Novel #2 Progress: Milestones and Inspiration

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Overall, it was a very productive week for Novel #2. At the beginning of January, I set a sub-goal of reaching the halfway point of the first draft by the end of the month, thinking that would be a good challenge to push myself (I was at 42% completion on January 1st). Much to my surprise, I crossed the 50% threshold on January 16th. Yay!

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 35,558
  • End Word Count: 37,696
  • Total: 2,138

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 36,484
  • End Word Count: 38,614
  • Total: 2,130

My word counts are little low mainly because the progress I made had more to do with making adjustments to the story, voice, and overall flow. I was expecting this as I’ve had a particular section of the novel highlighted for attention since I finished the first draft.

As I watch my numbers, I find it very interesting that they are so close together. Even as I cut large chunks, I find the deletions are making way for much needed expansion in other areas. It’s rather fascinating how the two processes are canceling each other out!

Writing Process Notes:

  • It’s a good thing I wrote a lot in the beginning of the week because by the end I found myself with another cold, (I was down for the count Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Today isn’t looking so great, either.).
  • Before succumbing to yet another virus, I had an interesting experience with my muse. On my way to the mailbox on Wednesday, I was debating whether I should take the night off and let my novel breathe or settle in for another marathon session of revisions. In the mail was a piece of junk mail from National Geographic, which I opened because they always send cool bookmarks. When I saw the image on the enclosed bookmark, I just about died. It was the same image I’ve had stuck in my notebook since I began taking Novel #2 seriously. Dan’s Cave in the Bahamas has served as the ultimate inspiration for the setting of the climax scene in Novel #2, (see Into the Writing Cave) and now the image was once again sitting in my hands. Needles to say, I put the bookmark on my desk and wrote like a lunatic that evening.
My new bookmark!

My new bookmark!

Novel Tidbit:

The Setting:

While there are sections of the story that venture into unknown parts, I chose to stick close to home for the bulk of the novel. I used my neighborhood as the model for Amanda’s home as well as Ian’s, while also utilizing several locations throughout Phoenix, Arizona. At the same time, I added an element of fiction to each and every locale. Mixing a little imagination into the real world is what gives my novel an extra sense of realism, which is an important element in urban fantasy. A few of the locations I included and fictionalized are as follows:

  • Buffalo Ridge Park
    • I work near this park and therefore see it every day. It has a small mountain with a trail that leads to a spectacular view of the horizon. I invented an easier hiking trail and a stone slab large enough for my characters to sit. The location serves as both a metaphor for a step in Ian and Amanda’s relationship, but it’s also a very romantic place where they share something beautiful.
Buffalo Ridge Park

Buffalo Ridge Park

  • Coffe Bean and Tea Leaf (on Cave Creek Road)
    • I’ve only been to this coffee shop once, but the ambience was just what I needed for a particular scene between Amanda, Ian, and another character. It has large windows, (bigger than most Starbucks locations), which is exactly what I needed so the scene could play out as planned. However, I invented table arrangements and specific drinks.
  • Phoenix Art Museum
    • I visited the Phoenix Art Museum in the name of research a couple of years ago when the idea for Novel #2 was taking shape in my head. Art plays a central role in Ian’s life, so I knew I had to learn as much as I could to understand his fascination with sculpture and paint strokes, (his taste in art is very different from my own). In the process, I realized the museum was a perfect setting for a series of key scenes. I ended up creating a traveling exhibit –  a collection derived from bits and pieces I saw at the British Museum – to give Amanda and Ian motivation to go to the museum. Then, I used a real exhibit that is a fixture on the second floor. The moment I stood before that particular exhibit, I knew I had stumbled upon an incredible spot for a critical scene between Ian and Amanda. I actually rearranged my timeline notes to make way for the use of this art installation, (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!).

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c.b.w. 2013

Novel #2 Progress: Moving Forward

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Despite having to return to my day job last week, I still managed to get a respectable amount of work done on Novel #2. I expect revision work to slow down over the next few weeks because I’m reaching a section of the novel where I know I need to make the most changes. These are changes I’ve had mapped out for a while now via sticky notes and memos, so I’m excited to jump in and finally make them! My word counts will look a little low, but the quality of what I’m creating will hopefully speak for itself!

