Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The daily tracking of my writing statistic (words written per day) reveals some interesting things about my speed of writing. I already mentioned that doing research and certainly editing, dramatically reduces my (or anyone's) word output. But, the other thing I have noticed is that the type of material being written also has a dramatic effect. In particular, writing story-prose, as opposed to dialog, reduces my word output to maybe 150 words per hour. By story-prose, I mean a third person description of what is going on. By contrast, when I start writing dialog, my rate increases to around 400 words per hour. So, if the style that fits a particular section of my novel is mostly story, it is not realistic for me to meet my 2000 words-a-day target that day. If it's dialog, it's a piece of cake. However, since I personally rarely write 2000 words of continuous dialog, the degree to which my 2000 words-a-day target is realistic depends in good part on the mix of story versus dialog. So, the key to really knowing whether my production is going up or down is not to worry so much about the day to day variation but to look at the trend line over the week and over several weeks. Well, back to my novel!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Talk about distractions! I'm on a brief vacation to visit my inlaws in Boynton Beach, Florida. I did manage to write about 400 words late last night between 10:30 pm and midnight, but that's all I've done since we left on this trip. On Friday before we left, word production was also low because I spent most of the time editing what I had written the previous week. Now, generally I find it is a mistake to start editing before I'm done with a 1st draft. The general rule is that there are 3 major hats in writing, namely, research, writing (creating really), and editing; and one should never mix those hats. In another words, when you write, write; when you edit, edit; and when you research, just do research. When you try to write a little bit and then edit it and then write some more and edit that, your production will suffer enormously as will the overall smooth flow and quality of your material. So, for the most part, I try to do the research up front, write the 1st draft next, and then edit the entire manuscript last. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, I do find that the absence of certain critical details during my writing (e.g., foreign names, details about locations, etc.) creates the need for continuing research. In the same vein, there's no absolutes on never doing any editing when I'm writing. So, as long as it's infrequent, if I get the hankering to edit something when I'm looking over it, I will go ahead and do it. I'm looking forward to getting home tomorrow and ramping up my production on this novel again. Meantime, I'm laid back and enjoying spending time with my wife, and her sister and parents. Later!

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Well, my research from Tues, Wed & Thurs paid off! On Friday, my story took off again (see 'Novel Stat Graph' link at right). It's got color, realism, and it's beginning to sing opera (ha-ha so-to-speak). In other words, I'm on a roll again and the quality of what I'm writing is high. This research on the Arabic world and the subculture of the mujahidin was interesting but I would far rather have been writing. Nevertheless, it's simply one of the jobs that I have to do on a fairly continuing basis. I know writers that do all of their research up front which is great since they can then focus on the story and their writing of it. But, what works better for me is to research as I go as I often cannot predict in advance what I need to research. PART OF THE REASON IS THIS: When I create my characters, I truly create them. Now let's not get mystical about this. Nevertheless, you'll find that many successful novelists will allude to this phenomena. They have a plot or a 'what if' in mind that gets them started on the novel. And they often prepare extensive outlines. But, within these parameters, there's an enormous range of possible actions, conversations, etc. When I have truly envisioned my characters well, complete with background, personality traits, goals (or not), interests, peculiarities, compulsions, etc., they come alive on my pages and they sometimes say or do things that I wasn't expecting. The reason is simple: real people are complex and do the darnest things! When the words and actions truly come from that character I've invented, it comes across with reality and interest to my readers. As a result, the story itself has something of a life of its own within the broad outline that I've layed out. Often, the locations it takes me and the situations that are encountered need additional research to flesh out the details that are so vital to the novel's realism. Later!

Thursday, March 04, 2004

My production for Tuesday and Wednesday on my novel was 1,100 and 1,400 words, respectively. That's well off my target of 2,000 and it's why I keep a chart and graph of my 'stats' (production statistics). It tells me when I'm doing well and when I'm not. When I'm doing well, I just keep doing what I am doing. When I'm not doing so well, it tells me that I've got to change something so it doesn't continue that way. Now, this doesn't mean you get down on yourself every time your writing production drops. There could be a lot of valid reasons of it such as having to do more research than normal which was true in my case on both Tuesday and Wednesday. But, if it continues, then we gotta change something! Capisce? (I'm not Italian although my wife is but I just read a novel which had a lot of that in it, so 'scusi' my language, okay?) There's no substitute for research. When I get uncomfortable in an area as I did on Tuesday and Wednesday concerning the Arabic world and the subculture of the mujahidin (Islamic warriors), I start reading everything I can get my hands on relating to it. That takes time but it adds reality and color to your story. So, its worth it providing that you pick up the pace afterwards! More later!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Okay, I'm back. I actually had a pretty good day by late Monday evening -- 2,300 words written. That's not half bad especially considering it was all done after 4 pm. Steven King, in his book 'On Writing', says he targets himself for 2000 words a day, every day until the first draft is done. So, that's what I'm trying to meet too. The difficulty is not writing 2000 words. If for example, you typed steam of consciousness at say 40 words a minute for three hours straight, you'd have written 7,200 words. Obviously, no one who is successful writes that way. Still, it puts the quantity in perspective. 2,000 is NOT a daunting number of words. Of course, obviously, it's a creative process -- it's not stream of consciousness, or at least not for very long. Also, the current novel I am writing moves all over the world. I have not personally been to every city in every country that my characters find themselves. For example, right now my protagonist is in Amman, Jordan, staying in the home of a successful businessman. So, I had to research where a successful businessman might live in Amman, where the airport is located, how far it is from the city and this businessman's neighborhood, and for that matter, what are reasonable female names in Jordan for his young daughters. And since I've got some diplomats visiting, I have to research what government titles they might have, what are good Syrian and Israeli names, etc. So, this takes time. Thank god for the internet! So, if you can average 2,000 well thought out and well researched words daily, as they say, 'that ain't bad'. More tomorrow!

Monday, March 01, 2004

This is the START of my very first blog: Monday afternoon, March 1st 2004. Today, I slept until 10 a.m. which was late for me. I woke up at 7 a.m. but decided I needed more sleep, as I still had a slight cold. My wife was home today during the morning and early afternoon which was really great as she has been extremely busy with her work lately. So, we spent some needed quality time together. Mid-afternoon, I began to research weblogging with the intention of setting one up for myself, and that took some time. It's amazing to me how the internet has grown into this fastastic exchange of information, experience, thoughts and ideas. Well, onto my real job now -- writing my novel. It's already 4 pm!! So, I gotta knuckle down and get this novel further down the road. I'll update this after my production for the day.

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