Category Archives: the craft of writing

Showtime

Okay folks. It took some doing, but I’ve finally got everything lined up for the first episode of my show on Geek and Sundry.

What’s that? You want to know what the name of the show is? The name we picked from thousands of suggestions?

After a lot of deliberation, we settled on The Story Board.

We’ve got a logo and everything.

It’s got Latin in it, so you know we’re all kinds of posh.

Our first show is going to be about Urban Fantasy and our guests are Emma Bull, Jim Butcher, and Diana Rowland.

Jim will be joining us from the deep woods, where he is tucked away, LARPing. He’s said he’s not responsible if a sudden zombie invasion erupts while he’s online. I said that sounds perfectly reasonable….

If you want to watch the show live, it’s tonight, August 7th, at 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

I’ll be putting up a link on my Google+ account when we launch.

And yes. I know that time is different than what I said on the blog before. That’s because I was wrong on the blog before. This is the right time. 8:00 Pacific.

If you can’t catch it live, rest assured we’ll be posting up the footage on youtube before too long.

You know what the weirdest thing about all of this is? I can’t get the opening theme from the Muppet Show out of my head….

It’s going to take an extreme effort for me *not* to sing that when we start the show tonight…

pat

Also posted in Geek and Sundry, the business of writing, The Story Board | By Pat64 Responses

Cool news and a desperate cry for help…

Some of you might remember that when Felicia Day launched Geek and Sundry, she did a 12 hour live Google Air subscribathon in order to help spread the word.

I helped out in a small way, bringing in some other authors to talk about writing. Specifically, we talked about what makes for compelling characters.

I had a blast, partly because I’m terribly fond of the folks involved in the discussion: John Scalzi, Felicia Day, and Amber Benson.

But mostly I had a good time because I love talking about stories.

You see, this stuff is what I think about all the time. That’s a bit part of the reason I write the blog, so I can talk about stories and how they work.

It’s also a big part of the reason I go to conventions. I love getting together with other writers on a panel and talking about the craft of writing.

So after the subscribathon was over, I mentioned to Felicia that if she was interested, I’d love nothing better than to do that sort of thing again.

It would be like the sort of panel you get to see at conventions, I said. I could bring in whoever I wanted. Funny, clever people. Good talkers. People who aren’t afraid to argue a bit. Even better, the audience wouldn’t be limited. A lot of people don’t go to conventions. They can’t get time off work, or they can’t afford it. But if we did a series of these hangouts on Geek and Sundry, anyone could show up and enjoy the show. Y’know, because of the interwebs and the youtubes and such…

(I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

Much to my delight, Felicia took the idea her fellow producers, and they thought it would be a good idea.

So… yeah. I’m going to be doing a show on Geek and Sundry. I get to go play with the cool kids.

It’s going to be a series of hour-long discussions about storytelling. We’ll probably focus on novels a bit, because that’s where I live and breathe. But I have plans to talk about other types of stories too. I want to bring in people to talk about storytelling in videogames. In comics. On the web. On TV.

It’s all story, you see.

So that’s the good news. We’re doing this. It’s going to be cool.

The bad news is that I have no fucking idea what to call the show.

I originally pitched it as Storytelling 101. But I knew that was a shit title as soon as I came up with it. It’s boring. Plus cliche.

I’ve been wracking my brain for a month now, and I still haven’t been able to come up with something I like.

You see, names are important things, or so I hear. I’d like to have a really good one for my show. I’d like something catchy, clear, and a little bit sexy….

But so far, everything I’ve come up with has been mostly crap.

Writer’s Roundtable? –  Clear enough, but lacks panache.

Ars Fabula? – Slightly clever, but mostly wankerish.

Narratavores? – Confusing AND wankerish.

Wheaton’s show, Tabletop, has a great title. It’s clever. It’s catchy. And most of all, it’s informative.

So what’s your point, Rothfuss?

Over the years, y’all have proven to be remarkably clever, so now I’m turning to you for help.

What would *you* call a show about storytelling?

Please make your suggestions in the comments below. Feel free to comment on other people’s suggestions, but please keep it polite.

If someone comes up with something I can use. Or makes a suggestion that leads to me having a brainstorm of my own, I’d be ever-so-grateful…

And…. go.

