Posts Tagged ‘Word Count’

 

It’s always satisfying to finish a manuscript. No matter the length, it’s satisfying to know that you’ve put in so much time, sweat, blood and creativity into writing a story and that it’s finished, that you were able to get over your fears before starting, keep going, and see it to the end. And after attempting a third draft a little year ago, failing miserably, and taking a year to work up the courage to try again, it’s especially satisfying. Hell, I even bought fancy honey-wine to celebrate this momentous evening.

Now if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I originally wrote as my college thesis. It follows an amnesiac woman named Rose whose body starts to go through incredible, terrible, magical changes. The only source of information on her condition is a man who claims to be her boyfriend, but he’s got some terrible secrets and isn’t all he claims to be. It’s a dark and bizarre story, with themes of dependence and abuse, perception and memory, in a story influenced by Stephen King’s Misery and Japanese mythology.

It’s also been the most challenging story I’ve worked with. I had to scrap my first attempt to write it because I made the story too bizarre, sprawling and complex, then go back and make it a bit simpler and contained. Then I had to write an entire first draft, then a second draft within a few months. Then I had an internship in Germany and a job search, followed by an attempt at the third draft. That draft, as I said before, was a complete and utter disaster due to the lack of routine I had at the time. I took it up again back in late June, after I needed a break from sci-fi and Full Circle and, with a routine, I managed to get through the draft in about four months, incorporating the suggestions from my thesis advisors to great effect while I was at it.

And I’m very proud of this draft. Every time I’ve worked on this story, it’s changed significantly. Plot points, emotional connections, characterizations, they’ve all gone through some incredible rewrites. With this particular draft, I feel like I’ve been editing the work of a different author, giving his work a much-needed makeover. I even added an original chapter to the manuscript, which also took the top spot as the longest chapter in the novel (I spent two week with Dragon Speech-to-Text software writing that chapter so it wouldn’t take a month or longer). And while this story is far from “done” (my high school English teacher said that stories are never “perfect,” because that’s impossible. But they can be “done,” where you can’t do anything more to improve it. It’s just “done”), it’s definitely in a much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft. It’s a draft I’d actually be proud to show other people.

Now before I show you what’s up next for Rose, indulge me in my bad habit of looking at page and word counts. Which with this novel is actually necessary: my advisor told me to double the word count of the novel when I did the third draft (I’m pretty sure it’s double the word count now, not add ten or twenty-thousand words). So how did I do with that? Well, at the end of the second draft in spring of 2015, the page count was (with 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font) 164 pages. With the third draft, the page count is 266 pages, an increase of 102 pages. With the word count, the second draft was a whopping total of 48,914, a respectable novella-length story. In the third draft, I got the word count up to 84,677, a good-size novel,  just a bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And I like to think that every new word was necessary. I really had the chance to delve deeper into the characters, as well as the events that made them who they are. All in all, I think it’s a more fleshed-out novel.

Of course, critics, readers, and editors are free to disagree with me. We’re a democracy, we’re allowed to do that, even if others don’t like that.

And that brings me to what’s next for Rose and for me. And I have a few ideas on that:

  1. No return to Full Circle just yet. I’m still not ready to return to the world of Reborn City and finish the trilogy. Yes, the first draft needs ending, but I need a bit more time and a bit more horror before I do any more sci-fi. And since I don’t exactly a legion of fans breaking down my door to know when the story will be out, I think I can afford to take some time (George RR Martin wishes he was me in that respect).
  2. Beta readers and submissions. I have a couple of beta readers who have agreed to take on Rose, read it and give me some feedback (I’m sending the manuscript to them right after I’m done with this post, as well as backing up my flash drive so I don’t lose the novel). The plan is to take their feedback and incorporate it into the novel if I feel it works for the story. And after that, I’ll start submitting Rose to publishing houses and agents that specialize in horror. Hopefully it’ll find a home soon, and I can get it published. After that…well, I’ll see when I get there.
  3. Some shorter works. I have a list of short stories and novelettes that I keep so I don’t forget any of the fabulous ideas I have. It’s currently 57 pages long and closing in on 800 ideas. I figure I should at least get through some of those, as only a few of them are crossed off with at least having a first draft written out. I already have another list of stories I’d like to work on in particular, and I’ve picked my first from that list. I might even get started on it in the next week, after I do a bit of research for it. And maybe after a few of these stories are written, they’ll get published. Fingers crossed, right?

