Knight Fall Draft Finished!

Ladies and gentlemen, huzzah!

Today, the 9th of August in the 2013, I did doth complete the draft for Knight Fall (RE3#)! This is cause for rampant celebration and merriment of the scotch’ed variety.

The novel is off to my editors late Sunday and I should have the second round, then two proofreads, sorted mid-September. Won’t be too long after and it’ll hit the shelves!

Here’s the rough blurb until then:

“The Knights of Atlantis created the Infernal Clock, the Roseblades, and other weapons of celestial illusion. Yet today the Knights are less than a pale shadow of their former glory. A bonfire diminished to dying embers. None of the Order could wield Origin with enough conviction to even blemish the Everlasting.” Emily grinned and gave me a wink. “Well, save perhaps one shadowless fool.”

The peace forged by Declan Hale at the end of the Tome Wars was meant to last a hundred generations. Yet barely six years have passed and the drums of war echo once more across the thousands of worlds of the Story Thread.

With shadowed enemies loosed from the Void, the Knights Infernal again after his head, and the Everlasting wrapping him in their dark schemes, Declan will have to take the fight across worlds once more—or risk True Earth getting swept away in the maelstrom.

Cheers,

Joe

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On Keeping a Writing Log – Part Deux

 

‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will note; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

~Calvin Coolidge

I thought I’d take a break from my series of posts on time management to discuss the merits and wonders of the writing log—and what it can do for you in terms of productivity and accountability.

Here’s a link to my initial post regarding Writing Logs. I’ve come a long way since then, most definitely for the better.

A Law of Writing

We’re often bombarded with advice and ‘laws’ for writing that, when you break them down, can’t really be called laws if they only apply in some cases. ‘Don’t use adverbs in dialogue tags, mostly’, ‘Avoid prologues, now and again’, ‘Avoid overly detailed character descriptions’, and so on… No, no—something that doesn’t apply across the board always and in all ways is not a law or even a rule. It’s a guideline at best.

That said, if you’re aiming for publication and all the money and women that come with it, here’s one of the unbreakable laws of writing: Finish what you start.

I’ve no greater advice on writing than that. If you start something, see the darn thing through. No one ever published something half-written (arguable, I know, but you get my point). The trick is how to make whatever you start—be it novel, short story, research paper, PhD, letter—readable, consistent in theme, tone, voice, and all the other nitty gritty stuff. ‘Ware consistency without focus, as you’ll most likely end up writing yourself into a corner.

And speaking of consistency…

My Writing Log

Here it is in all its majesty:

Current Log

So what are we looking at here? An Excel spreadsheet full of formulas calculating away in the background, keeping score and holding me accountable to my daily word target—2000 words a day. Of what you see there, I’m responsible every day—whether I write a word or not—for filling in the following columns:

Story Title

Start Count

Finish Count

Time Started

Time Finished

Work of thirty seconds, as the formulas take care of everything else. Time well spent, too, as the data and information about my writing habits I can pull from this log is invaluable. No more vague notions of finishing a novel ‘someday’. With this, I know exactly how far along I am—to the minute and word.

As you can see, in days to come my total words column is a stark and vicious bright red. This is because I have yet to write on those days. The red is a streak I have to mine and pull chunks of story ore from, and the power of a streak is a wonderful thing. I don’t want that column to be all ugly and red. I want it to turn green. How does it turn green? The conditional formatting in the log will turn a box on any given day green if my total words written over the day exceed 2,000.

Note: 2,000 words a day is what I know my average to be, assuming I have about 2 hours of uninterrupted writing time. You’ll have a rough idea of your own average, which you should supplement in place of mine.

The column stays red if I don’t hit 1,000 words, and becomes a soothing yellow for every word between 1,000 and 2,000 a day. Yellow I consider a successful writing day. Green is golden.

I monitor the time started and time finished, plus any extra time, in order to breakdown how long it takes me to write a first draft. I can also use these figures to generate charts and figure out my optimal writing times on any given day of the week. If I write more at night, then I should be scheduling my writing time in the evening. If I churn out more by getting up an hour early, then perhaps my daily writing time is better served in the morning, you see?

So there you have an overview of how the writing log works. Let’s take a look at why, at least for me, this process has improved my writing over the last year.