Hit me with your best shot.

pat

Also posted in calling on the legions, Geek and Sundry, videos | By Pat1,192 Responses

Rothfuss and Brooks: Part IV

Here’s the final installment of the mutual interview I did with Terry Brooks. If you’d like to start at the beginning, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And now, without further ado, Part 4….

*     *     *

Pat: What’s your revision process like? How many drafts do you go through?

Terry: I outline pretty thoroughly before I put pen to paper.  I don’t write anything until I have it all pretty clear in my head, then I do the outline, and then I do the book.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, some of them extensive.  But it is my blueprint for the book’s foundation and support timbers.  I can pretty much rely on it to see me through.  That said, nothing tells you more about your book than the writing of it.  So I pay attention to newer, fresher ideas that crop up as I write.  I listen to my instincts.

But here’s the good part.  With this method, I only write one draft.

Pat: Boy. I think I’d hate to outline everything. But I have to admit, I’m really jealous of a one-draft model. I end up doing somewhere between 50 and 300 drafts, depending on how you want to count them.

Hopefully I’ll manage to streamline that a bit as I gain more experience. I’m the first to admit my way isn’t very efficient. I end up going back and forth a lot. Once or twice I’ve gone back and realized the best thing for the book was to hatchet out an entire chapter.

What’s the biggest cut you’ve ever made to a manuscript?

Terry: I did a lot of cutting when I was learning the craft under Lester.  Lots of pages went by the board.  But along the way, I’ve learned a few things.  So I haven’t had to cut anything much in a long time.  I should add, though, that I decided a while back to curtail the length of my books.  I am an advocate of less is more these days.  I use fewer words and actively look for ways to cut bits and pieces as I write.  I was feeling wordy about my books about 15 years ago, and that was the end of big books for me.

Pat: Strange as it might seem, that’s actually my philosophy too. I really believe in less is more. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds coming from someone who just wrote a 400,000 word book. Believe me, it would have been much longer if I wasn’t constantly riding my own brake.

Terry:  I think you will do more of this the more you write and the older you get.  This isn’t meant to be a warning.  I just think that you learn how to say more with less (that less is more thing again) as time passes and writing skills improve.  You change because that’s in the nature of who we are as writers.

Pat: Roughly speaking, how many copies of your own books would you guess you have in your house?

Terry: I don’t know how many of my books I’ve got in my house, but I’ve got thousands in my book storage rooms, and about half of them are European paperbacks!!  Those guys insist on sending out dozens of author copies every time there is a new print run.  If you put them altogether I think you would find I have somewhere around 20,000 on hand.  Anyone need a foreign edition?  Croatian, Thai, Hebrew or Inuit?

How about Martian?

Pat: The foreign editions really do pile up after a while. And I’ve only got the two books. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, so many different editions of so many books. There’s really only so much you can do with them, too. One to the library. One to a friend who wants to brush up on his Estonian, then the rest of them sit on a shelf…

Terry: Do you see yourself writing fantasy twenty years from now?  Or do you think you might go off and write something else entirely?

Pat: I don’t think I’ll ever stray very far from fantasy. Not only is it what I love best, but there’s so much room to write any sort of story you want.

Terry: That’s pretty much my thinking, too.  I’m writing what exactly what I want to.

Pat: Rumor has it that Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin for a while before she began her day’s writing. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?

Terry: I’m kind of like Monk.  Very anal.  I have my writing space and I never write anywhere else.  I have my stuff all carefully arranged, and I don’t like it if something gets moved.  I have several recourses that I can turn to when I am stumped or bothered about a piece of writing to remove the so-called block.  I always write in silence.  No sounds, no music, no interruptions.  This is all weird, but it beats lying in a coffin!

Pat: We’re birds of a feather there. I’m not orderly or neat. But I do have my writing space. Nobody is allowed in there, with a few rare exceptions.

And I’m with you. Silence. No interruptions. I can’t understand how some folks write with music playing. I know it’s an issue of different strokes for different folks, but writing with music on strikes me as being profoundly counter-intuitive. Unnatural even.