And that’s where things stand right now. I hope you continue to stay with me as I move onto the next stage of this novel’s evolution, and maybe write the next stage of my writing career. Until my next post, goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

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Wow, thought it would take at least a couple more nights for this happen. And again, it’s like an hour before I’m supposed to go to bed! Ooh boy. At least if I’m tired tomorrow morning getting into work, I’ll have a good excuse as to why it happened.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose is a novel I wrote as senior thesis in college, and which has had quite the crazy time just getting edited (click HERE to read my last post on Rose for more background on this crazy time). The story follows an amnesiac girl who wakes up one day and finds herself suddenly turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). It’s as bizarre as it sounds, but also very dark. Not as comical as it might sound if I were to tell you about it at a party.

As I’ve said before, the last time I tried editing this story, it took me months just to get through a couple of chapters. Now, it’s been just over three weeks since I last posted an update on Rose, and I’m two-thirds of the way through the story. The latest chapter, I managed to get done in one sitting, in only an hour and a half, with a cup of tea on my bedside table and a New Age spiritualism lecture on YouTube to keep me focused on the writing. Consider my normal writing/editing speed, I consider that a really big deal. May the last seven chapters be as easy to edit as this chapter.

Though to be honest, I’m really enjoying the editing process. The story feels new to me, like I’m discovering the characters and twists for the first time as a reader. And going over it, seeing where the descriptions can be expanded or the language brushed up and improved is a pretty satisfying experience. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the last seven chapters, which contain some of the biggest revelations of the story, and most of the scenes I’m looking forward to expanding/making better.

If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to make good on my thesis advisor’s suggestion to add about ten to twenty-thousand words to the novel (or did he say  double the novel? I forget so much in my young age).

Speaking of which, time for me to annoy you with page and word counts. At this point in the second draft, the number of pages in the novel (8.5″ x 11″ paper, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) was a total of 103, with the word count measuring up to 32,765. In the third draft, I’ve expanded the story to this point to 137 pages, and 42,768 words. That’s an increase of 34 pages, and 10,003 words. I think I’m doing quite well. The second draft was only a couple thousand words longer than where the third draft is now, so once I expand it, I could get it beyond sixty-thousand or maybe even seventy-thousand words. That would be pretty incredible, wouldn’t it?

Well, I’ve probably taken up probably enough of your time and/or phone data. I’m going to head to bed and savor this milestone as I sleep. Goodnight Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

It’s unusual that I give an update on draft progress when I’m in the middle of the third draft. Usually after the first draft, I only give updates when the draft is finished. However, given the unusual journey and evolution Rose has gone through, as well as the all the work that still needs to be done, I feel that giving an update at the one-third mark is warranted. Let me explain:

I began work on Rose during my senior year of college as my thesis project. I had been sitting on the idea for about a year by that point, and had done quite a bit of thinking into what sort of story I wanted to tell. I started in September 2014, went back and started all over again when I realized the direction I was going in was all wrong for the story, and then finally managed to finish the first draft in January 2015. I then banged out a second draft in time for thesis discussions in April 2015. At those discussions (which you can read more about here), I was given a number of suggestions on how to improve the novel for the third draft, after which I could probably start thinking about publishing.

One of those suggestions, which I did not mention in the post about the discussions, was that I add a whole lot more words to the word count. Like, ten to twenty-thousand words more.

Yeah. I know. Even seasoned authors might find that a difficult challenge to accept.

In any case, I planned to get back to this story eventually, just not immediately. I first went to work in Germany, and then went through the job search. During that time, Rose was never far from my mind, but I never felt it was the right time to work on that story. After I got my new job and moved into my own apartment though, I did feel like revisiting the story. And I utterly floundered trying to edit it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, moving had entirely changed my routine, and without being able to get that routine back, I was unable to edit as I used to. Thus, it took me three months just to get through five chapters. After that, I had to stop and reevaluate what I was doing if I was to continue writing at all.

And then two months ago, deciding I needed a break from work on Full Circle, I began working on Rose again, even though I thought I wouldn’t get to it until after my Boston trip. With a new routine in place, I managed to get through the five chapters I edited last year in weeks rather than months. And then I got through Chapter 6, and then finally Chapter 7, finishing edits on that about an hour before I left to go see The Dark Tower.

And now I’m one-third of the way through the book. And it feels almost like I’m working with a totally different story, like this is the first go-around with Rose rather than the third draft of (and the fourth dive into) the story. Hence why I feel it is necessary to write a progress report at this point in the third draft.

