Tag Archive: Feedback


Every Direction At Once

I can, with gratitude and delight, report that one of my chief sources of stress and angst this week has been relieved.  This is good because I think it was getting in the way of writing.  Stupid day job. :p That said, good news is a heck of a way to start your weekend.

I should say that, despite all that, I haven’t done too badly, especially as I’m near the end of Possession and trying very hard to sculpt a good ending that sets up the beginning of The Nine. It’s been a wild ride, and I wish I was on vacation to write the end as I was for the end of the first one, but sadly, I don’t have another vacation planned until May.  Oh well. It means I’m having to take this one in manageable chunks, instead of the 6 and 7k days I did to finish DM’s second draft.  I’m still making pace every night, but not much more. That said, I’m fairly happy with the progress, happier with the quality and watching the word count add up. Possession is up to 79,628 words right now, before I start writing for the night.  I think I have 10k or less to go, but we all know I’m a terrible judge of that.  It does mean that, from what I see in my outline and the weather for the weekend (dismal), I may actually finish the first draft of Possession this weekend, way ahead of schedule.

Of course this means that I need to turn to The Nine, which has remained a bit of a mystery.  I know where it begins, I have a vague idea of some of the things that have to happen in it, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to start outlining, and leaning toward I’m not ready for that yet.  I haven’t been thinking about it as much so far, as I’ve been wrapped up in the first two.  I will say that I’m feeling a bit of pressure about it because it’s the close of the trilogy, and I know the kind of expectation that rides on that sort of thing.  But I think I’m up to it, and besides, I’ve already told myself that I’m just going to write the story that comes and worry about the rest later.  I’ll have Possession edited fairly thoroughly I suspect before I set down to write The Nine, perhaps even before I fully outline The Nine.  That was pretty much how the process worked when I was turning to Possession, and it seems to have worked, so I’ll just go with it.

I’m finding that, in thinking about The Nine, I’m experiencing an incredible ambivalence.  On one hand, it’ll be a major accomplishment for me, a person who had never even finished a single draft of a novel until last December, to have written an entire trilogy.  To me, that’s major.  But then I feel like I don’t want to say goodbye to any of the characters. If it was anyone else’s book, I’d say that I’ll come back and read it again, that the end of even the series is never really goodbye, but I have this feeling I’ll be too busy writing another book, reading some of my own favourite authors on the side, to come back and reread my own books.  Also, as I progress as a writer, I suspect I may look back and feel guilty about just how much better I’d be able to write this by then.  So I fear that the end of the trilogy, and certainly after the stand alone, will be a true goodbye for me with these characters, and it makes me a little sad.  I’m going to miss them so much.

On a less sappy and melodramatic note, I do find it funny that, just when I was getting ready to tap on the idea fountain and see if it still functioned (it had been few days), out pops a couple more ideas, plus some detritus that goes with stuff I already had notes on.  I’m still a little up in the air about what I want to work on when I finish the trilogy.  Part of me says that I should do the stand alone that goes with the short story, but that’s not remotely ready (and not likely to become so until I at least have the outline of The Nine done, since it’s chronologically after that book), and the rest of me looks at Devan, Helix and Sketh, all looking like they want to pounce on me given half a chance.  It’s still too early to decide though.  I imagine it will become clear before I reach that point. It often seems to work that way for me.

Oh, I should add that the test readers have now finished with DM and the initial feedback has been quite encouraging.  I’m waiting for full feedback (rather than initial reactions) though before I start breathing again.  Wow, I think I’m starting to see spots… Is that a bad sign? In any case, depending on what that feedback comes in as, I know that I’m getting close to that point at which I have to decide, epub it myself or go with traditional publishing.  And I’m still not sure. It’s like trying to think inside of a windstorm, really.  Every time I think I have it sorted out and decided, I read something else that makes me start thinking about it again and it all gusts up on me.  I swear, whatever I decide, it will likely be more thoroughly thought out than the book itself!

And for today’s picture, here we are.  I had actually pulled two out last time and this is the other one I grabbed.

