun check list for those who like that sort of thing. It can be altered in any manner.

Edit the first few scenes with “circle” edits. Print it out and, using a red pen or highlighter, just mark the lines you don’t like. Go through and fix them on the computer.

Day 21. Write the resolution.

We’re skipping the climax for one important reason: it ties in everything about the book. The odds are you don’t know entirely what the book is about yet.

You may consider not writing the resolution because, in all honesty, it’s probably going to change. But there is something beneficial about having a good idea where the story wants to go. If you have absolutely no inkling, then it’s something to consider, but feel free to work towards another scene.

Day 22. Work on the inciting incident.

Odds are you didn’t finish the entire inciting incident. If you did, work on finishing another scene. If not, keep going.

Day 23. Work on the second disaster.

Day 24. Work on the third disaster.

Day 25. Edit a short story.

If you don’t like writing short stories, considering making at least 21. If you do like making them, you should still aim for this amount, but you don’t have to force yourself to do it. The reason is that 20 is an impressive number, so in your bio you get to say, “So and so has had her short stories published in over 20 literary journals.

Edit one or read it to a friend.

Day 26. Work on the resolution.

It’s likely that you might have finished the resolution in the first day. They’re usually not that long. If not, keep going until you get to the end of the book.

Day 27. Start connecting the inciting incident to the first disaster.

This may be continuing the inciting incident (in fact it probably is) or the inciting incident is already over and now you need to build up to the first disaster.

The most typical mistake is when authors leave the protagonist with no goal after his entire life went up in flames. Neither writer nor character knows what to do. Make sure that the character comes up with some sort of super objective. At this point it can be misled (he believes it was just an accident and now his goal is to go to the city and make some money to fix it), it just has to be propelling.

Day 28. Keep going with whatever scene inspires you the most.

Have an idea of a new event that’s fun? Work on that. Really like what you’re doing with the second disaster? Work on that. Allow inspiration to direct what you work on, just remember to work.

Day 29. Edit first 10 pages.

Some of this is going to be a repeat of what you edited before. But now that you have more information, you need to make sure it ties together. Watch for pacing. It is typical for this style of writing to lead to stories that feel too quick.

Day 30. Write where you want to write for four 15-minute intervals.

You should have at least 20,000 words by now. If you don’t, you haven’t been writing enough. If you have more, you are doing great. Now, instead of writing for content, try writing for time.

If I were to write constantly, I can do about a page (single spaced) per fifteen minutes. But I am a fast typer and have been doing this for the last ten years. But/and it is also not likely to happen that I actually write without stopping, so it isn’t a consistent guarantee.

Write for 15 minutes at a time in which you are not allowed to take your hands off the keyboard. I recommend doing them consecutively (so you don’t get distracted), but you can play around and do whatever you want.

Play games. Time yourself, race yourself. Try to get a page out faster than you did last time. Pick a part in the story and just start going.

Day 31. Write for four 15-minute intervals.

Seven months down, five to go. You now have a well-drafted novel, six short stories, and another project a fourth finished. You’ve been getting a lot of experience with either publishing or rejection so far. Either way, great! Your career has a good base of material and personal experience, all in less than a year. Keep going.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Year of Writing: Sixth Month

The year is almost half over. Luckily, you have some short stories and maybe even publications under your belt. Your novel is almost complete, and by the end of the year you’ll have done more than some do all their lives.

Don’t like the speed? Add a few more words to your daily count. Behind? Just focus on the daily goal of 1,750 words and don’t worry about correcting past mistakes. Keep going and you’ll be happy when you’re done.

Day 1. Write to 72,000 words.

Day 2. Write a second query letter.

Understanding that this isn’t necessarily what you’ll be sending out, feel free to experiment with this next query. Take another perspective that you didn’t with the first. Did you start chronologically? Get to the money shot in the first sentence. Did you focus on a gimmick? Try being straightforward. Did you talk about the romance? Discuss the action.

Play around and feel free to do something weird; assume no one’s ever going to see it. You might find yourself with something brilliant.

Day 3. Write to 72,750.

Day 4. Write to 73,500.

Day 5. Write to 74,250.

Day 6. Write to 75,000.

Day 7. Edit last 5,000 words.

Blah, blah, blah: “Don’t edit while you’re writing.” See my last posts if you want to discuss this.

Day 8. Write to 75,750.

Day 9. Write to 76,500.

Day 10. Write to 77,250.

Day 11. Ask yourself the big three questions:

Now that you’re thisclose to the end of the book—some of you may have already passed the climax and are onto the resolution—it’s important to start thinking about the difference between This Story and The Story.

Many authors begin their novels with the subconscious belief that this needs to be the greatest book ever, and try to make it encompass everything: all ideas, all qualities, all interests. They consider their work to be The Story and have a hard time cutting down on things that don’t relate to or affect each other.

By acknowledging that there will be many more books to come in which you can use your ideas and show your skills in various means, it becomes about solidifying this story, making sure everything has a purpose for being there, and that the rambling tangents that are indicative of inexperience are cut out.

