September Write Day: Stretch Goals

August was pretty chill, despite the blazing heat for most of the month. I was on paternity leave for three weeks, having only returned to work on Monday, meaning I was off for almost the entire month. It was great to really disconnect from work and just spend time at home.

The infant is doing well. He’s grown more than two pounds in his first few weeks, and the toddler is adjusting to his new baby brother well… so far.

I’m happy with the progress I made on both writing and reading, and we (meaning I, since my wife has been recovering from childbirth) managed to get a lot done around the house.

Let’s get to it!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Actually enjoy paternity leave.
  2. Write 8,000 words.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Enjoy paternity leave?

I did! There was little sleep to be had, but it was great being home with the family all day. The toddler is really sweet with his baby brother, saying hi and goodbye to him and even kissing him on the forehead at bedtime.

We do not expect that to last. As soon as the baby is crawling around and grabbing at all the toddler’s toys, it will be a different story. For now, though, it’s lovely.

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to completely disconnect from work for such a long stretch. I have the type of job where even a week-long vacation can be interrupted by an “urgent” meeting that I call into from the basement of a beach rental wearing only a bathing suit.

So being required by law to not respond to any work messages, turning off email and chat notifications on my phone, and not being called with “emergency” questions worked wonders for my mental health. My supervisor also did a great job protecting me from any such nonsense while I was out.

Write 8,000 words?

Yes! I beat my goal! I wrote 8,409 words in August, and I had actually been somewhat hoping for even more.

I got off to a good start and was never out of reach of my goal. There were still a few too many gaps between writing days for my liking, but I’m just picky like that. I wrote 18 of 31 days, and I had a good spread of volume, ranging from 44 words to 900+ with a good mix in between. That means that even when I struggled to write much, I was able to rebound pretty quickly.

The one downside to being able to focus on writing so much without work is that I now wish more than ever that I could write full-time. I’m not financially prepared for such an endeavor, but it will definitely linger in the back of my mind. Even if I can retire a few years “early” to focus on writing, that would be awesome.

Mini Update on Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1

My draft for this story now sits at just over 40,000 words, and I anticipate another 3-4k to finish the story. I ended up writing a large portion of this draft from scratch, scrapping entire chapters from my previous draft because of changes I decided to make to the plot.

I definitely want to finish this draft quickly, but then I want to reread and revise it a couple times to ensure I have the main plot points and details worked out. That will be the goal for September before I begin the second draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

That’s the title I’m probably going with, by the way.

Read 3 books?

Not quite. I read two books in August, both of which I published reviews for: one a historical fiction set in Roman Dacia, and the other being Jurassic Park.

I’m about 80% done with another story on Audible and will definitely finish it in the next few days. I didn’t read much in print copies, but with a week-long beach vacation coming up, I plan to remedy that.

Goals for September

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted and write 5,000 words. I don’t know exactly how much I’ll need to write to complete THW1, but 5k should get me there. If I finish the draft having only written 3.5k words, I’ll be satisfied. I’m also not planning on writing much more than that because we have a busy month, including the aforementioned beach vacation, where I will be staring at the ocean instead of a computer screen.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This will be a self-editing phase for this story. I already have some notes I want to make, but this will help me see the entire story together as one piece, rather than the little sections I’ve been writing for months. I will likely print out my manuscript so I can read and mark with red pen while on vacation.
  3. Read 4 books. With one book nearly completed, this shouldn’t be too hard. The bigger difficulty may be in deciding which books to read. I might be ready to jump back into The Wheel of Time.

Steve D

Balancing Reader Feedback with Story Constraints

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Today I wanted to bring up an interesting conundrum I’ve been facing as I write the third draft of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1. In a story that is effectively about how one family — and one woman in particular — deals with her entire life being upended, I’m now trying to add more characters.

Uprooted is also a novella. I only intend for it to be 35k-40k words if I can help it, so adding more characters seems counter-intuitive on the surface.

