Jarsto's Writing Blog

January 28, 2006


I just don't know what to do with, or think about, my characters any more. Every time I convince myself they're just figments of my imagination they insist on committing independent action. Some 57,000 words ago two of my characters decided they were attracted to each other. I didn't mind that.

It wasn't anything explicit, but it was there. The young emperor fighting to stay on his throne, the lieutenant of the legions looking up to his emperor. There were a few things in the background, but it wasn't an issue in the book. They were hundreds of miles apart for a long time, so they didn't exactly have much of chance I suppose.

But now they've decided to be more open about it. The lieutenant has claimed POV for a while (he'd had it once or twice before, so it's not a huge shock) and is moving to pretty clear show of affection. I have nothing against it, but I certainly hadn't planned on it.

And I thought I was supposed to be writing this thing! Right now I feel like I'm just a puppet put up as a front by some characters.

On the other hand I did get over 1100 words out of this, with two hours still left in the day to write more if I feel like it. So it's certainly not a totally bad thing, it just hurts my sense of control.

PS For a great take on the subject of authors and characters (and a great laugh) check out Author Versus Character by Lazette Gifford. Don't drink anything while reading this, it will leave through your nose!

January 27, 2006

Another Day Done

Things are setting up nicely for what should be the end of most of my remaining plot-lines. Nothing much unusual about the writing today otherwise. The words didn't flow like water, but it wasn't especially hard to write either. An unusually average day really.

January 26, 2006

Today's Scores

1026 words done.
160 or so dead in a skirmish.
12 or more wounded, including one significant character.

Needless to say I feel quite good about this. I'm not satisfied yet with the 160 number, or rather not with the kill ratio it represents. As it stands now only about 30 of those are good guys, which gives a better than 4 to one ratio. I'll have to see if this can be explained sufficiently. They did have two advantages, they're better trained and they were on horseback, the others were amateurs fighting on foot.

More important than the figures though is the fact that the fight scene was quite easy to write. I'm not entirely sure the POV won't change when I start editing, but even from a sub-optimal POV the action got the writing going again. Since I'm looking at more action for the immediate future that hopefully means I'll feel good about what I'm writing again for a while. I can keep going when I don't think it's good, but this is quite frankly much nicer to do.

January 25, 2006

Not As Good As I'd Like, But...

Well 1000 words a day is definitely creeping back to a solid habit status. Unfortunately the words aren't all that good but they're getting me to the end of the novel anyway. I've already mentally marked this section as needing quite a bit of attention when I start editing this, though I'll let it rest for a few months at least before I do that.

Right now I'm working on the theory that it's easier to correct what I've written now when I start editing than it would be to write better now. Granted I usually hope to write a lot better than I seem to be doing now, but getting 1000 words a day that logically continue the story is the first hurdle.

Making these words not just continue the story but tell something exciting and well written would be a bonus. And when that bonus doesn't show up... well that's why you should edit yourself once at the very least before you don your Elmer Fudd gear and whisper: "Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm huntin' agents."

January 24, 2006

Day Four

Well it's not a solid habit yet by any means, but the 1000+ wordcounts continue. I just hope I'm not jinxing it by posting about it. The story is heating up, it's currently at the first of a series of minor battles that will take place in the lead up to the end of the novel. At 117k words and counting, it had better be the end of the novel anyway.

My First Comment!

I got my first comment on the blog, and it's not even from a member of my family!

In the time honoured tradition of blogging I've decided to repost the comment and reply to it. Many thanks to Becca for providing the comment.

"I saw you on Miss Snark's blog and decided to come exploring. Last night, in a fit of motivation (or maybe it was the residual effect of the Theraflu) I though about doing 1000 words a day on my WiP--the sequel to a book I just queried agents about.

I decided to aim for 500 on workdays and 1000 on weekends. We'll see what happens.

I go through these obssessive fits of writing where I want to nothing but sit in front of my computer and type all day. Unfortunately, I have another semester of school to teach before I can do that again.

Miss Snark's blog is a great read and while I wasn't actually on the blog itself I do occasionally comment on it, always hoping the supreme goddess of snarkiness will not crush me beneath her stilettos for the impudence. So far my comments have avoided the nitwittery that would lead to such a dire fate.

