Posts Tagged ‘Word Count’

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.

Well, I’ve returned from Germany, my Followers of Fear. All in three pieces (don’t ask about the other two, you won’t like the answer). It’s good to be home, to say the least. A little weird after so long, but still very good. I enjoyed seeing my parents and my sister waiting for me at the airport and teaching them naughty German swear words (and my parents are rabbis, by the way. Scandalous!).

Of course, now that I’m back that doesn’t mean I can just slack off and do whatever I want. I’ve got a number of things on my to-do list today, and while I’m working to get those done, I’m taking a moment to talk about writing. Specifically, what are three qualities that writers need to actually write and get work done?

And I mean besides the actual imagination to come up with a story and the ability to transfer that story from the mind to the printed page. Not only does that go without saying, but a lot of people have very active imaginations and can write well enough that if they tried they could come up with a very good first draft. So why don’t they? What keeps people from actually acting out that writing dream?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since yesterday, when I spoke with someone on the final leg of my journey home who had tried writing but found himself unable to do it. I found myself wondering why that is, and I think part of why some people can write and some find themselves struggling to do so may stem from three needed qualities or skill sets: confidence, focus, and perseverance.

Now by confidence I don’t mean confidence that your story is going to succeed and will make tons of money. I mean confidence that you can actually get it done, that you can write out an entire story from start to end. Never mind whether it’s any good, first drafts are notoriously terrible because that’s how they’re supposed to be. You have to have the confidence that you can get that first draft done, and then maybe we can talk about the next draft and everything else that comes from that.

Think about it: even if you prefer to only work on short stories, that fitting an entire story in a space between a thousand and ten-thousand words. Even to me, that’s a little daunting, and I’ve become much better at writing short stories over the years (though I could always be better). Imagine how it might feel for someone who wants to write a novel but then finds out that a novel is at least sixty-thousand words! You can’t just say to yourself, “I’ll try and see where it gets me” when it comes to this sort of task. You have to have some confidence in yourself and that you can get all those words out on the page.

Otherwise you may falter around three-thousand words when you realize that getting a story out is not as easy as you think and may not be able to continue from there.

Another thing writers need to get work done is focus. You have to be able to focus on a project and get the work done. The person I spoke to yesterday on my flight told me this was his problem: he tried writing a story, but in the midst of writing that story he would come up with another story and then want to work on that, and his first story would languish. Then he’d have an idea for a third story and want to work on that, and then he’d have two stories being put on the shelf for later. So the cycle went and he had projects that just never got done.

Even if you juggle multiple projects at once, like I do (three novels at various stages of the editing process, one collection of short stories on the way, working to find a narrator for an audio book, etc), you have to be able to sit down and focus on one project for an extended period of time. Maybe even months or years. And other projects may demand to be written (believe me, I’ve got lists of story ideas, and some are pretty vocal in my head about wanting to be written), but you have to get some out of the way first before you can focus on others. Better to have just a few projects at most to work on and several ideas waiting to be turned into stories than a lot of projects just lying about not even a quarter of the way finished because they all demand to be written.

And this brings us to our final quality: perseverance. It’s an understatement at the very least to say that life is not easy. Take my life, for instance: I’m trying to ensure I have a job so I don’t become a bum in my dad’s guestroom, I have bills to pay, tasks on my to-do list to do, etc. So many demands that it’s hard to find time to write or edit. And when it comes to doing either, especially at the beginning of a project, I may sometimes have trouble getting the work done. All those words can make it hard to getting it all done.

Without these qualities, writing can feel like a Sisyphean feat.

To write, you have to accept that you have to work through all those difficulties before you can get through all those stories, and then do it. It’s never easy, and life will find ways to get in the way. Even when it does, you have to be willing to get through what life throws at you and then sit down and get through all the writing and editing and everything else you have to do. If not, then those stories you feel so passionate about will languish for so long you may never pick them up.

It’s these three qualities–confidence, focus, and perseverance–that make the difference between those who want to write and those who actually go out and do it. Each of us struggles with them at times–focus in the short term can be troubling for me–but in the end I think those who can command these qualities are the ones who can at least get the stories written out and polish them enough for publication.

But what do you think? Have I got the right of it? Did I miss something? Did any of these speak to you? Let’s discuss.

In the meantime, I have to focus on the other things on my to-do list like visiting the dry-cleaner’s the barber shop, and persevere through cold and possible rains at the same time. Still I’m confident I can do it, so I’m not too worried.

Still, wish me luck. I might need it later.

What do you call a writer cut off from Wi-Fi, has too much time on his hands, and a lot of stories he wants to get out of his head and into the heads of others? If you guessed Rami Ungar, you are correct. Last night the Wi-Fi was still out, so I decided to work on rewriting one of my short stories where I was really dissatisfied with the first draft and wanted to change things up. The result was that this morning I finished rewriting Streghe, with phenomenal results.

Now if you don’t know about or remember Streghe, let me give you some background: during my last semester at Ohio State I took a class on the history of witchcraft to fill out the last requirement of my History major (yes, a class like that was offered, and it was awesome). One of the witch mythologies we studied in that class was that of the streghe, which comes from the Umbrian region of Italy. Now in Italian streghe means “witch” and comes from the word for owl, but in that region the word takes on an entirely different meaning. Rather than involving women who assembled to worship Satan, eat the flesh of children, and cast spells with the help of demon familiars as in traditional European witchcraft mythologies, Umbrian streghe usually worked alone or in pairs, did not consort with demons that often, if at all, drank blood from children as a form of sustenance like vampires, and had their own powers, including the power to transform into owls, which normal witches were said not to have (and that is your free history lesson for the day).

Hearing this mythology, I was inspired immediately and wanted to tell a story based on it. So over the last month of school or so, when I wasn’t busy with my thesis project, I wrote a short story that grew to the size of a novelette. And when I finished it, I found that I hated it. The story was way too long, the plot was all over the place, and at times the story actually felt like it was dragging itself along just to get to the ending. During the writing of the first draft I went back several times just to try a different angle, so I knew something was off even then.

I decided to let it sit for a few months and work on other projects and see what ideas to fix the story to me. Well, something did come to me recently, thanks to time and some Lovecraft stories I’ve been reading recently (I’ll have to write a blog post about that later when I’ve read more of his work). So as soon as I finished editing Video Rage (which was two days ago, by the way), I decided to dive back into Streghe and see what I could do with it.

The result was fantastic. I cut the story by about half to just under five-thousand words, reduced the backstory of antagonist Tom in favor of expanding protagonist Sarah’s backstory (he’s an ass anyway, so I don’t think people will care if they don’t know how he became that way), as well as reducing the number of characters in the story, and added more elements from the original mythology, among other things. And as of this morning, I feel I have much tighter, creepier, and more exciting story than what I had before. Maybe in a draft or two I get it published in a magazine (I know of one that might be interested in this one, depending on the final word count).

For now though, I think I’ll let this one lie for a little while, so that when I edit it I can look at it with fresh eyes. In the meantime, I think I’ll recharge my batteries a little before I tackle my next project. If the Wi-Fi’s back when I get home tonight, I’ll probably watch some Netflix and YouTube and plan that trip to Munich. If it’s not, I’ve got a couple of books, including one from my boss at the office, so I’ll dive into that.

In the meantime, I’m feeling pretty good about myself and about life. I’ve gotten a lot written and edited, I’m gaining valuable work experience and some language skills while here in Germany, and even if this job doesn’t last beyond the three months, I have some more prospects I can look into, so there’s plenty to be hopeful for. Things are going well for me lately, and I plan to ride that good wave for as long as possible.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Ein schonen tag!