Alpha Reader Feedback

Back in December I asked a couple people to read the second draft of this story and provide some feedback. One of my readers gave me great feedback that I’ve really tried to take to heart in this rewrite.

She said that in settings like mine — a small village in a firmly patriarchal society and culture — the characters would likely have much stronger kinship ties than I had demonstrated in my draft. I focused intensely on the nuclear family of my characters, but that left this reader asking about their immediate relatives, cousins, siblings. aunts and uncles, and the like.

The crux of the story is that tragedy strikes this village, causing my characters to flee. With this now expanded family dynamic, my characters are not as isolated as they had been, but the dynamics of their struggle change. They now have to feed 10 or 15 mouths rather than three or four.

But that’s also 10 or 15 more names to keep track of as the story progresses.

Too Many Characters?

I agreed 100% with this feedback, and I built out a family tree for my protagonist’s family and their clan. This meant that I had to explain what happened to a lot of those family members alongside the more immediate narrative of my characters. What I’ve noticed is that in my third draft, I have to decide when to talk about these extended family members, and when to leave them out.

It should be obvious that the larger clan is still traveling together, and I don’t want to have to list the actions of every single member each day. But I also don’t want to ignore these characters’ existence. After all, they make up the immediate support system for my primary character. She needs them, and thus the reader needs to know something about them.

So I’ve had to figure out how to balance these additional tertiary characters within the more personal plotlines of the three or four characters who really drive the story. If I were writing a full-length novel, I could consider POV sections for a few of these tertiary characters, but Uprooted is not that type of story.

My general rule of thumb has been twofold:

  1. Take a quick tally of the family as they’re moving or something is changing so we (both the reader and I) know where they are.
  2. Try to include these family members in particular scenes, even if they’re just in the background or only offer one line of dialogue.

I think/hope that this makes it clear that these characters are important to the larger family dynamics, but doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too many names to remember.

Discussion Time!

How do you feel about tertiary characters in a novella? How many is too many?

Steve D

The Third Draft is Coming

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I’ve decided recently that my first part of The Herb Witch Tales will definitely need a third draft. Not just revisions, mind you. I’ll likely rewrite the story in a new document from the start.

As I’ve progressed on part 2 of this duology, I’ve continued to think about some of the incredible suggestions my beta readers made. They will help me enrich the world and get the most out of my characters.

But it’s not to get distracted by one story while trying to draft another. I’m about halfway through the first draft of my as yet untitled part 2 of The Herb Witch Tales, but I write it knowing that certain things will be changing. Nothing major, but the relationships between certain characters will. I think some of the finer details about the setting will.

So why have I not given up on this first draft? Because I’m currently trying to solve the problem of what this specific story is really about. If I stop now, in the middle of that crucial process, I may not be able to recapture that same train of thought. As soon as I’m finished with my current draft, I’m going to return to part 1 and rewrite it. That means a full rewrite of part 2 as well, but I’m good with that.

Writing two stories of a series simultaneously, as I’m learning, means having the opportunity to make both stories as good as possible. I’ll probably be going back and forth between these until they’re both finished, no matter how many rounds of rewrites or revisions I have to do. I still intend for part 2 to stand on its own as a story, so striking that balance may be difficult.

I’m also learning that letting a draft simmer for a bit, especially with feedback waiting to be resolved, really helps the writing process. I feel fully confident now that I can return to part 1 and make it better, because I’ve given myself ample time to just ponder on it.

Really, I just came here to say that I’m buckling in for an extended drafting and revision process for these stories. I still want to publish this year, and I know I can do so, but I really won’t be able to publish part 1 until part 2 is also ready to go.

Short post today, mainly because I started two other completely different posts before deciding to write this one. At least I already have ideas for next week!

Steve D

November Write Day: Time to Refocus

October was a pretty good month. I started off with a long weekend vacation in Rehoboth, DE, which already feels like ages ago, and ended with a rapid turn towards winter weather the last few days. I’ve found it oddly comforting.

Writing was meh, and National Novel Writing Month is now in full swing, but we’ll get to that.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 6,000 words.
  2. Prepare “Uprooted” for next steps.
  3. Continue yoga and workout routine.
  4. Read more.