Pat: The internet has really changed the face of fandom in the last ten years. Has it had much of an effect on the way you interact with your fans?

Terry: When I started out, there was no internet, of course.  My connection with fans was all by snail mail and personal appearances.  I’ve never been good about mail, but I loved going out and meeting readers.  I did it every year, sometimes for as many as 5 or 6 weeks a year, here and abroad.  Can’t do that anymore because my energy level and tolerance for airport security won’t allow for it.  Now I do maybe 2 or 3 weeks a year.  But the personal connections, face to face, always mean more.

On the other hand, the internet allows for instant communication, and a different kind of closeness between writer and reader.  Before, there was no central venue for communicating with readers.  It was all done one on one.  If you were doing a tour, you could send out fliers or the stores could print and distribute them.  You could rely on word of mouth, but you didn’t have video or audio mass distribution available that didn’t cost an arm or a leg.  The internet changed all that.  About ten years ago, I went out on tour and asked at every stop how many people were there because they had read about it on the website.  Web Druid Shawn asked me to take this survey.  The response was eye opening.  More than 80% were there because they had read about it on the site.

How about you, coming in later on when the internet was already the established form of communication? I know you blog regularly.

Pat: Yeah. I have a lot of fun interacting with my readers online. I’ve met a lot of cool people that way. It can be very rewarding….

But part of me also thinks that it would be nice to be able to go back to writing in a vacuum, like I did before I was published. I get about 10-15 e-mails a day from readers. That’s not counting print letters, or Facebook, or Goodreads. It can get a little overwhelming.

As for the blogging, I do that almost as a defensive measure. I know I can’t write a detailed letter back to every one of my fans that contacts me, but I can write something that anyone can show up to read. I use it to tell little stories out of my life and answer questions. I’ve run a contest or two. We’ve sold some t-shirts at our online store, The Tinker’s Packs, to support my charity.

I mostly goof around, in all honesty. But in between the goofing around, I keep people filled in about events and new projects.

Plus it gives me a venue to do the occasional interview with another cool author….

Terry: I like your thinking about using the blogs to answer questions for a general audience when it is virtually impossible to answer individual letters.  I used to do that by snail mail before the internet, but I can’t manage it anymore.

Pat: It works out pretty well. It lets people know that you care. Plus you get to be helpful without having to spend three days of the week doing nothing but correspondence.

Terry: Hey, Patrick, this has been a lot of fun.  I love finding out how other writers manage their lives, why they choose to write what they do, and what makes them tick.  Especially writers I admire.  Thanks for taking time to do this.

Pat: The pleasure has been all mine, Terry. This has been such a thrill.

*     *     *

There you go folks, share and enjoy….

pat

 

Also posted in fanmail, Interviews, Me Interviewing Other Folks, meeting famous people, Revision | By Pat22 Responses

Author Talk: Building Character

About a month ago, I did a G+ hangout with Felicia Day, John Scalzi, and Amber Benson in order to promote the launch of Felicia’s new maelstrom of nerd-awesome: Geek and Sundry.

We set out to talk about what makes for good, interesting characters, and the conversation spiraled pleasantly through all manner of interesting tangents after that. In addition to being a fun talk with some of the wittiest geeks around, I think we also ended up raising some interesting points about stories, writing, truth, beauty, etc.

Anyway, if you missed the live broadcast, you can stop weeping softly to yourself in the corner. They’ve just posted up the video over on youtube.

Here it is:

Man, I really need a haircut….

pat

Also posted in Felicia Day, Interviews, tangentality, videos | By Pat48 Responses

Fanmail Q&A: The Biggest Mistake

Pat,

I love your books, and I’ve been reading your blog for years, silently lurking. Not wanting to take up your time with a comment, let alone a letter.

But here’s the thing. After years of thinking about it. I’m actually starting to write.

Yeah. Surprise surprise. I’m looking for advice.

I know most of it I’ll have to learn on my own. And I know you don’t have time to tell me all the tricks of the trade you’ve learned over the years. But I was hoping you could tell me just one thing. Not something I should do. Something I should avoid. What’s the biggest mistake you see new writer’s make in fantasy?

If you can tell me what that mistake is, then hopefully I can skip that one and make other mistakes instead.

