Tuesday, August 20, 2013

July Writing Tally

Well, huh. Color me surprised. I got a lot more writing done during my three-week vacation in July than I thought, despite the fact that I was only able to write by hand into notebooks. With pens. On paper. Scribblings that I have been transcribing to my computer chapter by chapter. I'm finally done, so now I don't have to guesstimate (between 10 - 15 thousand) the word count any longer.

I worked mainly on my current Urban Fantasy project and wrote an amazing total of 33.900 words. *blink blink* 

So much for getting less done when writing by hand. Then again, it was vacation. I had a lot more time than usual. 

Except for transcribing it, I haven't worked on the UF project since July. So my word count for August will be dismal, consisting only of the assignments I've been working on for my screenwriting studies. I need to focus on those for now because I have three big ones left and time is running out. If I don't send them in by the end of September, I won't get the diploma. So everything else is on the back burner right now. 

I can do this! I know I can, I know I can.

Here's wishing everybody a productive rest of the month, too.

Previous tallies: 

January: 19.675 words
February: 15.781 words
March: 19.215 words

April: 27.336 words

May: 49.403 words
June: 20.329 words

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Only Post About Publishing Your Book (The Traditional Way) You'll Ever Need To Read

Okay, so that's a gross overstatement. As a writer, you can never read enough, even (or maybe especially) on writing and publishing itself. There are blogs, websites and forums dedicated to writing, querying, publishing, editing. To become an expert on the writing business, a writer can't pass these up. Step by step, they will allow you, as a newbie to the industry, to piece together the process of getting published, from writing the first word, completing those first to revised drafts, finding an agent, an editor and finally a publisher for your baby.

But this guest post 25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author: Lazy Bastard Edition by Delilah S. Dawson on Chuck Wendig's infamous blog Terribleminds sums it all up in one fell swoop. The whole process at your fingertips in a single post. It points out what the writer must do (or not), expect (or not), and watch out for if s/he wants to be traditionally published. Miss Dawson claims we shouldn't see it as gospel, but I think if there were a Holy Writer's Bible, this post would be in it right after the Genesis of Writing. 

Yes, it's written as an idealized process, and many published authors' journeys to publication differ from it. But, at the very least, it's a recipe to follow as closely as possible at the beginning, and even if certain steps deviate, the following ones will most likely be back on track.

Added bonus: Miss Dawson's post is a fun read (though you might want to remove your personal four-letter-word filter, if you have one...).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Magic of Meeting Fellow Writers

Writers are everywhere. You meet them in the most interesting and unexpected places.

Case in point: I met published author Tracy E. Banghart during my vacation on Lake Temagami. Now, this is more or less the Canadian Outback. Not quite, but close. The main town by the lake is one of those you-sneeze-you-miss-it towns in which not a lot of people live year-round. Most are only there for the summer. On the lake itself, only the myriad of small islands spread out over the lake are inhabited. People spend their summers living in log cabins, most of them without electricity. Showers are a luxury. The over 3000 miles of shoreline are off-limits for building, mining or lumbering, which means the main land surrounding the lake and town consists of forest, a paradise for wildlife. It does get wilder and more remote in some areas, but this is like the frontier to such places.

What I'm trying to show is that meeting another writer there by accident is a bit like stumbling upon an elf in Moria, yet I did it. Someone on a neighboring island knew of another islander whose author-daughter was currently vacationing on the lake for not even two weeks. Two phone calls and a day later, I ended up spending several hours with Tracy and her family. I had a great time. Our main topic, of course, was writing and publishing. 

It's so much fun to talk about writing with other writers. Non-writers get this glazed look in their eyes after five minutes of listening to a writer yak about her craft - which I understand, because unless you're involved in it yourself in some way, it's rather boring. But when writers get together, we could gab for days about this one topic that connects us. It's almost magical.