Measurements, Goals and Progress

It’s almost kind of funny that I ended up posting this after the incident of Wall vs Writer. I had planned this post even before I did the one for the VIB award.  I ‘m not sure whether this is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy or the kind of coincidence that you never find in fiction.  But I promise you that this post is not actually a result of yesterday, really.

You see, I was thinking the other day about how we set and measure both our goals and our progress toward them.  More specifically, I was thinking about how I do these things, because by now you all know I never claim to be the wise old expert on anything.  There are definitely different ways one can measure progress on almost anything, but I find that there are two major ways with writing in my experience.

The first, the one that so many of us use, is word count.  Word count is nice because it’s one of the few quantifiable things in a field that is generally highly subjective. Word count is relatively absolute, especially when writing a first draft NaNo-style because you’re supposed to just keep blazing forward, and then the counter coughs up a number.  If you’re keeping track on a daily basis, then it’s a simple calculation to know how much you have accomplished.  Then you have something to measure against that quantified goal for that period of time, so you can tell readily if you are on track for your goal.  Of course, I never know for sure how long the story will be on first draft, because I always think you let that draft be as long as it needs, regardless of any other considerations, so it would be hard to give a percent to completion expression of this progress. But I definitely know how far I’ve come in a day.

While this is a great way to feel accomplished (I won’t lie, I love seeing the giant numbers), it does ignore the fact that writing is about far more than just writing X number of words, so very much more.  As I said, it’s a subjective field, where “good” and “right” and “correct” get tossed around a lot but mean different things to everyone.  For a while during university, I worked in a book store (lit major working in the fiction section, there’s a no brainer).  When customers would express that they felt like they should be reading certain types of fiction, usually literary, because they were under the impression that those types were automatically “better,” I would point out that we have so many different types of books and authors because there is such a variety of taste in books, that no type is better than the others. I might be a little biased because I’m a committed reader of fantasy, mystery and to a lesser extent, science fiction, but I do stand by the statement to this day.

So, if this is a subject field, is there a way of making goals and tracking them that acknowledges that and works with it? This is what I was thinking about the other day that made me want to post about the subject as soon as I had my thoughts on it straight.  Despite my saying that this post wasn’t caused by my afore-mentioned little difficulty, I do think that the wall and the fallout from it has helped to clarify my thinking on the subject, making it easier to write this post than I had expected. You see, I didn’t feel bad so much about hitting a difficulty, because those happen, but I felt (and still feel) a little bad about not making my word count goal yesterday. The only thing that stopped me from trying despite the way I felt was the realization that anything I tried to write at that point would be a pure waste, that I’d just be deleting it as soon as I had the problem sorted in order to move forward in the story. That leads me to think that purely number-based goals put undue pressure on us to perform even if we know we’re writing drivel.  The number of times I’ve seen in the NaNo forums that someone just had to go through their whole book from November and put in all the contractions that they deliberately left out during NaNo purely for higher word count, or something similar in the name of word count, well, it drives me a little nuts.  I mean, it’s good to hit the goal, don’t get me wrong, but what’s the point when you’re only writing it to add words you know, for sure, you’ll be taking out later?  You’re  making more pointless work for yourself, really.  This is not the same as editing, where you might be tweaking to better express something. I’m talking words put in the manuscript purely for the count’s sake. There has to be another way, I thought to myself, something that lets me feel accomplished without driving myself batty on a rough day, or just a day that didn’t have a high number, but got me through something important. This thought led me to where I’m leading all of you.

You see, I do think there is definitely a more fluid, qualitative way to judge progress, though it’s far harder to set concrete, achievable, measurable goals. This would be measuring it by general progress through the story itself. Note to all the pantsers out there, this probably won’t work for you because you’re still discovering where your story is going, so it would be impossible to judge progress toward the end.  But for those of us who plan and outline our way through the story, and then draft it, this is perfectly possible, if somewhat unpredictable.