Consistency is Key

Key to what? Key to life. Consistent, prepared effort—even if you’re crawling inch by inch across the page, and we all are—will unlock the dark and terrible novel you’ve been trying to hammer out for years.

Take a look at my writing log from half a year ago again:

Writing Log

And again what I’m using now:

Current Log

Note: Forgive the streak of red on the new log. I started a new job that sapped most of my day for the beginning of July. Back on form and hitting my stride again now!

You won’t always be consistent. Is that an oxymoron? Writers thriving through inconsistent consistency? Well, if the shoe fits. What I’m getting at is there will be days, maybe even a few in a row (but if that’s happen you’ll need to have a good long think about your endgame), where you don’t churn out word one.

I’ve written two successful enough novels and a third that was awarded the Hot Key Young Writers Prize earlier this year (due September 5th), and as you can see from my current log I have days of inconsistency. But on those days I step back, reassess and revaluate why I write at all, and then sit my ass down in front of the blank page.

Remember, inch-by-inch is the best any of us can write a novel. That’s how I write. Goddamn it, that’s how Stephen King writes. So the difference between people who want to write a novel and those that do?

Consistency.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Let’s take a look at what consistent, patient, prepared writing time can produce. You’ll know exactly how much your effort creates, because you’ll be keeping track of it in your shiny new writing log, won’t you?

Here’s the breakdown of my stats for this month (July, 2013). Again, not on form early in the month, but still a sizeable word count that didn’t exist two weeks ago:

Total Words Written: 15269

Time Spent Writing: 12 hours and 47 minutes

Average Words p/hour: 1145.4

Encouraging, even with a streak of ugly red at the beginning of the month. At my current pace I’ll have a first draft this time next month, around August 14th. There’s another benefit of the writing log—you can forecast how long it should take, given your current pace, to finish an average novel (which, in my genres of fantasy/sci-fi/YA, is about 70,000 words).

Let’s advance the numbers again, assuming across the board consistency every damn day of the year.

2,000 words p/day x 365 days = 730,000 words p/year

Holy smokes, if I maintained consistency every day I’d have ¾’s of a million words written in a year. Given our average novel length of 70,000 words, that’s the best part of 10 and ½ first drafts a year. A mindboggling output, but not beyond my ‘average’ capability, if I work on reaching and maintaining a streak of sweet, clear green.

How could I achieve 10 first drafts a year? You got it, consistency.

So that would be my optimal outcome. It’s unlikely, given life and all its many varied interruptions and responsibilities, but so long as I keep my writing log I’ll be able to monitor how close to optimal my progress has been.

Writing Log Template

Oh and if you’d like to give it a shot, here’s my template all formula’d up and ready to go:

Writing Log Template – click on the link and download the current version from Google Docs as an Excel spreadsheet.

Note: the conditional formatting in that template has set the threshold for turning a cell yellow between 1000 and 2000 words, and turning a cell green for 2000+ words. If you know your average is more or less a day, change the conditional formatting to reflect your targets.

And there we go—done and dusted for now. I’m going to keep using my log in the months to come, perhaps modifying the data to capture additional information. I’ll keep you posted.

What do you think of keeping a writing log? Useful? Intimidating? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email on how you keep score!

New Release Mailing List

Hey, folks,

So just a quick one today – if you’d like to get an automatic email and be the first to find out about my new releases and what not, click here:

AWESOME MAILING LIST!

You’ll only ever get an email once or twice a year, once you’re subscribed, and it’ll be when a book is out and available! I also swear not to use your email address for nefarious purposes.

Long days and pleasant nights,

Joe

Distant Star Closing in on 2k Sales!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank any and all who have purchased Distant Star, my first novel, in the five weeks since it appeared online in various bookstores and in various formats.

As it stands right now, I’m at 1940 sales – and sixteen positive reviews on Amazon! You don’t hate me, or my stories, and I love you for it.

The surge of sales through June and the positive response has had me furiously working on the follow-up to Distant Star – Book Two of The Reminiscent Exile.

Broken Quill.

I’m hoping to have a first draft by late August/early September, off to the editors before December, and hitting the shelves come January/February 2013. Things step up a notch in Book Two. We learn a lot more about Declan and his sordid past, as well as meet a whole cast of new characters who have been pulled into his dangerous web of war and regret.

Also, a duck explodes.

Thanks again, dear readers,

Joe