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

  • Starting Word Count: 32,612
  • End Word Count: 35,558
  • Total: 2,946

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 33,558
  • End Word Count: 36,484
  • Total: 2,926

Writing Process Notes:

  • When I was striving to complete the first draft, I spent a lot of time at my usual writing spot, a coffee cafe in a local bookstore. However, after hitting my last nerve regarding uncouth behavior, (see The Lost Art of Coffee House Etiquette), I’m spending more time at my writing desk at home. I recently revamped the space and it is proving to be an excellent environment for writing.
  • Chapters 6-10 were sent to my beta reader. Overall, she had a positive response, but she pointed out a few issues with word choice and areas that might need to be revised to avoid the dreaded cliché. Luckily, most of what she pointed out were things I already knew needed a bit more work.
  • Aside from a “things to fix” list, my beta reader praised the dialogue between my two main characters as the novel’s biggest strength. Yes! I worked hard those interactions, so it was great to hear they are working.

Novel Tidbit:

Main Characters:

  • Amanda
    • 17 years old
    • Very isolated as she finds herself with the responsibility of caring for her ill mother
    • She is somewhat insecure about herself, but tough enough to kick anything that gets in her way. This is a girl who doesn’t back down from anything if it involves someone she loves.
    • She loves classic and indie rock. The Beatles, Freelance Whales, Junip, and Death Cab for Cutie are her favorite bands.
    • Charlotte Bronte is her favorite author, but she’ll read just about anything.
  • Miriam
    • 40 years old
    • Amanda’s mother
    • A small, frail woman who struggles with unexplained seizures and a pain pill addiction.
    • Her drug of choice is Vicodin.
    • Prior to her illness, Miriam was an amazing cook with a particular talent for Italian food.
  • Ian
    • 18 years old
    • Amanda’s new next-door neighbor
    • Wise and laid-back, Ian defies the typical teenage boy cliché. He loves art, architecture, classic literature, and seems to thrive on helping people. On top of that, he’s strikingly good looking. Almost too good to be true, Amanda realizes right away that he is something other than human, (I promise he’s not a vampire or werewolf!).
    • He has an odd obsession with names. From memory, he can trace the meaning of any name within a few seconds.

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c.b.w. 2013

Novel #2 Progress: Staying Accountable

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When I participated in my own version of NaNoWriMo, (see NaNoWriMo (Revised)), I made it a point write a weekly post about the progress I made toward reaching my goal. This simple act kept me accountable, which in turn pushed me to work hard so I wouldn’t have to write a post about failing. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t like to fail, so I better make sure I stay on top of things this year!

The goals I’ve set for 2013 in regards to Novel #2 are pretty ambitious, (see 2013 Writing Goals), but I intend to reach them no matter what. At least once a week, I’ll be holding myself accountable for working on Novel #2 until it is fully revised. Within each weekly post, I’ll keep track of stats while also including some details about the story. I’m hoping the journey with my passion project will be one of inspiration and excitement for all who follow along. This book has turned into something I never expected and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Here’s how the first week of 2013 went:

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

I calculate my word count by color coding my first draft version of Novel #2. Whenever I get done with a section, I change the color of the text to red. Then, I grab a word count of only the red text. This way, I know how much of my original draft has been surveyed and edited. This is also tracked on a bar graph along my sidebar.

  • Starting Word Count: 27,507
  • End Word Count: 32,612
  • Total: 5,105

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

I literally re-type every word of Novel #2 into a new document because it forces me to carefully consider each and every word. The way I see it, the extra effort is a lot like moving heavy boxes from one house to another. You have to really want that stuff if you’re willing to lug it to a new home! If I find myself debating too much over a paragraph or a sentence, then I know its probably time to let it go. The word count for this section reflects the state of completion for Draft #2.

