WIP Wednesday #6: Zero draft DONE

Work in Progress

Ever watch an author finish writing his book?

Watch Literally writing the last pages of my novel. from RandalEldonGreene on www.twitch.tv

If you clicked my video above, now you have. 

Finishing the book took me a bit longer than I expected. Buying a new house, moving in mid-October, setting up the office, and learning how to begin “professional” livestreaming all took time away from actual writing. But actually write I did, and the book was finished yesterday.

writing with pen

My novel technically began in early 2007, as an idea. It had a lengthy seven-year gestation period before the first words of the book were born. I actually started writing it around September of 2014. So it’s been five years in the making, around twelve years total from concept to paper-draft completion. In time since writing began I got a girlfriend, moved into a rental house, got married, wrote a short story collection, became a first time home buyer, had something like 24 short creative pieces published, and saw my first novel printed by a small press.

decluttering desk

The plan today is to begin typing up my zero draft. First, I’m going to tidy up the chaotic mess that is my desk. I think there is such a thing as creative chaos, and the tendency towards this in my writing space seems to affirm it as a fact. But periodic cleaning is a good thing for focus. And a good time for decluttering is the start of a new chapter. This certainly counts as one for me.

I’m still making small adjustments to my process. This includes how and when I livestream my writing to how and when I work on what. For example, I’ve been putting off my dialogues for a long while now. The novel was imperative. And, truly, it still is. But I need to finish editing my collection of creative conversations sooner than later. What I think I will do is set aside certain hours of a specific day to focus on that and other short fiction projects.
webcam
Livestreaming itself has been an interesting experience. I feel like maybe I should move the livestream to YouTube where there is an existent community of authors and writers. I may attempt a trial of  this in the near future. I’d also like to try making some videos for AuthorTube and see how that goes.

As for livestreaming on Twitch, I’ve found that most Twitch people aren’t there to write, even if they want to hang on my stream. For this reason, my most popular streams have been ones where I’m chatting. Chatting while writing is, naturally, distracting. So I’m adjusting my schedule to make sure I consistently do silent writing streams and also give myself more hours of “private” writing sessions (you know, just regular writing, not in front of a camera). So some of my streams are going to be starting later to make sure my writing isn’t overly interrupted by social sessions. In other words, writing comes first; the stream is there to build community by encourage others and myself to keep at it.
whiksey
I’m also encouraging donations with a Whiskey Wednesday stream, where I’ll be imbibing a drink or two during the writing session. There’s a nicely placed whiskey fund tip jar for those willing to subscribe or donate to the cause of writing drunk and editing sober.

How long will this novel take to edit? That is simply something I cannot be sure of at this juncture. Hopefully less than a year. During the writing of this book, I’ve learned not only a lot about how I write, but how my body desires to write and desires to not write. I don’t experience writer’s block, but I do experience distraction, excuses, the easy pleasures the TV screen and of a book (“just one more chapter” becoming an all-morning read). So in the next phase of this novel, I’ll probably be learning a lot about how I edit something this lengthy. Certainly, I have ample experience editing short fiction, and even my first short novel, but this manuscript is sure to both test and teach me.

It’s a test and a learning experience I’m looking forward to.

firstdraft

WIP Wednesday #5: Home Stretch

Work in Progress

I think I’m in the home stretch. But I’m not sure. It’s takes me months sometimes to write a chapter. Technically I’ve been working on this book for years. I haven’t always had the luxury of being able to build a daily writing habit. Nor have I always utilized the writing time I have for working on my novel. But even when I am writing daily, I find it takes me a long time to finish a chapter. And I’m only on chapter 11 of a planned 15 chapters. Yet, despite the evidence of the past, I really feel like I’m in the home stretch.

The number one reason I should not feel this way is that I am moving to a new home. That’s right, my wife and I are moving out of our rental and are buying our very first house together. In a month and a few days, I’m going to be a bona fide homeowner. This week we began packing.

Office

The first box for the move is taped up and labeled.

Trying to finish a book while also getting ready to move is probably not wise. But you know what I think is even more foolish? Not writing.

There’s a time to write and a time to rest. Right now, it’s not a time to rest, but a time to use the changes in my life as a catalyst to finishing the first draft of this book. I figure that if a normal person only gets to pack in the evenings after work or on weekends, then I can just pack after I’m done writing for the day.

moving boxes

I won’t be finished with this book by moving day (Oct. 12!). Still, the feeling of crunch time is helping motivate me to get this novel done. I might get burned-out with packing our whole house into boxes, but I don’t think I’ll be getting burned-out on writing the book. There’s too much excitement there for me. Especially since I have a self-imposed deadline of October 31st.