Love,

Jan

Awww…. free love.

Well Jan, the biggest mistake I see new writer’s make is the grocers’ apostrophe.

No, wait. Don’t cry. I’m just teasing a little. I mock because I love. I don’t hold minor grammatical goofs against people. I’m no Strongbad. Hell, I make the classic it’s/its mistake more than half the time.

Anyway, to the heart of the matter. Let me answer your question the way that I answer all questions, with a story.

Months ago, I was sitting around with Oot. He was just starting to get really verbal in those days. Whole sentences. Picking up words right and left.

More to the point of this story: he was just learning how to count.

So. We’re sitting around and I hold up a finger and say, “One….”

He knows where I’m going with this. Counting is a new thing, so he’s pretty exited about it.

“One…” I prompt him again.

He jumps on board this time. “…two. Three. Four! Five! SIX! EIGHT! TEN! SIX! THREE! SIX!

He gets really worked up after three. He makes little fists and waves around his arms enthusiastically. On a good day he’ll get all the way up to nine before he falls apart.

It’s perfectly natural, really. When you have a cool new piece of information to show off, you’re bound to get excited.

Later on in the day I come in and he’s reading a book with Sarah. It’s the last page in a big Richard Scarry book, and it has groups of things lined up, just for counting. One picture of a whale. Two pictures of walruses. Three pigs.

You get the idea.

Mom is coaching him with ladybugs and buttons. There’s lots of those, way more than ten.

I tag Sarah out so she can go do some stuff on her own, then I sit down with Oot.

I point to the book. “How many walruses are there?”

He looks at the page. “One…. Two….” He looks at the book seriously.

There’s a pause. A long pause. He furrows his brow.

“Two,” he says.

“Good job!” I say, completely earnest. This is big stuff. Cutting edge. I’m proud of him. He really thought it out. Didn’t just make a guess.

I point one line down on the page. “How many pigs?”

He looks at the three pigs. “One… two…. Three.”

But he doesn’t stop there. He’s on a roll now. “Four! Five! Six! SEVEN! TEN! SEVEN! MANY!” He finishes by throwing his arms up over his head triumphantly.

It’s cute as hell, really. But the fact is, he’s wrong. He got carried away.

And this, Jan, is the biggest problem I see most new fantasy authors make.

* * *

(Yeah. That’s a scene break. I’ve decided I can put a scene break in my blog if I feel like it.)

You see, one of the hardest parts about writing fantasy novels is describing things.

Now this problem isn’t unique to fantasy novels. No matter what genre you’re writing in, you have to describe things. That’s a given.

The problem is that in fantasy, there’s so much you have to describe.

If you write a novel set in the real world, you can assume your reader will have a certain baseline knowledge. They will know about Seattle and Paris. They will know what the internet is. They will (almost certainly) know who Robin Hood is. They’ll (probably) know who Don Quixote is. They’ll (maybe) know who Cyrano De Bergerac is.

But when you’re writing fantasy, especially secondary-world fantasy (By which I mean fantasy where the story takes place in a world other than our own) the reader doesn’t know anything about your world. They don’t know the cultures, religions, magic, or cities. The reader doesn’t know anything about the myths and legends of the world.

Now a lot of times, this is one of the major selling points of the book. A big payoff of secondary-world fantasy is the thrill of exploration. We get to see new countries, fantastic creatures, odd cultures, curious magics, etc etc.

And, honestly, this is one of the big perks of being a fantasy writer. We get to build castles in the sky, then show them off to people.

So here’s how it goes wrong.

1. You create something for your fantasy world: a creature, a culture, a myth, whatever.

2. You’re proud of your creation. You’re excited about it. You love it with a fierce love.

3. You need to describe this thing to your reader, because if they don’t understand how it works, your story won’t make sense.

(3b. Remember, the story is the real reason people are there. Story is everything. Story is god.)

4. So you start to explain how folks in the the Shire celebrate their birthdays. (This is important because one of the first major events of the book is a birthday party.) You talk about how hobbits give presents away at their parties instead of receiving them. (This is important because it ties into why Bilbo is going to hand over the ring to Frodo.)