So how did I do?

Write 6,000 words?

I honestly forgot that 6,000 words was my goal. I had just assumed it was the usual 10,000. I may have been more motivated for this one if I remembered that I shorted my own goal.

I wrote about 2,850 words in October for part 2 of “The Herb Witch Tales”. I’m kind of stuck on larger structural changes that I’ll get to in the next section, but that stymied my creative flow a bit.

Prepare “Uprooted” for publication?

Yes.

Sort of.  If by “prepare” we mean that I confirmed that “Uprooted” is nowhere near ready for publication. (That’s an important step in the publishing process.)

I sent my draft of 38k words to two readers for some feedback, one being Marcy and the other being my editor. I’ve gotten some incredibly insightful feedback, and it’s spurred a lot of note-taking on my part for improvements to make.

But that means I have another round of revisions coming. that’s not a bad thing. It just means it’s still too early to think about publishing right now.

One piece of feedback was that the end of the story didn’t feel like a true resolution — more of a cut-off before an inevitable sequel. That’s not how I wanted “Uprooted” to end. I want a true ending.

And it turns out, I may be in the process of writing that ending right now. Part 2 of this series opens not long after “Uprooted” ends and actually ties off a lot of the loose ends one of my readers pointed out. So the first few thousand words of part 2 may really be my ending to “Uprooted”.

That also means that “Uprooted” is likely to be in the 40-45k word range, much more in novella territory than short story. The more I think about this shift, the more it makes sense. I’ll just also need to shift where part 2 begins and maybe some of the early plot set-up.

Continue yoga and workouts?

Yes, mostly. I’ve definitely been doing yoga and working out more days than not, which is really the goal. I’ve also started doing longer and more intense yoga sessions, which has been a huge boost.

I’ve found myself sore in the day or two afterwards, which is a good feeling.

Read more?

Yes! I finished two books in October (on Audible), including one that I will be reviewing next week. It’s still difficult to find time to read a physical book, but I’ve managed to work Audible listening into more daily activities, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. That has really helped.

Goals for November

  1. NaNoWriMo! Rather than writing 50,000 words, my real NaNo goal is to finish the first draft of part 2 of “The Herb Witch Tales”, in whatever form it takes. I’m writing this draft in a journal, so even if I decide to shift part of it over to part 1, it would be amazing if I could bring part 2 to a meaningful close.
  2. Yoga and working out. I’ve been pretty good about this, so I just need to be disciplined and carve out the appropriate time during the day for longer yoga sessions.
  3. Not lose my mind. With work stress, election stress, and creeping holiday stress, I just want to have a good month.

Steve D

When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising

Although I haven’t officially updated you all on my writing progress for April (that’s next week), I can tell you that I have moved on to the second draft of “The Herb Witch”.

Since I wrote the first draft by hand in a journal, I’m now transcribing it to the old electronic typewriter (PC) and making edits along the way. Here’s why this type of rewrite is more efficient than revising a single draft.

Continue reading “When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising”

Friday Write-Day: In which I Forget What Month It Is

So January is here, guys. I feel like I was well aware of this three days ago, but some little gremlin flew in on his RC plane and took that kernel of knowledge from my brain, and I’ve just know re-remembered it.

Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: In which I Forget What Month It Is”

Friday Write-Day: Revisions Are Coming

This was another one of those weeks where it felt pretty busy/hectic, but I don’t really remember specifically what happened.

[Thinking…]

We had a lot of visitors and things going on around the house. That’s why it felt busy. I didn’t have much time for writing due to this, but progress is not always measured in word count

Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: Revisions Are Coming”

Another 3 Things I’ve Learned from Publishing My First Novel

Well, the learning curve continues to grow with my “published author” status. I’ve been mum on this for a while, honestly because I was a bit embarrassed about it.

But, I might as well confess: I’m revising and re-publishing The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.

Continue reading “Another 3 Things I’ve Learned from Publishing My First Novel”