Of course I wish Becca luck with her efforts to reach a daily wordcount. One method I've used to keep it up in the past is just not going to sleep unless the wordcount is there. It's simple, brutal and effective. It's also somewhat dangerous if you have to be up in time in the morning, so you have to be careful when you use. And it's dangerous for your figure, I usually kept my energy up by devouring cookies and other sugar-rich products.

I do things differently these days, largely because I decided to stop 'cheating' with the cut off point. Back when I had the before I sleep rule it wasn't unusual for most of the wordcount for January 24 to be written between midnight and one 0'clock in the morning on what was technically January 25. These days 00:00 is the cut off time and if I don't make my goal by then, I just don't make it. I still make it most days because I can almost always manage 1000 words between 22:00 and 00:00. I'm not sure but I don't think it was that easy back in 2003. Experience has its advantages.

What's So Great About 1000

I managed to cross the 1000 word line again today, exactly four minutes before midnight. But it got me thinking about why 1000 words is such a magical boundary for me. It's not all that much more special than 1100 or 900, or 500 or 1500. Granted it's a little more special, but I don't think that's the reason it's special to me. Though in a round about way it's why I chose it originally.

For our next segment I will be nostalgic, readers are to consider themselves forewarned.

It was the month of March, 2003. I'd managed to write 80,000 words on my then current WIP, started in December of 2002. So I decided to try something I'd read about other people doing: setting a daily wordcount goal. I made my target 1000 words a day.

I stuck to that target like glue over the next 34 days with just 2 deviations. Over 1100 words on day 30, and a final sprint of over 2100 words on the final day. Every other wordcount for that period was between 1000 and 1099 words. The last two words of day 34 were "The End" the first time I'd even been able to put that under a novel of my own creation.

I lightly edited the novel, QS to give the intials of its title, about six months later. It tightened up some of the language, but it wasn't the sort of edit capable of tackling the major short-comings of the plot. Recently, while in the mood to indulge in revisiting old sins, I read that edited version. There are still major problems in it, but I now have the skills to see ways to, at the very least, start fixing those problems. Whether I'll ever actually try I don't know.

But regardless of whether I return to it, regardless of whether I will ever try to pitch it to an editor, I learned a whole lot from actually writing a book to the finish. I mentioned that in my last post as well, but it bears repeating. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from it was that I could actually complete an entire novel. That alone was a huge confidence boost.

At the time I picked 1000 words for a few reasons. It was a nice round figure, and I thought I could do it given my then current schedule. That I could indeed do it is obvious and now given the same time I might be able to do 1500 a day. But back then 1000 seemed like a lot to try for and 1500 seemed out of the question. In fact I believe I hesitated for a while between 500 and 1000, finally aiming for 1000 to see if I would make it.

And that, in a nutshell, is why 1000 has an almost mystical connection with a good day's writing for me. It's probably illogical, but it's nearly impossible for me to feel bad about my writing when I make it past 1000 words on any given day.

January 22, 2006

Staying Over 1000

Well I've managed to stay over 1000 words for the second day in a row. My trusty wordcount spreadsheet tells me I haven't managed that since the first of December. I'm not as happy about today's work as I was about yesterday's. It's a reasonable stretch of first draft when all is said and done, but the exposition, however necessary it may be in a fantasy novel, is just a little too thick for me. Especially since it's coming 115k words into the book. By now I really should have set up just how things work in this world so I could just concentrate on actually bringing the book to an end.

The truly good news in all this is that my inner editor seems to have taken a short vacation. Even though I knew what I was writing wasn't perfect I managed to keep writing, rather than agonising over trying to get it perfect. This is important to me because I have fallen into the trap of eternal revisions on an incomplete manuscript before. Although I learned a lot from doing that it's not ultimately an effective way of writing books. It helped when I switched from writing in my native language (Dutch) to writing in English, but rendered me incapable of finishing anything.

It wasn't until I decided to just keep on writing until I had a reason to put "The End" at the bottom of a page that I finished a novel. Granted chances of that particular novel every being published are slim to none, it's not that good a novel, but I learned more from doing that than I would have from five revisions of an incomplete draft. And for all I know some form of it might be published. When I recently read it myself (revisiting old sins) I found I could actually see how to fix a number of the bigger errors.

I'm quite envious of people who can revise as they go without any problems. Maybe I'll be able to do that as well some day, but it would take something major to even make me try. Linear start to finish writing with no editing (except the occasional spelling error or missing word) works for me.