So if you’re new around here, you’re probably wondering at this point, “Okay, but what’s the novel about?” To put it simply, Rose is about an amnesiac girl who finds herself turning into a plant creature. It is as bizarre as it sounds, more bizarre than I remember it. But it’s also a very dark story, exploring themes like abuse and dependence in relationships, as well as how truth, falsehood, and memories shape our perceptions of our ourselves and others. So yeah, as bizarre (and possibly comical) as it sounds, it is still a scary story.

And I have to say, editing is going very well. I’m incorporating as many of the suggestions from my thesis discussion as I can, and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in the story. The characters definitely feel like they’re actual people in this strange situation, and I feel like if this book does get published, people will really respond to it.

As for that suggestion to add ten to twenty-thousand words, I’m actually doing okay with that. I’ve thought about scenes I’ve wanted to expand, and I’ve even looked ahead to certain parts of the book to see where I can make some additions. And in the first seven chapters, I think I’ve done a good job of that. Let me break down the numbers (already I can hear my longtime readers groaning about that, they know I love to do this): in the second draft, the first seven chapters measured up to 44 pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) and 13,579 words. In the third draft, I’m at 70 pages (same parameters) and 20,990 words. That’s an increase of 26 pages and 7,411 words. And I like to think none of it is unnecessary.

So what’s next? Well, I’ll get to work on the next fourteen chapters, and hopefully be done with the end of the draft by the end of September. I’ll also try to add another three-thousand to thirteen-thousand words, if I feel that amount would help with the story. After that…I’m thinking beta readers, more editing, and then maybe an agent/publisher. We’ll see.

Well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed, my Followers of Fear. You have a pleasant night and pleasant nightmares. Until next time!

Video Rage, Book 2 of the Reborn City series

Well after posting about the one-year anniversary of the publication of Video Rage–wouldn’t you know it?–I’m halfway through the first draft of Full Circle. Well, I say halfway, but I’m actually 19 chapters in, and there’s 35, so a bit over halfway. Either way, I’m dancing like this:

So yeah, either way it’s a milestone to celebrate.

So if you didn’t read my last post, Full Circle is the final book in my Reborn City series, which follows the Hydras, a street gang whose leaders have superpowers in a dystopian city-state in the near future. The story contains themes of prejudice, gang violence, drug addiction, and overcoming what you and others think of you. The first book is called Reborn City, and the second is called Video Rage (one year anniversary of publication was today!). Full Circle, as I said, is the final book.

Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that it took me this long to get this far writing a novel. I haven’t taken this long to write a book since Reborn City. Then again, like with Reborn City, I’m writing in my spare time. I work a full-time job. I’m actually less busy than when I wrote Reborn City in high school, when I had school and homework and an after-school job and lots of TV on DVD. I should be grateful that it only took me seven months to get this far, rather than a year or so. I also watch most of my TV with meals these days (two birds with one stone), and I use Dragon software these days, so that probably made a difference.

Reborn City, book 1 of the Reborn City series.

Anyway, onto page and word counts. In terms of pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced), I’m currently at a whopping 213 pages. Pretty decent for a halfway point, though it’s probably going to change between drafts and when it gets published, we’ll have an all-new page size to contend with. As to that more easily measured standard, word count, we’re at a truly staggering 60,656 words! I’ve mentioned that 60K words is where I consider a story a novel, so this is definitely novel range. I wonder what we’ll get when we reach the end of the first draft? Both RC and VR were between 80K and 100K, so I’m curious to see where FC ends. With only a few more chapters till we reach the final battle of the story, I think it might stay within that range, but you never know.

And how is the first draft? Well, I don’t want to say crap…but it’s crap. No, that’s fair. It’s a first draft, and they’re notable for being rough, poorly edited, and in need of a lot of work. The greatest novels always start out as poor first drafts. I’m not saying any of my work is considered that way, but I think that maybe I could someday produce work that great. Anything’s possible, after all.

Point is, I’m making progress on the first draft, and while it’s not the best quality it can be, someday it might be.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The weekend is almost upon us, and I’m looking forward to some rest. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

 

The NaNoWriMo logo/coat of arms.

Well, it’s December 1st. That means a couple of things: start of the holiday season and prep for the new year, the days get to their shortest point, I try to push a tag with the hope that it will become a trend (so far, it’s been hit and miss with those I’ve tagged). For writers around the world, however, it means National Novel Writing Month, and assessing how each person did and how their manuscripts turned out.

I’ve actually always found National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, full of strange contradictions. For one thing, it takes place around the world, but it’s kept “national.” Heck, even the month’s official website puts you in touch with participants from all over the world! Why don”t we change the name?

