Weird Western Finished

I finally finished the weird western book I’ve been writing for the past couple of months. (Tentative cover attached.)The Saint, the Sinner and the Coward Cover 251x400

I started the book on November 18, 2015 and finished today, January 13, 2016. Close enough to two months duration to call it that. It clocked in just shy of 75,000 words or roughly 300 pages.

It took me 57 days to write it, so an average of just over 1,300 words (5 pages) per day. Not bad, but a little slower than I normally write. I’m fine with that; some books just take a little longer. It’s also worth mentioning that I wrote those 57 days consecutively, without missing a single day. That’s the first time I’ve ever accomplished such a feat while writing a book.

Now what’s awesome is that before I picked up on Chris Fox’s sprinting technique it would have taken me an entire year to write this book. So that would have been it for me in 2016; just this one book that I agonized over for eight months in first draft before rewriting it eight or ten times in revisions.

Instead, it took me two months, start to finish.

Consistency is king. Also, I didn’t rewrite the shit out of it.

It’ll be a while before I can get this manuscript into my editor, but it’ll be published later this year. Now my only problem is figuring which book I start on tomorrow morning. 🙂

Badlands #3 Ready for the Editor

Badlands #3 (Out of the Badlands) is finished and ready to go off to the editor. It’s nearly 100,000 words and the longest book of the series. I’m hoping it goes over well, but you never can tell with these sorts of things. Once I get a firm date on when I’ll get the manuscript back, I’ll put up a preorder page for the book. So look for an April timeframe.Out of the Badlands Cover 251x400

While I was at it, I attached the cover for you as well.

And hell, let’s throw in an excerpt from the first chapter too. It’s unedited, but you get the idea.

Chapter One

Twelve year old Sam Treiber watched the big oak fall as a jagged arc of white-hot lightning tore a hole in the sky, illuminating the land below. The tree lurched, the undersides of its leaves flashing white as its massive bulk came roaring down to the ground, felled by a wind gust as easily as a first year sapling.

Denise Treiber looked up from her tattered and yellowed copy of ‘Salem’s Lot. “What the hell was that?”

“A tree just fell outside,” Sam said, turning away from the scene outside the window. “A big one.”

“This is a hell of a storm,” Denise replied. She relaxed, her eyes back on the book. “Bound to take down some trees.”

“I think it hit the fence,” Sam said, turning to look at his mother.

Eyes wide, Denise looked up at her son. She closed the book without saving her place and swallowed hard. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“You need to be damn sure.” She got to her feet and went to the window, gazing into the blackness. Another bolt of lightning arced, lighting up the landscape like the flash from a giant camera. Just as Sam described, the tree lay across a section of ruined fence.

“Shit,” Denise said, walking toward the door of the room they shared. “We need to tell the others. Get your shoes on.”

Sam sat, his eyes wide.

“Come! Now!”

Sam leapt to his feet. Outside, the lightning struck again, brightening the yard in a blinding flash of light. Sam caught sight of the gigantic tree’s bushy top. Three figures appeared through the leaves, their white skin nearly reflective in the brightness. Then the light vanished, replaced by inky darkness.

Sam rubbed his eyes, trying to get rid of the spots in his vision. He stared again, but could see nothing in the dark.

Those weren’t carriers, he thought. They weren’t people either.

They were something else.

“Mom…” he began.

“Let’s go, Sam!” his mother called.

Sam ran to the nightstand beside the room’s only bed and yanked open the top drawer, fumbling through the contents inside.

“Sam!”

“Just a sec,” he replied. A moment more of searching and he found was he was looking for. He retrieved the one possession he prized more than anything else: his camera. Fed by rechargeable batteries refreshed when the generators were turned on, Sam had been carrying the thing ever since Jonathan, the man who ran the camp and took Sam and his mother in, gave it to him.

“Sam, move your ass!”

Sam gripped the camera and stuffed it into his pocket before picking up the flashlight from the nightstand. He turned to see his mother place her pistol into her back pocket and open the door. He slipped his shoes on and the two of them bolted down the hall, flashlight in hand, the forgotten candle casting a pale yellow glow inside the empty room.

Weekly Digest, Episode 2

The week was good. It started off right with The Hateful Eight, the new Quentin Tarantino film. I won’t go into a review or spoilers here, but I’m again impressed by his use of dialogue and his ability to keep me invested in the story and the characters. I learned a lot from it (and was entertained). A win-win.