Why Halloween? Only because I want to do NaNoWriMo, so I will ideally be done on or even before the deadline. Hopefully I’m not setting myself up to fail in November (or to fail to even participate) by cutting things so close. Nevertheless, I think it would be nice to just set the novel aside in November and let my creative side jump into something completely different.

And now for something completely different

I won’t go into my evolving thoughts on NaNoWriMo or into the piece I hope to write for it because it’s not yet being written and this is work-in-progress Wednesday. All of that will come later—if at all. I will, however, share a photo of a note from my wife I found on the back of one of my as yet unpublished stories while sorting through papers that needed filing.

Wow. Three Eyes by Randal Eldon Greene

WOW. This is probably the best thing you’ve written. Seriously, honey!! ❤ ❤ ❤

In summary, I think the rest of chapter 11 and the subsequent chapters will be written faster than all the parts of the book that came before. I’m in the home stretch. Let’s just hope that my move doesn’t stretch me beyond my limits, creatively or otherwise.

Micky packing

WIP Wednesday #4: Am I a Novelist?

Work in Progress

When I began writing Descriptions of Heaven, though I did intend to one day become a novelist, I never intended this narrative to be of book-length. The thing grew from a single scene into a story composed of chapters. It, in fact, unintentionally took the place of a book I was writing about a son dealing with the decline of his mother’s health due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Descriptions of Heaven 3D image black background.

Even with this book published, I had never been quite certain that I legitimately was a novelist, since my first book is what many call a novella. However, I have come across writing just as short as my novella where the publisher calls it a novel in the blurb and foreword. So I was either a novelist who wrote a little novel (novella) or a short story author who wrote a long short story.  Either way, my book was published as a standalone piece, just like any novel—big or small. Yet, I still kept asking myself, Am I a novelist?

Novelist contemplating©2004-2019 wredwrat

When asked what I do all day, my default answer is no longer “I’m a writer” or the only sightly less vague “I write books.”  Instead, I’m more apt so say “I’m a novelist” (though saying I’m a short story author is equally true, short fiction work isn’t a part of my quotidian practices).

There are two primary reason I’ve embraced the term novelist:
1) Recently, a friend on my Literary Fiction Writers Facebook group, during a discussion about the demarcations between a short story and a novel, pointed out that the real difference isn’t word count, but structure and flow. Novels and short stories are extremely different in that respect. While I’m not willing to discount word count as playing a central role in their difference, I’m apt to agree that rather small word counts can still be structured as novels. Descriptions of Heaven has under 35 thousand words, but it is structured as a novel and does not flow like a short story.
2) I have to admit that in this past six months I’ve become much more focused on my novel-in-progress, spending less time on my short fiction, which I often used to write, edit, and submit in lieu of working on my novel. Not only did my computer go kaput, as I explained in a previous WIP Wednesday post, making this kind of productive “distraction” less available, but I’ve also been spending every free day I have novel-writing for as long as I feasibly can. While it’s often not as much as I want, I can honestly say I am spending large chunks of my weekdays writing a novel.

©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist
©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist

So, there you have it. I have already written one little novel, and most Tuesdays through Fridays I spend my hours after breakfast until lunch writing my next novel. I am a novelist, both a published and actively working novelist.

Real talk time: I think a lot of novelists suffering from impostor syndrome or whatever, suffer a lot not because their book is too small, but because they don’t write as much as they can. No one should spend all their time writing, and in your life there are likely other things that take precedence over creative work. But a lot of us have the time—have in fact painfully carved out some small hours to focus on creativity—and yet we feel like impostors because we haven’t developed a good writing habit, thus we don’t use the time as we should. Consequently, we don’t feel like writers, let alone novelists.

The truth is, I haven’t developed a consistent habit of getting back to the desk after lunch. I can’t even blame it on a honey-do list, since I don’t let chores distract me anymore. My problem is that writing’s been going so well that I often finish my intended writing goal for the day or complete a long scene before the hours I’ve carved out for myself are used up. So I often stop writing because my brain feels like it needs a reset or some time to think about what’s next (yeah, I’m not a huge plotter).

On the one hand, I don’t mind these breaks because I’ve felt productive and hit my goals. On the other hand, I want to make a living as a writer—as a novelist—and in order to do that, I’ll probably want to be putting out a book every other year. Stopping for scene changes isn’t going to cut it.