Then you start talking about how some of these presents get passed back and forth, party after party. And how those items are actually called mathoms, and how there’s actually a museum full of mathoms at Michel Delving, which is in the Westfarthing of the shire, since, as you know, the Shire is composed of four sections which take their names from prominent families in the area, such as Tookland being named after the Tooks, who are among the largest and oldest of the Shire families, and in fact still held the title of Thain, which had been passed to them from the Oldbucks, and while the title was largely ceremonial these days due to the lack of Shire-moot in recent, peaceful times…. Four! Five! Six! SEVEN! TEN! SEVEN! MANY!

You see what happens? It’s easy for an author to get so caught up in the details of the world they created, that they go off the rails and give us more than is really necessary for the story.

Now it might seem like I’m picking on Tolkien a little bit here. But again I say: I mock because I love. I grew up reading Tolkien, and I mean that quite literally. I read the lord of the rings at least once a year through all my teenage years.

To his credit, Tolkien gave us one of the best traditions of our genre, that of elaborate, realistic worldbuilding.

Unfortunately, he also gave us the tradition of providing *way* too much information at the beginning of the story.

Tolkien is the cornerstone of modern fantasy. His impact on the genre is immeasurable. His arm has grown long….

Again, I love Tolkien. But the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the most egregious instances of info-dumping in existence. At best, it resembles the dry essay it was intended to resemble. At worst, it’s like reading Leviticus.

(Okay. Fine. It’s really more like reading Numbers. But you know what I mean…)

And yeah, you can argue that Leviticus is a chapter in the best-selling book of all time. But the key is that the bible doesn’t *start* with that chapter. The bible starts out with action. Right out of the gate you get you have magic, “Let there be light.” You get conflict. You get character development. You get a good antagonist, drama, betrayal, exile from paradise. That’s exciting stuff. Genesis really gets the story going. It sets the hook.

That’s why the bible sells so well. Only after you get involved in the plot does Moses start giving you the heavy worldbuilding in Numbers and Deuteronomy. He did that for a reason. If he’d started the bible with the info-dump, it would have been *way* too boring. No publisher would have printed it.

So how do you avoid falling into the trap of telling too much?

I wish I could give you a simple answer to this, Jen. But the truth is, I could teach a week-long class on this seemingly simple question. There are dozens of tricks and cheats. There are hundreds of ways to do it well, and thousands of ways to do it badly.

What makes this such a horrible problem is that “too much” is largely a matter of taste. Some readers really *do* want to read all the details of the ancient Shi-Ang dynasty, and how their government relied upon the use of telepathy crystals. Other readers just want you to hurry up and get to the part where the Lesbian Unicorn Sisterhood initiates apprentice Ayllisia into the secrets of the Eternal Kiss.

It’s also a matter of style. Some writers are better at making exposition engaging than others. Some worlds are more alien than others, requiring more explanation.

My personal philosophy is to err on the side of caution. Given the choice, I’d prefer to give too little description and leave you wanting more, rather than give a lot and risk you being bored.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony of preaching “less is more” after writing a 400,000 word novel. Imagine how long it would have been if I hadn’t been consciously riding the brake.

In my opinion, Jen, the biggest thing is you can do to avoid this problem is to be aware that it *is* a problem.

Knowing is half the battle, and all that.

Verbosely yours,

pat

Later Edit: Yeah. I know the author of the e-mail was Jan, not Jen. I changed it as an oblique reference to the way that Strongbad would usually change/screw up the names of the people that wrote into him by the time he finished answering their questions.

See? That way we start and end the blog with a Strongbad reference, providing a sort of closure and narrative unity.

I can tell from the comments below that at least a few of you got it. But it’s clear the rest of you just thought I didn’t care enough to get her name right.

Just wanted to let you know that I’m not an insensitive asshole. No. I’m just prone to arcane referential douchery.

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, I mock because I love, Oot, Things my baby has taught me about writing | By Pat85 Responses

My First Google+ Video Hangout Thinger

I recently did a streaming video interview thing hosted by the fabulous Trey Ratcliff from Stuck in Customs.

The truth is, I’m a little bit of a Luddite. I don’t skype. I lost my webcam months ago (don’t ask me how) and I didn’t bother replacing it. I think I’m the last person on earth that doesn’t have a smartphone.