For another thing, it’s amazing how many authors take this challenge seriously. For those of you who don’t know, during the month of November, many writers try to write a fifty-thousand word novel within 30 days (that’s about 1667 words per day if you want the math). And I’ve seen so many author friends on Facebook and in blogs lament how they only got so many words down. “I only got eight-thousand words.” “I was so close to 50K!” “This NaNoWriMo sucked! I hardly got any work done.” I don’t even want to know what they thought of the material they wrote.

Just for clarification, there’s no actual prize if you write a 50K novel in 30 days. You just get bragging rights. But plenty of authors see it as a reflection of themselves if they can’t get the words down. And I actually kind of understand this: on nights when I didn’t write anything down (and those nights occurred quite often, sadly), I felt like it was some sort of reflection on my skills or on myself as a writer. It didn’t matter if there just wasn’t enough time before bed, or if I had a book I really wanted to read, or if I just didn’t feel like writing that night. I felt bad. Maybe not as bad as I could have felt, I have a day job that takes up a good chunk of time, so I at least have an excuse for why I’m not writing more. But I bet for those who write full-time, it could be very frustrating when they didn’t reach their goals.

So how did I do, now that we’re on the subject? Well, I knew that with a job and that unfortunate habit of sleeping seven hours a night, plus eating and bill-paying and grocery shopping and everything else that goes on in my life, I had only so much time to do any work. Therefore, I decided that I would keep my expectations reasonable. I decided that I would aim to get ten-thousand words done, and if I got past that, I would aim for another five-thousand afterwards. If I somehow managed to get past that, I’d aim for five-thousand more, and so on and so forth. The result was I probably felt less stress than my colleagues, and I consequently met my first goal, and got more than halfway to my second goal.

To be exact, I got 13,821 words down by the end of the month, about four-and-a-half chapters worth of story. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to do it. How did it turn out? Well, I guess as well as a first draft can turn out. I mean, it’s only in the subsequent drafts that novels actually become the brilliant stories we all hold so dear. During the first drafts, they’re like pre-Fairy Godmother Cinderella: full of beauty and potential but in need of some serious clean up. My own NaNoWriMo project, Full Circle, has a lot of good stuff in it so far. It’s the third book in my Reborn City series, and considering that I started this series about eight years ago, this novel is already showing my growth over that time the most more than any recent story I’ve written.

Still, I think Chapter 1 could use a lot of clean-up. There’s a lot of exposition there, so making it work with the real storytelling moments is important. And possibly the prologue could use some polish as well. Yeah, I included a prologue with this book. New thing for this series, but I think it’s good for this book. Just needs some edits.

In the meantime though, I still have an entire novel to finish, and it’ll probably be a lot longer than 50K. I’m hoping that I can finish it by mid-spring 2017, and have it out early 2018 at the latest. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. Unless there’s something worth posting about, I’ll try to put out a Writing/Reflections-themed post out at some point during that month. In the meantime, it’s writing, writing, writing, and hopefully a lot of it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

So last night, with no Wi-Fi to distract me (and someone won’t be coming by to fix that until tomorrow, dammit), and with only a few chapters left, I managed to finish up the second draft of Laura Horn, the novel I’ve been editing these past couple of months. This is actually rather extraordinary, because if you remember when I first started talking about editing LH, I was worried that certain elements of the story wouldn’t hold up and I would have to rewrite the whole thing.

Now, if you haven’t heard of LH on this blog yet, it’s a novel I wrote in my third year of college about a girl with a very dark past who becomes involved entrapped in a terrible conspiracy when she comes across some information certain powerful people would kill to keep hidden. It’s got some false-accusation-by-powerful-folks elements, a little Die Hard in the last act, and it all centers around a deeply-troubled teenage girl. Sounds a little crazy, right? And that’s why I worried I would have to rewrite it, so it sounded a little less crazy.

But I decided to try and edit it, see if this story was still salvageable in some form. And over the next couple of months, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Turns out, the story was much more salvageable than I thought. I just had to change certain details, such as how these powerful people try to isolate my main character (big thing in this story, believe me), combine a whole bunch of chapters (I think six chapters were smashed together to make longer chapters that flowed better), chuck out two chapters that were unnecessary after detail changes or were extraneous upon second read, and a few other details here and there. The result was a much better second draft, and I still managed to keep a lot of the details and plot points I wanted to keep. Not bad for a few months’ work.

I also noticed some interesting stuff with the second draft. For instance, there’s the page and word counts: with the first draft, the page count (using 8.5″ x 11″ MS Word pages, using 12-point Times New Roman font) was 356 pages and 94,774 words. Meanwhile, the second draft had 334 pages and 98,498 words. Now take a second look at those numbers. If there are less pages, why are there more words in the second draft?