Maori Sakai writer's life

© Maori Sakai

Here’s four things I’m doing to try and keep it going:
1) During lunch, I don’t turn on the radio or watch any TV. This lets my mind linger on my work, keeping me in my novelist zone or at least letting me transition back there faster.
2) I just get right back to the desk after my break and write. It’s been years since I’ve had to be in a mood or needed the Muse to write. So why I think I need to be calibrate my brain for the next section of my novel, I don’t know.
3) If I don’t have so much as a bullet point on a sticky note or general idea of what comes next, I’ll let myself go on a walk and think about it. I write when I get back. This isn’t something I want to become a habit since I won’t be going on walks come our long Midwestern winters, so I’ll only go out for a walk after serious creative thought. If nothing comes, I’ll let myself head out into the neighborhood for an hour or so.
4) I’m building a habit by writing every day I can, starting as early as I can and staying at it until 3:00pm if possible. Yet there’s this thing called real life that gets in the way sometimes of that good habit, so I’ve been trying to write daily regardless of the time. If needed, I’ve started at 11:00am, which is really late for me. I’ve even resorted to writing in the evening if I didn’t get a chance to during the day. While it cuts into family and reading time writing so late, it also shows my commitment to making a living from my books, continues to build my writing habit, and literally gets me a few pages closer to my goal.

This book is getting done. And, while I am a novelist, it’s forming the habit of novel-writing that’s going to let me someday be a career novelist (and occasional author of short story collections).

author novelist short story writer

© Elias Stein

 

Do you consider yourself a novelist whether you’ve written a novel or not? Or a poet, even if you haven’t made a collection of poetry? What are your writing habits like? Are your habits working or can you improve upon them? Let me know in the comments below.

WIP Wednesday #3: Adapt

Work in Progress

My computer broke.  It became extremely slow of a sudden. I did manage to finish typing up chapter 7 before the thing became unusable, giving me disc error messages when I boot it up.

errormouse.jpg

I’m not terribly upset. Yes, I need a computer to type and edit, but I really don’t miss the internet. I’m actually enjoying the extra hour(s) of book reading now that I must wait until a work day (like today; I was called in) to do anything online. I already refuse to own a smartphone. I really don’t want to deal with the constant presence of social media in my pocket. And the computer that went kaput is also the same one that for years didn’t have internet, functioning as just a useful word processor. I was forced to add  internet functionality back to it when my tiny laptop with a half-broken screen finally died. The truth is, I’ll probably get the thing fixed come winter. Maybe. The Spring and Summer months are really the worst months to be staring at screens anyway.

unplug and go outside

I spent over a week typing up chapter 7. I ended up with 71 double spaced pages with 21,577 words. My novel is now past the 100 thousand word mark. Chapter 8 was written before chapter 7, so I took a weeklong break to just read, which corresponded nicely with my computer going to shit.

During this break, I also contemplated what to write next. I thought I knew where I wanted to go. In fact, I still want to go there. But there’s been this character, Kimmie, who has been sitting in my mind since the beginning, and I wasn’t sure if there’d be enough room to squeeze her in and flush her out like I wanted. I’ve toyed with cutting her out altogether. But this book is a “cast of many,” and so I never entirely snipped her out and, in fact, mentioned her in the last chapter, basically daring myself to find a way to give her some page time.

I DARE YOU

So I was sitting in my library, thinking about how to start the next chapter, and this big old monologue from Wesley formed in my head. I had problems with it though. The first problem was that it simply didn’t feel right for the next chapter. Though maybe it could be slipped in somewhere, I couldn’t imagine where exactly. The second problem was that chapter 8 already had a heavy dialogue-only section toward the end. It would make a good beginning of a chapter, but not a good start to the next chapter.

The idea of Kimmie’s displaced narrative suddenly bumped up against this monologue, and I could see thematic resonance. While I still couldn’t start the next chapter with the monologue, it could certainly follow Kimmie’s section just fine. And once I had set the monologue behind my other character’s story, I realized I had a new chapter—an extra and previously unplanned chapter.

With this extra chapter squeezed in, will my book fall apart under its own weight?

heavy

No. I don’t think it will. In fact, Wesley’s monologue will be a great segue into chapter 10. It’s an accident of inspiration, and the novel will adapt to fit it. Just like I’ll adapt to only having access to a computer when at work on the weekends. My experience of the sunny months will be better without a computer in my house. My novel will be better with this extra chapter nestled happily into the middle of the story. Everything will adapt just fine.