  • Start Word Count: 29,722
  • End Word Count: 33,558
  • Total: 3,836

Writing Process Notes:

  • I reorganized my writing space at home as it had become very cluttered with other projects and the mess of life in general. My desk is completely cleared and I finally put my old laptop to rest. Now its just me, my MacBook, bulletin board, and Novel #2.
  • I sent the first five chapters of Novel #2 to a beta reader. This was a big step because no one has ever read anything from this novel. For the better part of two years, this novel has been under lock and key, but now I’m ready put it out there for scrutiny. I’m thrilled to report  my beta reader absolutely loved it and is quite antsy to read the next five chapters. She responded to my characters they way I hoped, laughed where I intended, and believes in the premise I’m trying create. A writer really can’t ask for much more than that!
  • A new album has made it onto my playlist: The Lumineers self-titled album fits Amanda’s taste in music, but also hints at Ian’s emotional conflict. I love how these characters are introducing me to so many new bands!

Novel Tidbit:

Each week, I’ll be sharing little teasers about the characters and story. There won’t be anything spoilerish, but there will be details about the general premise of the novel and interesting factoids.

How it all started:

  • While proctoring a standardized test, I found myself a tad bored watching students fill in little bubbles on their answer sheets. I opened up my laptop and stared at a blinking cursor for a few minutes before the first line came out of my fingers: I’m not sure what is real anymore. That line remains the first line after two years or writing and revision. I won’t be changing it, either as it is truly where this project began.
  • My stories show up like movies in my head, which is why I rely so much on creating a soundtrack for when I write. The songs that have been the biggest source of inspiration are as follows:
    • “(Euphoria) Firefly” by Delerium
    • “Map of Problematique” by Muse
    • “Tempting the Muse” by Mysteria

As an added bonus, I’ll be revealing the title of Novel #2 when the second draft is complete!

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c.b.w. 2013

January Status Report: 2012 Goals

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To keep myself accountable for the goals I set for 2012, I’ve decided to keep track of my progress with a post at the end of each month.  Goals have a funny way of falling by the wayside due to everyday life and that pesky habit of procrastination that stymies even the best of us.  While my dream board helps me stay focused, an extra insurance policy of accountability will ensure I don’t wander off!

Here’s where I stand for each goal:

1) Submit five pieces of writing. 

I haven’t submitted anything, but I have been doing a lot of research on literary magazines where I can send my work.  I created a folder on my desktop to store links and submission guidelines.  At the moment, I have three strong contenders for a short story I feel is good enough to submit.

2) Finish minor changes in my first novel.

At the moment, my novel is resting comfortably on a shelf.  However, it’s not in the name of procrastination but rather a much needed bit of distance.  I’m at the point where I’m way too attached and involved.  I need a fresh pair of eyes before I start completing any structural changes, (no matter how small).  At the same time, I am happy to report that the first five chapters have been fully edited in terms of grammar and spelling.

3) Work on my second novel.

My muse and I have been very active on this front.  Over the course of January, I’ve written 3,654 words, reworked multiple plot points, and created two new characters.  This is my central project at the moment and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

4) Send out five query letters and be ready with a synopsis.

I’m relatively happy with my query letter after making a few minor adjustments, but I still want to tinker with it a little more.  I added four more agents to my list of possibilities and I continue to do more research via directories and agent websites.  The synopsis, however, is still nonexistent as I continue to  struggle with the format.

5) Keep up with my blog.

So far, so good!  Despite staying busy with so many other things, I’ve been able to consistently post three or four times a week.

6) Network more with other writers.

Surprisingly, I’ve made some decent headway on this goal!  Socializing is not my forté (I take on the role of a reclusive writer with much more ease), but I realize the only way to get my writing out there is to get myself out there.  The extension of my social network is evident on my sidebar:

  • I’ve added a new twitter button and now share my tweets.
  • Over on facebook, I created a Writer Page for my pen name.  I update the page daily with blog information and musings of a writer.  Click “Like” to follow along!
  • I joined goodreads to be part of the reading community as well as the writing community.  Eventually, I plan on creating a goodreads author page.

7) Inspire other writers to keep writing.

This one is hard to gauge, but I hope I’m a positive influence and inspiration for those around me.

Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going in February!

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c.b. 2012