Well, I’ve been thinking on that, and I think it has partly to do with how my writing style has evolved since I wrote the first draft of LH. As well as changing how I construct the sentences I use to tell my stories, I’ve come to try and limit how much dialogue I use and try to do more introspection. Now, dialogue is important for any story, but it can quickly fill up a page while leaving a lot of blank space. And in Laura Horn, I found that some of that page-filling dialogue was unneeded, especially after some of the chapters from the first draft were combined or cut out of the second draft.

And in place of this dialogue, I ended up putting in a lot more introspective segments, the kind where the characters are looking deep into themselves, figuring out things or reflecting on situations through their own unique lenses. Those segments use a lot of words, and fill up a page while leaving less blank space than before. That explains why there’s less pages but more words (and I have a feeling that this difference may show up even more in the third draft when I get around to that).

So now that I’ve finished the second draft, what’s next for Laura Horn? Well, as always I’ll put it aside for now so when I start a new draft, I can look at it with fresh eyes. And I will need those fresh eyes, since there are a few things even with the second draft I would like to change: I still think I could put in a bit more introspective stuff and get rid of unneeded portions of dialogue. I also wonder if I could bring out more of Laura’s personality earlier in the story and make her more relatable. There are also some portions near the end which are a little melodramatic, and there are places where I feel I could do more to make the reader believe what is happening. We’ll see what happens when I get into that third draft.

In the meantime, I’ll take a look at a few of the short stories for my new collection Teenage Wasteland and polish them up a bit before starting a third draft of my novel/senior thesis Rose. I’ll also be working on the final draft of Video Rage with an editor I’ve contracted to work with, so all those who have been waiting desperately for the sequel to Reborn City can calm down now because I’ll hopefully have that book out later this year. And I’d like to have enough time to do some research for a novel I want to write this November for NaNoWriMo. So yeah, I’ll be busy, and I’m not even getting into the things that normally occupy my life outside of writing.

But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way, would I? Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear, because I’m going to try accomplish a lot this year, and I’m going to be blogging about it the whole damn way.

About a week or two ago my friend Angela Misri posted on my Facebook timeline about a short story contest that Stephen King would be part of. Apparently people could submit short stories under four-thousand words and His Royal Scariness would pick the winner. Unfortunately the contest was only open to UK residents, which upset Angela and me a great deal (I knew I should’ve been born a British lord, but for some reason I decided that being the son of two rabbis was a better deal). However, if I could enter the contest, and it allowed short stories under six-thousand words, this probably would’ve been the short story I submitted.

After extensive editing, of course.

“The Playroom” is a very weird short story about a woman who steals from a mob boss whose casino she works in, and the terrifying results of that little action. I’d go into further detail on what those results are, but then I’d be giving away too much of the story. I will say how it came to be though: I woke up one night, a few days before I decided to take a break from Laura Horn, I think, and this little mini-movie started playing in my head. I don’t know what caused it–I’m pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with anything I might have been dreaming prior to waking up–but there it was, fully formed in my head, and oh-so strange. I immediately wrote it down and decided to write it as soon as possible.

Which, as I said a moment ago, was when I decided to take a break from Laura Horn. How convenient that all turned out to be.

Anyway,this is definitely one of the weirder short stories I’ve written. And when I say something is weird by my standards, that’s saying something. And you definitely get that weird sense just by reading it, I think. As you go on and you feel yourself falling deeper into a rabbit hole, you definitely wonder where this is going to go. And when you actually find out where it goes…well, I wouldn’t want to give too much away. The first title of this short story gave away so much that I dare not speak it here. The second title was so cliched I couldn’t help but change it (“The Secret Room”–what horror writer doesn’t have a story titled that?). So now I’ve got “The Playroom”. Intriguing, doesn’t give away much, and somehow conveys this isn’t your average horror story.

At least, that’s what I hope is what it says. I’m biased, so what do I know?

Anyway, I think with a bit of editing, this story could actually go from just under fifty-six hundred words to under five-thousand or maybe even under four-thousand without sacrificing quality. As you know, I’ve had trouble keeping my short stories brief without sacrificing quality in the past, so I’d be very excited if I could get this one that short without any problems. There are probably a few sections that could be cut from this story. Or I might keep it as long as it is. With a bit of work, there may be a magazine or two who would like to publish this even if it is longer than what some magazines like to publish.

Before I do that though, I have a novel to finish editing. I think I’ll get right on that in the morning.

So good night, my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares. I know I plan to have a few.