The week started with me missing one writing sprint, so only 30 minutes of writing on Sunday. But I wrote 800 words, which wasn’t a bad clip. Sunday was the only day this week that I did less than two sprints per day. I took vacation from my day job, so I had a long weekend. Nice, but it got me out of my routine and a few of those days it was touch and go with getting both sprints in. But I did, even with New Year’s Eve and all that. Getting them early makes a big difference.

I won’t break it down by day to keep from boring you, but total words written last week hit 8,734. That’s an average of around 1,250 per day. Progress was a little slow since I got bogged down in the story for a while.

Let’s talk about that for a bit. Everybody gets bogged down at some point; some detail about your story isn’t working, some plot line isn’t tying out or you hit a brick wall in terms of the dreaded question: What Happens Next?

It happens. The solution? Write through it.

I know that sounds like I’m being flippant, but I’m not. When I get stuck I sometimes take a short break. I get up and walk around or listen to music. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I watch TV. The key is that it’s only a short break. I can’t keep up production if I’m constantly fretting about how my critical voice is reminding me that I’m not a special snowflake. I can’t worry that my prose doesn’t sing like McCarthy or my characters don’t engage like Tarantino’s or my story doesn’t seem real as real as Stephen King’s. That’s self-doubt coming through. Critical voice. As Dean Wesley Smith says, critical voice is there to stop you. That’s its job.

After I’ve taken a few minutes away, I sit down and start typing again. Sometimes it’s sloooooow, but eventually it picks up and I’m back on track again.

Or I could sit and fret and not produce a goddamn word. That gets me nowhere fast which, by my definition, is dumb. Nobody ever wrote anything by not writing.

Case in point: I’m working on a weird western novel right now. I got to a point in my pseudo-outline where something was supposed to happen a certain way. I had it all planned out and then I started to bog down and lose interest.

Eventually I remembered a cardinal rule of mine: if I’m getting bored then the reader is surely getting bored too.

So I scrapped the outline, hopped in the shower and got to thinking. I surprised my characters with something I didn’t see coming, hence they didn’t see it coming and–you guessed it–the reader shouldn’t see coming either. Suddenly the story was fun again and trucking along full speed.

As of today I’ve written for 47 days unbroken. Not a bad streak. Looks like my estimate for December’s totals was a little too high: I hit 37,634 words for the month, not the 39-40k I’d hoped for. Again, probably because I got bogged down there for a bit.

Estimates are this weird western novel will hit around 75k words, which means that I’m around 80% through it. That feels about right. That’ll put me finishing around mid-January. I don’t force a book to a particular word length; rather I forecast how long I think the story might be, which means it could change. Probably will.

Either way 2016 is off to a great start.

A New Home

For the past five years I’ve run a blog called Return to Writing where the theme was my journey back into creative writing after an eleven year hiatus. I hosted that blog on WordPress.com, which worked fine, but I’ve been wanting to host it myself for some time now. With a new year ahead of us, it seemed a good time to finally just make that happen.

I’ll leave the old blog up for posterity and reference and because I don’t really have the time to move all the content to the new blog. Maybe one day, but I’d rather focus on the writing right now. It’s more important.

By hosting the blog myself I can guarantee exclusive ownership of the content, remove ads and control fully the presentation of the content. From the technical side, I can do my own backups and install my own themes and plugins. I prefer to have that kind of control, which likely explains why I also self-publish.

I’ll link to the blog from my homepage and you can, of course, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed for convenience. I’m planning on spending more time here in 2016 too, creating content that appeals to my readers as much as other writers. The goal right now is to keep it focused tightly on content and remove distractions. I’d also like to start offering more free fiction here, so check back later on that.

I don’t take donations, so if you want to support me you can buy my books, that way I’m working for my money. Oh, and tell your friends. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter; you get a free book just for signing up.

Resolutions

2016-new-yearI’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I think if you’re going to do a thing then the best time to start is right now. Forget that “I’ll wait until Monday” or “I’ll do it next month” nonsense; just cut the shit and start already.

It ain’t gonna be any easier come Monday.

That said, I do look at the new year as a clean slate of sorts. More of a planning timeframe, if you will. An accounting period.

I wrote more than a quarter million words in 2015, with 75% of those words written between August and December. In other words, I fucked around for the first seven months of the year before figuring out how to be productive.

