Category Archives: Craft

Why writing is so hard

I literally spent six hours over the weekend trying to come up with a name for the world in the Book of Dreams. I had a name from years ago, but the story has evolved and outgrow the original name.

The new name of the world is Kuria. It actually isn’t that important to the story line and isn’t used much. I felt I was making too much out of it. But names are important for the tone they set and the impact it has on the reader. You know something about Severus Snape even before you’ve met the character.

I’m okay with Kuria.  There is a plot reason for the name that makes sense, which was important to me.  And I’m going to have some fun with the name in the second book.

But it’s definitely a challenge when it takes six hours to come up with one word.

Here’s the chart to go with the previous post

Chap Original Count Final Count Cut % Less
Total Count Total Cut Total % less
2 2057 1795 262 12.74% 2057 262 12.74%
3 1823 1691 132 7.24% 3880 394 10.15%
4 2235 2098 137 6.13% 6115 531 8.68%
5 2469 2177 292 11.83% 8584 823 9.59%
6 4148 4221 -73 -1.76% 12732 750 5.89%
7 2323 2268 55 2.37% 15055 805 5.35%
8 3089 3372 -283 -9.16% 18144 522 2.88%
9 1951 1812 139 7.12% 20095 661 3.29%
10 3987 3618 369 9.26% 24082 1030 4.28%
11 2717 2529 188 6.92% 26799 1218 4.54%
12 1932 1899 33 1.71% 28731 1251 4.35%
13 3676 3541 135 3.67% 32407 1386 4.28%
14 3792 3517 275 7.25% 36199 1661 4.59%
15 3915 3483 432 11.03% 40114 2093 5.22%
16 3582 3049 533 14.88% 43696 2626 6.01%

Editing and chapter word counts

I have a chart I’ve been updating over the last few months.  I technically “finished” The Book of Dreams back in late March.  But finished is a relative term especially with a creative project.  In this case, finished meant I had written every chapter, re-written the end of the first book (or actually wrote the end for the first time) and that I had something resembling a complete story.

That’s not being generous enough, actually, the end product by the end of March was very solid.  But it still needed an editing phase.  I set a goal to delete 10% of the total word count (~90,000 words).  I kept chapter word counts of my edits and I’ll post that in a follow-up post.  While I’m not on track to hit my goal, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Chapter 2 needed lots of edits because I wrote it a long time ago when I wasn’t as polished a writer.  Chapter 7 had very few edits because I wrote that last year (as part of a new plot device).  Chapter 6 & 8 actually came in higher after the edits, again because of the need to add story for some changes in the plot from when I wrote them years ago.

I’m currently at 6% (2600 words cut out of 44000).  Still gunning for 10% but I’m happy with what I have so far.  I’ll keep posting updates to the editing process as it goes along.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Riding, part 2

Lesson two from that road trip to Chicago.  At one point I think I had twenty of them. That was somewhere around Omaha while outracing a storm, so it’s possible I was counting some of them twice.

And speaking of storms…  They happen.  Smooth sailing and sunny skies suddenly give way to pouring rain clouds.  Maybe you see it coming and you race to stay just ahead, while not racing too fast because you don’t want to catch up to the one in front of you.

And maybe you aren’t completely prepared for thunderstorms.  As in, no rain pants, no gloves and a general belief that motorcycles make poor boats.

But you adjust.  A stop in Chicago for the right gear.  Reading up on the web on the best ways to ride in the rain (yes, I did that). Taking a chance and pushing yourself slightly beyond your comfort zone.

You’ll hit those storms in writing too.  Sometimes you just need to take a break. Get off the road and wait it out.  But sometimes you can’t afford that down time.  So you focus, do your research, get what you need and make it work.

And if I have a choice, I’ll take the thunderstorms over the writing storms any day.

The Writing Zen of Motorcycles, Part 1

I recently did a cross-country trip from Boulder to Chicago via motorcycle.  Around 1000 miles each way.  On the Triumph Sprint I ride, there’s just too much wind and road noise to listen to music so I spent around 17 hours of riding time (each way) with my own thoughts. And I learned a lot of lessons that apply to life and to writing.

The first one was when I started the trip. I’d never ridden that far before. I didn’t know how comfortable the bike would be, if the weather would hold and whether I’d be bored out of my mind.  When I first left Boulder, all I was thinking was that I had 1000 miles to drive. That’s almost forever.

And this is the lesson for writing.  When you start out to write, especially a novel, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  100,000 words?  Do that many words even exist?  (Good news, you can use the same words more than once.)

So I had to break the trip down. I decided I wasn’t going to Chicago. Instead I was going to Sterling, Colorado about 140 miles away. I could do 140 miles.  And when I got to Sterling, than I’d worry about where I was going next.  Maybe I’d go to North Platte. That would be another 140 miles.  No problem.

When you sit down to write, just take it one step at a time. You don’t finish a novel in one sitting.  Write one sentence, then a paragraph. Then maybe two.  Over time it will build and before you know it you’re at 150,000 words and wonder how you’ll ever be able to finish your book in less than 200,000.  That’s a problem for another day.