But earlier this month, I watched the inaugural flight of Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy book club on Google Air. (That’s the official name of the live streaming hangout thing.)

So when Trey invited me to come and hang out on his show, I jumped at the chance.

Since I don’t do a lot of webcam-ish stuff, I expected to be kinda self-conscious. But Trey’s questions were really good, so I had a good time talking about the creative process. He has a different perspective on things, as he’s a photographer. But it was interesting to see how much our experience overlapped.

We wrapped up the official part of the hangout in about an hour, but then we kept chatting because we were having a good time. Then Veronica Belmont swung by to say howdy and things got even cooler. The conversation went pretty free-range after that, but it was all good geeky fun.

If you’re interested, they taped the whole thing and it’s up on youtube over here. So if you want to see how messy my computer room is, and watch me try to talk with my hands on a webcam, you can hop over and check it out.

And, if you’re on Google+, you can add my profile if you want. That way if I get around to doing some hangouts of my own you’ll get a chance to be a part of them.

Best,

pat

Also posted in Interviews | By Pat22 Responses

NaNoWriMo – Epilogue

So last month I got all riled up and decided to try NaNoWriMo.

I walked into the experience full of  hubris. Despite the fact that I was starting a week late, I was sure I’d be able to stride in, thunder forth 50,000 words, then still have time to make a delicious sandwich, invent a perpetual motion machine, and wrestle a bear before the end of November.

After all, I thought to myself. Am I not a published author? Have I not published over half a million words of fiction? Am I not, in fact, Patrick Rothfuss, international bestselling author, polymath, iconoclast, and haptodysphorian despoiler of women?

In the heat of the moment I forgot that in addition to being those things, I am Pat Rothfuss, who took fourteen years to publish his first book, and four to publish his second. And while *Patrick* Rothfuss looks pretty good on paper, *Pat* Rothfuss is, at his heart, something of a slacker, a dabbler, and a hooligan. What’s more, I am prone to obsessive revision and a certain degree of linguistic faffery.

So let’s jump straight to the ending of the story. Did I win NaNoWriMo?

Well, there are two answers to that.

If  by “win” you mean “did you manage to write 50,000 words by the end of the month?” then the answer is a resounding, “no.”

Not only did I not write 50,000 words, but I broke pretty much all NaNoWriMo’s rules from the very beginning.

You’re supposed to start a novel and stick with that project all the way through the month. You’re supposed to move ever-forward, never looking back, never stopping to revise.

I did none of these things. This is in part because I am a contrary person. (See above, under iconoclast.) But it’s also because I prefer to adhere to the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it. And to me, the spirit of NaNoWriMo is writing 50,000 words.

This I did not do. I was short by about 15,000 words. So no matter if you’re looking at the spirit or the letter of the law, I’m a loser.

(Woo! NaNoWriMo Losers Unite!)

Despite the fact that I failed to hit the 50,000 mark. I consider the experience to be a huge success. Why?

  • I had fun.

Writing is usually a very isolationist activity. Heading onto the NaNoWriMo website every day and seeing how other folks were doing make writing just a *tiny* bit social. Sure, I was spending hours alone in a room, but I was spending all that time alone with other people. If that makes any sense to you.

For example, I found out fairly early that Veronica Belmont was taking her first run at a novel this year. So I wandered over and looked at her stats.

(Click to Embiggen)

Specifically, here’s the graph that charts how many words she’s written every day:

See her powerful lines? See how she’s been on track since day one?

That means she’s been writing the 1,667 words you need to produce every day to reach 50,000 by the end of the month.

By comparison, let’s look at my graph:

(Imagine a sad, cartoony trombone noise here. Wah-wah…)

Now I *did* start a week late. But even so, you have to admit that my graph looks…. um…. sad. One might even call it “wretched” or “sickly.” A particularly scathing person might even use the word, “flaccid.”

I wouldn’t use that word, mind you. But someone might.

When I contacted Veronica to see if she was okay with me using her stats in my upcoming blog, she said something along the lines of, “No problem. Thanks for reminding me I need to get my writing done for the day. I should really quit playing Skyrim…”

Her offhand comment filled me with a burning shame and fury. She was beating my ass AND PLAYING SKYRIM AT THE SAME TIME?