But that’s all good now because it’s given me a blueprint for the future. I write 1,500 words per day and at that rate I’m on track to write more than a half-million words by year end. Crazy to think one can do so much by working on it an hour a day. That’s why I always say that it’s about consistency and not speed.

The theme for 2016 is writing. Write better. Write often. Write more.

I’m not sure exactly what I’ll have completed by year end since I work on projects that suit my mood at the time. So when a book is done I consider what mood I’m in, pick an idea, and run with it until it’s complete. After that, I do it again.

What I write depends on the mood. That I write is predetermined.

I’m considering doing some short fiction and packaging it up in a collection for next year. I have an idea for six short stories, all unique but built from the same inciting event. That’s a short story every other month…pretty doable.

I’ll be publishing Badlands #3, my Mothman book and my weird western this year. Probably the next Yesterday In Black book too. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that sci-fi book I’ve been thinking about or a sequel to The Crossover Gene. It’s a blank slate, after all.

So check back later and I’ll keep you up to date. Sign up for my newsletter if you like; you get a free book after all. And don’t forget to buy my crap while you’re at it.

(Cross-posted from Return to Writing)

Weekly Digest, Episode 1

Well, look at that. Here’s the first weekly post. I’m one for one, right out of the gate. 🙂

Let’s talk about the last several months to get up to speed here. Here are my word counts, totaled by month, since I started Chris Fox’s “sprint” methodology (August is low because it’s not a full month; only 20 days):

  • August: 31,275
  • September: 46,523
  • October: 42,226
  • November: 42,597

December is sitting at nearly 34,000 words (I’ll probably hit 39-40k by end of month).

Let’s talk about this past week’s counts (12/20 – 12/26):

  • Sunday: 1,203 words, 2 sprints
  • Monday: 1,418 words, 2 sprints
  • Tuesday: 1,015 words, 2 sprints
  • Wednesday: 1,556 words, 2 sprints
  • Thursday: 1,485 words, 2 sprints
  • Friday: 751 words, 1 sprint
  • Saturday: 930 words, 2 sprints

Total: 8,358

Friday was Christmas, but I wrote. How did I do it? I only did one sprint instead of two (it was Christmas, after all), but 30 minutes is easy to fit in. My wife took a nap and the kids were busy playing with their new crap. I sat down for 30 minutes and worked, simple as that. Then I took the rest of the day off.

If you didn’t read my other posts about sprinting, here are the Cliff’s Notes: a sprint for me is thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time. I close the office doors, put on some music, figure out my next scene, set a timer and start writing. (In a later post I’ll go into more detail on what a typical day looks like for me, but for now this gets the point across.)

You can see some days I struggled with the words. Some days are harder than others. Just a fact of life. It doesn’t excuse me from putting in the time and hitting the quota.

See, my quotas are sprint counts, not word counts. That’s critical to remember.

I set a quota of two sprints per day. Rarely do I ever miss. I gave myself a break on Christmas, for example, but I still wrote. I strive to write every day. I’m currently at 41 consecutive days without a miss, my longest streak  yet.

I used to set a quota of 1,000 words per day. Once I hit it, I’d quit it. That produced fewer words in the end. By setting quotas around sprints (duration) I don’t artificially limit myself to a word count.

I break my sprints into 30 minute intervals. That’s about the longest I prefer to sit and peck away at a scene or chapter. Yours could be longer or shorter. I get up in between, usually to take a shower and think about my next scene, then I sit back down and get sprint #2 finished. After that, I’m done for the day.

Why only two sprints per day, you ask? With my schedule that’s good for me. It keeps me productive while not burning me out. I tend to be a workaholic, so if I don’t put a cap on things I’ll burn too hot and too fast. Two sprints nets me an average of 1,500 words per day. That consistency is key, but that’s a topic for another post.

How did you do last week? If you wrote more than 8,000 words then congrats, you’re better than I am. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you wrote a thousand or so. Less? Maybe you didn’t write at all.

But…but…the holidays…family…work…responsibilities…porn…[insert excuse here].

That’s okay, let it go. The past is gone, so focus on the future. Remember, your future starts tomorrow; not next year, not next month. Tomorrow. Hell, today if you like.

Regardless of when you start it, your future should not include excuses. We’ll talk about that later too.

I’ll be back next week with more rambling, word counts and random crap. Until then, if you read, keep reading. If you write, keep writing and reading.

(Cross-posted from Return to Writing)