The big three considerations to keep in mind when trying to know what This Story is really about are:

What is the problem?
What is the point?
What is the narrator’s motivation?

The problem is the plot and the conflict. It is the obstacle that keeps the characters from getting what they want. It is the through line that starts at the beginning, moves everything forward, and ends at the end. While it is more common in short stories and scripts than novels, it is fairly typical for some authors to describe characters and situations without having a clear plot to tie all the descriptions and illustrations together.

What is the problem that starts in the beginning and is being solved at the end? Answering this will give you an idea on how the book should end and help you when you need to know what the story is about.

An author tells a story for a reason. He has an intended effect of his story on the audience. A writer whose work reads as, “It’s about whatever you want it to be about,” or “You might laugh at this or wet your pants in fear, but either way it’s what I wanted,” will not impressive an audience. They perceive it as laziness, and there isn’t a clear benefit to it. Giving an indication of what the audience was expected to feel makes the reader see the work as more complete. When the point is vague, unclear, or not even there, he is left with an unsatisfied feeling of, “So what?”

Knowing the point also indicates how the book should end. The conflict suggests the options (the man gets the girl or he doesn’t) and the point tells which one the author should choose (he doesn’t get the girl because he was just as cruel as her old boyfriend, and now he realizes that). It is the theme of the story, but it doesn’t need to be intellectual. James Bond won because the point is he’s flipping amazing. End of story.

Lastly, consider the narrator’s motivation for telling the story. While you might not have an actual character describing the events, it probably isn’t you doing it either. How would J.K. Rowling, a muggle who lives in our world, know anything about Harry Potter’s doings? The narrator, whomever he is, clearly is from that same universe and is learning about the wizarding world as Harry does.

While this never needs to be discussed or even hinted at with an audience, understanding the why the narrator is telling the story clarifies why he needs to tell this part of the story. Does the description of character peeing benefit the narrator’s goal? No? Then you can probably delete it, or add something to it so that it does.

Day 12. Write to 78,000.

Day 13. Write to 78,750.

Day 14. Write to 79,500.

Day 15. Edit last 5,000 words.

Day 16. Write to 80,250.

You’ve now struck the minimum mark. For a first time writer, it is a good idea not to go below this word count.

Publishers have a certain amount of money they have to get back: a base price that doesn’t really change due to amount of books printed. (Cost of covers, cost of publicity, etc.) Not only that, but most readers are either looking for something extremely short and seek short stories, or a good sized book that will take some time read. Trying to sell a thin book at a certain price is fairly hard, plus, a book under the size of 80,000 words is often indicative of inexperience. You can get away with trying to call it a novella, but you’ll still have a harder time selling it. Most agents believe (with legitimate reason) that a book lower than 80,000 words probably has too quick of pacing.

If you are in between the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words, you are solid and don’t have to worry about getting dinged for something arbitrary (and the prime trait in which dinging occurs for is length.)

So congratulations! You very well might have finished your first book. If that is the case, feel free to skip to the editing process!

If not, don’t worry.  You’re almost there.

Day 17. Write to 81,000.

Day 18. Write to 81,750.

Day 19. Write to 82,500.

Day 20. Edit words 40,000 to 60,000.

Another long day, this might seem temping to skip. But it will remind you of what you’ve written, where you are going, and make the process less of a pain later.

Now that you have an idea on what the story is about, it becomes easy to crisp up these middle scenes which have the highest propensity to be rambly. Notice tirades, tangents, inane details, and things you’ve forgotten about.

Day 21. Write to 83,250.

Day 22. Write to 84,000.

Day 23. Write to 84,750.

Day 24. Edit last 5,000 words.

Day 25. Write to 85,500.

Day 26. Write to 86,250.

Day 27. Write to 87,000.

Day 28. Edit last 87,750.

Now that we’re in the last stretch, it will be tempting to stop, thinking that being so close it will be easy to pick up and finish whenever we chose. That being the case we won’t take breaks anymore. Work on it every day. Ignore this lure. Finish.

Day 29. Write to 88,500.

Day 30. Write to 89,250.

Day 31. Write to 90,000.

Congratulations! You have completed your first novel. Possibly. In six short months you have developed a whole novel, six short stories, learned all about the querying and editing process, and gotten a good deal of experience.

You may not be excited with what came out. You may love what you did. In either case, this is not the time to stop; this is the time to press on.

By this time, if you have not gotten responses back from your short story queries, it’s best to assume they’re not going to contact you. Unless they explicitly indicated how long they would take, six months is an acceptable amount of time to decide they’re just ignoring you. It is a fairly common way for lit journals to make rejections. Insulting and unprofessional, but common.

If you didn’t submit to more than one place, then now is the time to read it and send it out somewhere else. The proper etiquette is to tell the editors you’ve submitted to previously you are doing this, but many feel it is a consideration that isn’t necessary.

It is very common to not ever hear back from these places. Don’t get discouraged. Try again.