Writing Journal: Day 128

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You know, writing anything is a huge accomplishment.  Finishing a novel – it’s huge, don’t get me wrong, but there’s the high, and then the low.

I talked a little bit about this when I wrote the post about finishing, but I felt it needed more attention.  There’s a couple of reasons why – 1) I think it’ll help me work through all of this and 2) it’ll give you a little insight.

So, I write this novel.  I’ve been trying to remember when I first started Samantha Kane.  Without actually looking into the vast ATFMB archives snugged away on some external drive, I want to say that the very first sentence of Samantha Kane was written in 2007 as part of a serialized writing project (possibly NaNoWriMo?).  The idea was to write something every day, publish it on the blog, get motivated about writing every day, and have some cool stories to show for the effort.  (Sam Kane was not the only piece I was working on at the time – there was also Tabor/Mark of the Wild and Evermist – each being published on the blog (that blog is mostly gone now, btw – replaced with this one!)).  TyBarBary could probably tell me if I’m remembering correctly here. The clever among you will do the math and realize that we’re talking about a 4-year project here.  You aren’t wrong.

Anyway, I started writing.  Work started sucking.  Things started happening, distractions, stress – blah blah blah same old thing, and before you knew it, I got out of the habit of writing everyday, and hadn’t finished Sam Kane.  The upside was that I realized I had something in the story.  So I tucked it away on my hard drive and continued to plug away, just not on the blog.

I want to say that the first draft was done in late 2008/early 2009.  I remember that TyBarBary was sitting on my couch at the time.  I hit save, passed the USB drive over and let Ty read it.  This is where things get truly murky.  When I first got back into writing in 1999/2000-ish, I used Word exclusively.  Couple reasons for this – 1) it was installed on my computer and 2) I didn’t know any other way.

How I used to write/organize was: Top Level Project Folder, inside that were Individual Docs for each Chapter.  So if I had a fifty chapter novel, I had fifty Doc files, each named, Chapter XX (where XX was a number).  I would then keep a single file called 001 All Together Now (which, cuz it was 001, stayed at the top of the folder organization) where I would copy/paste everything in to get A) a word count & B) a sense of the flow, which I couldn’t always get from the Chapter Docs.

The reason I mention all of this is because with Sam Kane, I tried to write everything in a single Word Doc.  When I was done and felt it was time to go back and revise things, I just opened up that Doc and started editing.  Eventually, I saved it under a new name, but that very first, raw draft, is gone forever.  Ah well.  This lead to my creating a new Doc every time I made significant changes.  This also lead to a mess.  Very quickly, I had a dozen different Sam Kane Docs, and I was losing in my own mind, what was what and where and how much and which version – such a mess.

Then came Scrivener.  Here was a program that thought the way I did.  I wanted to write Chapters and be able to move them around, edit them, write out of order (things that were a pain in Word).  Scrivener let me do all of these things and more.  So the very first project I started inside of Scrivener, was Sam Kane.

I installed Scrivener on my new MacBook (purchased last year, 2010).  Not fully understanding how the software worked, only that I really wanted to use something other than Word (and had no intentions of ever purchasing or installing Office on my laptop), I used Google Docs to open my Word files, and copy/paste the text into Scrivener.  Later, I realized that Scrivener’s Import function would import Word Docs even if you don’t have Word installed – HUGE!  That would’ve saved me so much time.  Ah, well.

Once I had everything into Scrivener, I worked on a new draft.  Mostly I was cutting and pasting stuff from old Word Docs here and there, then forcing them to fit together.  I had characters that I didn’t want to use anymore, so I needed to pull them out.  I had other characters that I wanted to expand their presence, so I needed to add them in.  Everything became very junky and disjointed very quickly.  I was also trying to outline everything – something I never do, and probably never will do.  I am just no good at it.

In January of this year, I started over.  Opened up Scrivener and started clean.  I took the core story I had in my head, copied the first couple of chapters over to tweak, and started over.  Six months later, I have a new draft, a better draft – possibly a final draft.  We’ll have to see what the world thinks.

And by world, I mean literary agents, editors and publishers – cuz I have already started the query process.  For the first time in a very long time, I feel confident about my writing.  This is a damned fine story, with compelling characters.  Someone, somewhere, is gonna jump on it.

If they don’t, that’s fine too.  There are many roads open to authors anymore.  I’m going to try this one first, see where it takes me, and if it doesn’t get me where I want to be, I’ll take a bypass.

I say that now because I’m still riding that high point, but I know the low is coming.  It’s actually already started.  By low I mean, the point where you start questioning yourself, what you’ve written – when you lose that focus you’ve had, and sort of drift.  This week, I’ve wanted to get back in and work on some edits to the last few chapters I wrote recently – really tighten them up.  My brain didn’t want to do it.  “You’re done now,” it whispered.  “Let’s play video games or watch tv or something.”

BAD BRAIN!

Worse, I don’t want to get out of the habit of writing every day.  I have been doing some fantastic word counts each day due to my lunch breaks and the time I put in at night after all the other stuff I do is done.  The past couple of days have been horrible.  I haven’t written much of anything (last night being the exception, as I sat down and forced myself to work – which I shouldn’t have to do at this point).

Part of the problem is the question – What now?

I need to finish the edits to Sam Kane.  I’ve sent my first query letter – there might be more edits down the road based on feedback from agents and editors (if I get that far along in the process).  But I can’t sit back and wait for that – I have to keep moving forward, keep writing.  Do I write a sequel?  I have 5 books planned in my head for Sam Kane.  Do I work on something else?

I don’t have the answers to those questions right now.  I need to figure them out, though, and soon.  Writer’s Group is Saturday – I always find myself highly motivated following one of those, but I’d love to be able to find the motivation before that meeting.

~P

5 comments for “Writing Journal: Day 128

  1. June 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing your process. It’s always interesting to read about how others approach the craft. So, if I understand correctly, you didn’t originally plan it to be a novel but just a series of short stories? How does that work? Did each short become a chapter? Did you reach a certain point and decide ‘hey, this should be a novel!’ and then plan out the rest? I’m truly curious.

    Good luck with your subs! That, imo, is the hardest part – just putting yourself out there. Good luck.

    • Patrick Hester
      June 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      Actually, I never thought of them as short stories. Every post was a chapter in a serialized story. The last sentence was intended to make you go, “NO! I WANT MORE!” (some call this the ‘page turner’).

      The idea was just to write something every day, do it in a sort of flash fiction length and call those chapters in a greater story. I then posted them on the blog for people to read and share comments/feedback. For the most part, it was all pretty positive feedback.

      ~P

  2. June 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Dude, you’re awesome. I can’t wait until your book comes out and you interview you on SF Signal and Functional Nerds.

    I feel a high whenever I complete a big story and I always want to jump into the next big thing the next day. But my brain won’t let me. I end up wallowing around and feeling bad for a couple of weeks before I get normal again. Don’t feel bad if your brain won’t cooperate for a bit. Brains are like that.

    • Patrick Hester
      June 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      “So, Patrick – Thanks for joining us tonight. May I call you Patrick?”

      “I prefer Mister Hester.”

      “Oh, uh… okay – Mister Hester. What is your book abou-”

      “Bored now. Where are the bagels? I was promised bagels.”

      “. . . “

      • June 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm

        Oh, that WOULD be interesting, and can you just imagine how annoyed Anealio would get with 2 Patricks to contend with. 😉

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