Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Tag: process

Sixty Thou and a Snippet

I passed the 60K mark on Dominion this morning, and I’m still muddling through the middle. Um, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to finish this thing up by mid-August like I’d planned. Too soon to tell whether this means I won’t be able to publish by Halloween, since I’m likely to pick up momentum once I hit the ramp up to the climax and then sail through to the end. But right now, I’m only averaging about 700 words a day, which is one scene every two days (and breaks from writing on the weekends), and I’ve got about five more scenes to go before I hit that ramp.

At any rate, it’s coming along. Here’s a snippet from today’s session:

The smell of rotting meat assaulted them, making Hannah’s stomach churn. She had to swallow against her gag reflex as she followed Zach into the tiny cell. Inside, strapped to a gurney, lay Bob. Except he didn’t lie there so much as writhe and squirm. The sight of him made her want to gag some more. His skin showed visible signs of decay, and it had mostly sloughed off where the restraints came in contact with it. His lips were missing, and as he strained toward them and gnashed his teeth, she saw that his tongue was gone, too. The flesh on the bottom half of his face had mostly rotted away.

Zach pulled a pair of gloves out of one pocket and put them on. From the other pocket he drew a scalpel and forceps, along with an empty vial that he handed to Hannah. “This’ll just take a sec’,” he said as he leaned over Bob and began carving out a small chunk of his thigh. If the pathetic thing on the gurney felt the scalpel cutting into him, it was impossible to tell. Zach grasped the sample with the forceps and turned back to Hannah. She tucked the gun under her arm and opened the vial so he could drop it in. She secured the lid and handed it back to Zach, who put everything back in his pockets and stripped off his gloves. “That’s it.”

A hand grabbed Zach’s sleeve. He let out a high pitched scream as it yanked him back, and as Bob pulled him down his other hand, or what was left of it, slipped free of its restraint. It grabbed Zach around the back of the neck and tried to pull him down toward those gnashing teeth. Hannah pointed the gun and fired. Bob’s head exploded like a melon, and his hands went limp. Zach fell backward on his rear and scrambled back against the wall, breathing hard. “Shit!”

Hannah brandished the gun. “Thought you said I wouldn’t need this.”

He pointed accusingly at Bob. “That’s never happened before!”

“That’s no reason not to expect it.” She reached down to help him up. After a few deep, calming breaths, he examined the corpse. Raw flesh and gray skin coated the wrist restraints and lay globbed up on the gurney. This time Hannah had to swallow the bile that rose in the back of her throat.

Zach’s face had gone pale. “He just slipped his hands off, like they were gloves.”

Camp NaNo and the Zero Draft

The Office of Letters and Light, aka the folks behind NaNoWriMo, have finally caved to the demand for a ‘WriMo-style challenge during a different time of the year. As such, today kicks off the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, a “light” version of NaNoWriMo that lacks the organized off-line social aspects of the November novelling frenzy. To make up for this, apparently, Camp ‘NaNo takes place over two months, with the challenge to write at least 50,000 words per month. Participants can pick one month, or go for both.

I might have joined in if I’d had more warning, but by the time I found out about it I was already deep into writing Dominion, and I’ll probably still be writing it, albeit wrapping up, next month, too. If they were doing the off-line stuff, particularly the write-ins, I might have declared myself a “NaNo Rebel” and done it anyway, just continued to work on my current book at my own pace but used it as an excuse to get out and be social for a change. But without that, there’s not really an incentive for me to take part, at least not this year.

I’m a little surprised about the months they chose to have it in. One of the main criticisms I’ve seen about the NaNoWriMo Prime is that it falls during one of the busiest months of the year, with people having to work around Thanksgiving preparations and, oftentimes, writing thesis papers and studying for finals. So you might have expected that they’d have chosen a less busy time of year than a month with yet another major U. S. holiday, and one during which a lot of families plan their summer vacations, followed by a month during which much of the country is starting back to school.

But none of that has anything to do with my decision not to participate. I already mentioned the lack of social gatherings, but that’s not my only incentive to hunker down and hammer out my 1,667 words per day every November. In five years of doing NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned that the most useful thing I get out of it is what I call my Zero Draft.

I think others call this an Exploration Draft. Whatever you call it, it’s some combination of expanded outline, character sketch and actual manuscript. I call mine a Zero Draft because I usually end up tossing it out and re-writing the actual First Draft from scratch. That might make my Zero Draft sound like a waste of time, but it has proven to be an immensely helpful tool over the years. It helps me get to know my characters, my settings and where my story needs to go, what works and what doesn’t. When writing my Zero Draft, I have the freedom of knowing nobody but me will ever see it, which makes it so much easier to be experimental, try new twists and turns–basically, throw everything I’ve got at the wall to see what sticks.

I wrote my Zero Draft for Dominion of the Damned during 2009’s NaNoWriMo, and even though I only made it to 30K words before life intervened and forced me to drop out, those 30K words that I have never bothered to look at again have gone a long way toward helping the current draft to flow smoothly and the story to come together. When I sat down to write this draft a few months ago, I already knew the characters; I had confidence in their voices, and in my settings’ sense of place, and in what needed to be done. I haven’t had writer’s block once since I started (and here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx myself). All hail the Zero Draft.

I still plan to do NaNoWriMo again this November. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be “zero drafting” the sequel to Dominion (yup, already planning a sequel) or whether I’ll take a break from that world to explore this YA fantasy. Whichever I decide to go with, I look forward to getting to know it better.

As for any Camp NaNo Campers on my list, good luck, and have fun.

Dominion Progress and Process

I’m closing in on 40,000 words on Dominion. I’ve upped my daily word goal to 1,000 on weekdays, and my weekly goal to 10,000, which means a lot of extra writing on the weekends. If only my lawn would mow itself, this would be a cinch. But I think it’s doable. My goal is to finish it by mid-August.

I finished the second section this week, and made headway into the third. I’ve also got several scenes written for the fourth, since I keep jumping ahead. Whenever a future scene is easier to envision than the one I’m working on, I go ahead and write it. This keeps the writing fun. Of course, it’s tempting to write the whole climax, denouement and everything directly leading up to it, since I can see everything that happens so clearly; but if I write all of the “candybar” scenes (TM Holly Lisle) now, I won’t have anything left to look forward to as I push through the middle.

Even at (almost) 40,000 words, it’s early enough in the story that I’m still setting things up, moving characters into place, getting them together and such. This part’s fun, too, but the part I love best is the interactions and exploring relationships that are already established. I get impatient with my characters when they don’t know each other yet, because in my head they’re already an old married couple. That’s not a spoiler, it’s just a fer-instance.

Of course, first meetings can be fun to write, too.

What about you, dear reader? What’s your favorite part to write, or to read if you’re not a writer (or both)?

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