That's why writers groups are the coolest thing since the first word was ever scratched onto a slab of rock. Writing in itself is a solitary experience, and many - myself included - are terrified of others actually reading their stories, because you always bare a piece of your soul in those words you eternalize. Which deep down you actually do (you really desperately do) want people to read - but only if they will like it. For which of course, there is no guarantee.

Only other writers can fully understand this terror. Or the fascination of the written word in any way, shape or form. Or the sheer need to write, as vital as the need to breathe. Or the frustration, the toil, the continual mental flogging and tremendous exertion of will it takes to keep going after that initial breeze of creativity and the wonder of the idea have passed. The small triumphs that arise from persevering when motivation is scarce; the joy of finishing anything, be it a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book. Only other writers can fully appreciate and share these feelings.

This, to me, is a miracle. It's something I couldn't even imagine until about five years ago, when I joined my first online writing group, and then taking it to a deeper level only eight months ago, when I joined my first local one. As a direct consequence, I have begun actively seeking out the company of other writers, something I simply never considered doing before. Meeting others who go through the same trials, emotions, love is motivating, inspiring and has given me a whole new focus.

It's such a simple thing, really, yet it has had an invaluable impact on my life as a writer. That, to me, is the magic of meeting fellow writers.

By the way: if you enjoy Young Adult novels with sassy heroines and a touch of magic, check out Tracy's book "By Blood". I devoured it in three hours on the plane-ride home from Canada. Great read.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Benefits of Writing by Hand

I just returned from three weeks of vacation on a small island on Lake Temagami in Ontario, Canada, where we had no electricity (beyond a solar-panel-fueled-battery) and no internet access. Ergo, any writing was done on paper, in notebooks, with actual pens (two of which I dropped into the water while writing and sunbathing on the dock, arrgh!). It was like a writer's retreat, because I got a lot of writing time in between canoeing, kajaking, swimming, hiking, sleeping and reading (= the perfect vacation!). 

I worked on my current novel-in-progress, journaled daily, and wrote up a couple more assignments for my screenwriting studies. It sounds like a lot, and I suppose it was, if you don't look too closely at the word count. I definitely type a LOT faster than I write by hand, so even though I filled almost two notebooks for the novel, that's only approximately somewhere between 10k and 15k words, if my rule of thumb estimations are anywhere near correct. I will find out how close I am as soon as I'm finished transcribing my scribbles to the computer - the July Tally will have to wait until then.

I was a bit bummed at first that all this time I spent writing (and all the cramps I got in my wrist and hand - the writing-muscles in my hand had apparently atrophied completely) only produced a fraction of the words I'd meant to achieve. But I've since come to appreciate two big benefits of literally penning the story and then transcribing it.

The first is that, in order to save time and paper, I put more effort into keeping my narrative short and poignant, and the dialoge brief and snappy. I embellished less, thought about the importance of the words I chose, the descriptions I used. This worked well since I found that the slower writing also helped with the thinking ahead, with formulating sentences not in the instant of writing them down, but a little before. I feel like this tightened the story, something I usually don't overly concern myself with until ater finishing the first draft.

Which ties right into the second advantage of writing by hand: while transcribing my handwritten writings onto the computer, I'm already revising. In my case, the first draft is essentially there to get the important stuff down. Revision is to make it presentable, tighter, funnier, clearer - and I'm getting the first round of that done during the transcription.

In a nutshell: while writing the first draft by hand does take longer than typing it down, the transcribed version is already closer to a revised second draft. I can't tell whether this actually saves time in the long run, or takes longer. Maybe it makes no difference. I definitely no longer believe, though, that writing a story by hand and then transcribing it is a waste of time.

And somehow I like having notebooks with complete parts of stories in them, that I can stand on a shelf and pull out like a real book.

So I might actually continue penning the first draft by hand, at least for a while to get more of a feel for its practicality. I want to look into using shorthand, which might help with the taking-longer-to-write issue. From what I hear, there are several different shorthand methods one can apply. Research time! And a topic for another post.

Does anybody else still write down stories on actual pen and paper or is it just me going back to the stone ages? :-)