June Writing Update

See These Bones

Status: 109k words / ~130k projected length

 

“May you live in interesting times… and may your day job’s workload increase just in time to interfere with your writing and publishing efforts.”

With only four days left in the month, this very nearly became the July writing update… but enough has happened since May’s update to merit a new post (and a fictional quote/curse).

If May was characterized by false steps and restarts, June has been all about finding ways to maximize my increasingly-limited free time. I’ll be in semi-crunch mode at my software engineering job for the next six months and that’s complicating what was already a packed writing/editing/publishing schedule.

The second half of 2017 is going to be very interesting, to say the least.

june writing update

As I’ve mentioned previously, I need to give final page counts for each of the first four books in The Many Travails of John Smith to my cover design company by the end of August. That means one last editing pass on roughly 2,000 pages of fiction, proper print formatting for the two books still formatted as manuscripts, and the creation of all of the requisite ancillary pages; the title page, series title page, copyright page, table of contents, acknowledgements, dedication, and about the author blurb.1 That’s easily a month of work, which means August is effectively spoken for before I even reach it.

September will be devoted to back-and-forth with the cover design company. Once we’ve agreed on the final design, whatever free time I have will be devoted to assembling the various pieces of each book and putting them into the pipeline for publication. (I’ll be staggering the releases over a series of months instead of just dumping them all at once into the soul-eating void that is the book market.) Presumably, this process will one day be quick and painless, but I fully expect my first attempt to take most or all of the rest of the year.

By process of elimination, that means July is my last and only shot at finishing See These Bones in 2017.


The good news is that I’m making real progress. In every book, there’s always one scene I dread having to write, sometimes because of the intricacies of the scene in question, but more often because that scene forces me outside my comfort zone as a writer.2 In See These Bones, that worrisome scene just also happened to be the pivotal scene of the entire book; a moment of emotional epiphany that needed to drive the protagonist all the way through the book’s conclusion. I’ve spent months agonizing about exactly how I was going to write that scene… and then I ended up knocking it out in the span of a single night.3 With that scene finally out of the way, I’m hoping the rest of the book will be smooth sailing.4

In my last post, I spoke a little bit about my writing process. Given the schedule crunch I’m currently under–and the fact that I still have somewhere between 20k and 30k words left to write–it’s only fitting that today’s very, very brief post should be on writing speed.

june writing update5

Every writer has their own process, and–at least partly as a result of that fact–every writer produces content at their own speed. Recently, I read a blog post by an author who was lamenting the fact that it took him two months to write a book.6 Some authors are even faster than that, counting their total writing time in days instead of months. On the other end of the spectrum, you have someone like George R.R. Martin, who–perhaps understandably–seems way more interested in hanging out on television sets than in completing his next enormous tome.

I fall somewhere in the middle… which is easy enough to do when the given range is anywhere from three weeks to eight years. My very first book, Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, took two-and-a- half months to write. The second book took just over one. The third one took almost a year, and then the fourth one took roughly two years and did its absolute best to break me.7

An astute reader might look at those steadily growing writing times and conclude that I’m somehow getting worse at writing instead of better. It’s… entirely possible… but there are a few other factors involved. Those first two books were written in the final months of a multi-month, paid vacation8, which allowed me to focus on writing full-time. Because I’m not independently wealthy9, I’ve since returned to the ranks of the gainfully employed. That significantly impacts both the amount of time I have to write and the energy and brainpower I have left at the end of any given day.10 Additionally, books one and two were only 100k words a piece, whereas the third and fourth books came in at roughly 133k and 185k words, respectively.

Pro tip: Don’t write 185k word books! They take forever, cost a fortune to print, and have been known to cause grey hairs, sleepless nights, and nausea.

 

I’ve been working on See These Bones in some form or another since November of last year. If I can finish in July, that will make for an eight-month first draft. That’s longer than I’d like, but not absurd, by any means. However, math and a calculator tells us that 109k words over a span of roughly seven months makes for an average of a little over 15k words a month. Meanwhile, I have just over a month to write the 20k-30k words I need to finish the book. If July is as productive as June was, I should be in decent shape. If I instead come closer to my average monthly output11, I’ll miss my window and have to finish the draft sometime in 2018.

I really, really don’t want to still be writing the first draft in 2018.

Wish me luck!

 

 

May Writing Update
The Definition of Done

Footnotes

  1. My About the Author blurb will be somewhere between two paragraphs and nine hundred pages in length.
  2. Like the first sex scene I ever wrote. Holy crap, that was painful. Vanilla and PG-13 at worst… but still painful.
  3. Proving, yet again, that reality is rarely as scary as what our own imaginations might conjure up.
  4. Of course, even saying this virtually guarantees that my July writing update will be filled with tears and expletives along with an announcement that I’ve started over from scratch.
  5. I love this particular photo because it makes it seem like the race is being run in the dark… a great metaphor for what writing too often feels like.
  6. He doesn’t know it–or me, for that matter–but he is now my official archnemesis and must therefore be destroyed.
  7. This is not literary license. That book is evil. Even now, I’m thinking of having an exorcist come by to purify our house… and my hard drive.
  8. Also known as severance!
  9. Or dependently wealthy, assuming that’s a thing.
  10. On the other hand, it also means I’m getting a salary. Money is a good thing.
  11. Or, God forbid, repeat May’s anemic 10k output.

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