I’ve done this method before. Because of the way I outline things, I tend to be able to say that I’m doing events A, B and C today. Those would be then 3 of a set number of events as laid out in my outline.  Some of you who were reading this blog as I did the second draft of DM might remember me referring to entries in my outline, how many I had and how many I had completed.  That’s basically what I was doing, trying to judge my progress by the amount of the story I had written, but in a fairly qualitative sense. The reason I find this subjective is that there are a number of factors at play in the length of draft an entry or event will turn into, including importance, intricacy, how much I need actually describe, things like that. Some of you might recall me first worrying that the second draft of DM would be too long, then that it would be just right, and in the end, it was about 30k shorter than I had anticipated. This is what I meant about it being unpredictable. But it feels like a way of measuring that is more fair to myself and the story. Why? Well, as a reader, I rarely care how long a story is, unless it’s either fabulous or crap.  If it’s crap, well, I probably put it down before the end anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter then either.  When it’s fabulous, I don’t notice word count, but I do notice that I don’t want it to ever stop.  🙂  In other words, what I really care about is the story, so shouldn’t I, as a writer, be judging my work based on that same yardstick? I mean, I can’t be the only reader who views books this way.

I’m still not sure, given the unpredictability this method, how I would set about creating, maintaining and judging progress on goals in this fashion. All I’m certain of is that I have had days where I’ve struggled to put as many words on the screen as I feel I should, but when I look back at the section I did write, I felt accomplished anyway because it was either important or intricate to the point of requiring careful work on what words I used.  That should count for something. Maybe there’s some hybrid of the two methods possible, if I can ever learn to maintain a sense of perspective and not drive myself into the ground wanting to eternally go faster and do more.  Hmm, it’s a thought.  I’ll probably be mulling this over still when I get to the point of setting the goals for The Nine.  Maybe I’ll even post further thoughts on the subject if I have them.

Before you ask, I did get some writing done tonight. I have the problem licked, I think (edit stage will have the final say on that), and even managed to hit pace tonight. It’s not nearly as much as I had been doing, but it was important to me to climb back on that horse, and to feel out the solution. Green lights all the way. Now to rebuild the momentum, as I told someone else once. 🙂

Also, feedback on DM continues to be good. I’m thinking that the pace it’s being read through is probably a good sign.

And, before I go, I did promise a picture, so here it is. My mother loves growing these things, has had one at every house they’ve owned. I love the way the light plays across the leaves in this one.

Of Roadblocks, Walls and Realizations

It’s never a fun feeling as writer when you run head first, at full sprint, into a wall.  Okay, I did start to notice the wall yesterday, but today was the impact.  Ow, I think I need a chiropractor now.  It sapped me more than a little bit of energy tonight (especially when coupled with several non-writing things, which are probably more a cause of this than the wall), but I think I have the problem figured out.

You see, I’m at a point in my outline where I had a bit of difficulty figuring out how I was going to handle a particular event and the lead up to the next one. And now that I’m trying to write that section, I’m feeling a tremendous amount of resistance in my own brain to writing what I had planned. This is a sign of a familiar problem. Without getting into specifics, the wall I just hit confirmed what I vaguely remember thinking when I wrote this part of the outline, that I had made the wrong choice for the story, that I was trying to force it in a direction that it shouldn’t be going in.  As I said, it’s not the first time this has happened in my writing history, but that means I know what I need to do to get back on track with Possession. In fact, I’ve already done it. I’ve gone back, evaluated what wasn’t working and why, both in the outline and in what I wrote in the draft, which led me directly to what I think will work.  It’s late and I’m too tired to actually sit down and start writing it, but I’ll get to that tomorrow.  I’m currently over 20k ahead of my pace. I think I can afford to give myself the rest of the night off after I’ve made a few more notes on the solution to my problem. It isn’t as if I haven’t been working on it tonight, just not in the manner planned.

No, this is not the post I had planned to write today.  That will probably come tomorrow after work, maybe first thing Saturday if I get totally wrapped back up in writing tomorrow (and I won’t complain about that one bit).

In the good news column, initial test reader feedback on DM is encouraging.

And no, no picture tonight. See above comment on being tired.  I don’t care if it’s only 9:15, my brain thinks it’s midnight.  I think I’ll call it a night early now.

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