Fueled by shame, I wrote 15,000 words over the next four days.

It wasn’t enough for me to hit 50,000 words. But it was enough so I could end the month with my head held high.

So not only was it fun. It was motivating as well.

  • I got a lot of writing done.

No matter how you slice it, I got 35,000 words in three weeks.

I made serious headway on one project that I’ve been putting off for a while, got a start on another, and finished a third one entirely.

It’s a good feeling, getting those smaller projects done. And as an added bonus, it means y’all are going to be seeing some other stories in the next year while I’m still slogging away on book three.

  • I learned a lot.

Around the 10th day I found myself thinking things like:

I wrote 700 words today when I was answering fanmail.  That counts as writing, right?

To which I had to reply to myself: No. It’s not really writing.

What about the e-mail that I wrote to my editor and agent? That counts as writing, right?

No. You *are* typing words, and it’s part of your job. But it’s not getting work done on a publishable story.

What about the questions I answered on my translator forum?

Ummmm. No. Doesn’t count. It’s not producing new material.

What about the thousand-word blog I wrote? That’s a story. Kinda. And it’s new material.

No. Shut up. Shut up and write.

Ultimately, it made me come to grips with a platonic truth: Only real writing is writing.

Other stuff I learned:

  • I don’t need a big chunk of time to get good writing done.

Normally I like to have 3-4 hours free to write. But just 30 minutes can be productive if  I knuckle down hard.

  • You can always find a reason *not* to write.

Sometimes they’re big reasons. You want to spend time with your adorable baby. You have to take a business trip. Maybe you’re trying to get your awesome yearly fundraiser organized.

But y’know, there’s always going to be something going on. You’re tired. You’ve got a sniffle. Your roommate is being a choad. Your girlfriend wants to make out. You just discovered a cool tower defense game….

You can either let those things stop you from writing, or you can write. It’s that simple.

  • I can write 1000 words in an hour.

On one memorable day, I sat down knowing that I had to meet Sarah soon. In the hour that I had to work, I wrote a thousand words. It felt pretty awesome.

Later that day I came back to the computer and worked on revising the story. I worked for 3 hours and by the end of I was only up about 250 words.

I don’t regret taking the time for revision. Wordcount may be impressive, but revision is vital for a good story. Those 250 words were really important.

  • I learned I can write an entire story in a single sitting.

(This was, by far, the coolest part of NaNoWriMo for me.)

It was the last day of November, and I had painted myself into a corner. I hadn’t been good about writing my daily 1667 words, and I was paying for it. I was only at 32,000 words for the month, and feeling rather ashamed.

I wrote late into the night, then slept in my office. I woke up about seven hours later and sat right back down in front of the computer again.

I opened the story I’d been doing most of my work on over the month, (it’s a novella, set in my world). That’s when I remembered a little idea I’d had the day before when I was walking home.

The idea tickled at me. So rather than potentially forget it, I opened a new file and jotted it down. I jotted down the first line of the story, too. And the first couple of sentences.

Then I finished up the introductory scene. Then I did the second scene too, because it was short, and it was obvious in my head.

And since things were going well, I did another scene. And then I saw how the middle should go. And I was having fun, and it was turning out pretty cool, so I jumped in and started writing that too….
I knew I should be getting back to my novella so I could blaze some trail. I wasn’t going to get a lot of words out of my new story. It was stylistic, the POV was odd, and the language was very lean. But it was turning out really good….

After I finished the middle, I realized it would be stupid for me to do anything other than press on until the end. Because I knew exactly where it was going.

So I finished it. Beginning to end, it took me seven and a half hours. I was exhausted and excited. I’d never done anything like that before.

That final day sort of summed up my entire NaNoWriMo experience. Technically, I failed because I didn’t churn out a huge number of words. But realistically, I rang the bell hard and won the fuzzy pink elephant.

And you want to know the funny part?

You want to know the final wordcount on the story?

1667 words.

No kidding.

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Achievement Unlocked!, hubris, My Iconoclastic Tendencies, Nathan Taylor Art, small adventures | By Pat61 Responses
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