What an exciting week, readers! I finished the third draft of my novel!
It took quite a bit longer than I’d planned, but it is over now. I learned so much in the process, however, and the novel is in much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft.
I cut out several chapters from a second POV character. There was the main protagonist, running about the woods, trying to figure out herself and avoid the bad guy. She took up most of the space in the book, and the story is about her journey. The parts I deleted followed a young man in the bad guy’s camp as he attempted to find ways to spare the main character some pain. This second character was very noble, and also very boring.
The prologue is also gone. It has been in, out, in, and finally out again. It is done, at least, so if I decide to add it back in, it won’t take much time. I think I can put all the relevant information elsewhere in the story, though.
Now I’m on to the last revision before I send it off to beta readers. This is going much faster than the third draft as I’m just cleaning things up here and there, so I should be done in far less time. Let’s aim for a month!
In reading news, I finally read Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. I won’t have a review post about it, because I’d say all the things I’d say about The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. In other words, I loved it. I think I liked it more than Words of Radiance. Very thrilling!
This week, I’m reading Anthony Ryan’s third installment of The Draconis Memoria, The Empire of Ashes. I thoroughly enjoyed both The Waking Fire and Legion of Flame, the first two titles in the series. So far, this new one doesn’t disappoint. I can’t wait to see how it ends!
I just finished reading The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 by Dick Couch. Some may wonder if this is a standard read for me, but it is for several reasons. First, I almost joined the military. If not for a medical disqualification, I might very be an officer in the Air Force right now. Second, I have friends and family in the military, so the topic remains of interest. Third, I like reading motivating books with good wisdom on life. I find many such self-help books to be empty, but anything following people of this caliber is usually anything but fake. Finally, I don’t want to be a fantasy writer who bases my fantasy wars on other fantasy books. Real life seems a much better source.
With a postscript describing SEAL efforts in Afghanistan, The Warrior Elite takes you into the toughest, longest, and most relentless military training in the world.
What does it take to become a Navy SEAL? What makes talented, intelligent young men volunteer for physical punishment, cold water, and days without sleep? In The Warrior Elite, former Navy SEAL Dick Couch documents the process that transforms young men into warriors. SEAL training is the distillation of the human spirit, a tradition-bound ordeal that seeks to find men with character, courage, and the burning desire to win at all costs, men who would rather die than quit.
This book follows Class 228, as one might expect from the title, and it also ties in well with both Lone Survivor and American Sniper. We see Marcus Luttrell, the author of Lone Survivor, in his training days in Mr. Couch’s book. Both of those books are amazing, and far more personal and colorful (my nice way of saying rated R). You should consider reading both if you’ve only seen the movies.
This one picks up on some of the more “big picture” items and places the class in a broader context. I found the tone less personal, which made it somewhat easier to read. The back portion of the book is dedicated to some follow up information on the training post 9/11.
As I said, this book certainly isn’t as colorful as some of the others on the same topic. Don’t read it if you want to be awed or completely sucked into the drama like with an action movie. It is definitely a non-fiction book with less action but more detail.
Another great resource is the Discover documentary on Class 234. Between all four sources, we might start to get the briefest idea of what complete and total badasses these guys must be just to survive even the first few weeks of training.
Greetings, fair readers!
It is a rainy day here, and I’ve been coasting through some revisions. That process is turning out to be rather dull and long but will make for a better product.
Calling it a “revision” may not even be accurate. Following my March writing class, I’ve basically rewritten vast portions of my novel and added more detail in almost every paragraph. It makes for a longer, but better, read. My pre-class second draft with two POV characters clocked in at 68k words. My current draft has the same number of words, but I only have one of the two POV characters written, and I have at least two more chapters with her yet to finish.
My goals for this week are to finish up most of the main protagonist’s POV chapters. Then I’ll go back and rework or revise all the chapters for the other POV, hopefully by the end of July. I’ll have a scene or two with the first POV again, and then my third draft will be complete.
The fourth draft should be much simpler! Once it is complete, I’ll send it out to some readers and take a much-needed break. Ideally, this will occur before I go on vacation in September with the Writing Excuses cruise!
I’ll get feedback from my readers, and then, if all goes well, I’ll finish the book. It will probably be after my “one-year” goal from last October, but it’ll be close. Not bad for not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Some have asked if my novel is “good.” I think my story is good, or I wouldn’t be writing it. Is it the best novel ever written? No. Is it readable? Quite. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot about writing and have had fun doing it so the second novel will be even better. I will be a better writer for my second book, but all I have to do for my first novel is write the best I can write right now. On that front, I’m successful.
In unrelated news, a friend of mine wants to write a non-fiction book in a few years, about his experiences right now. What kind of notes should he be taking?
Last weekend, I took the Short Story Intensive class with Mary Robinette Kowal. This prevented my normal blog update, but I assure you it was worth it!
I was most familiar with her due to her work on the Writing Excuses podcast. If you’re a writer and haven’t tried that out, please do so as it is excellent. She writes novels and short stories and is also a voice actor and puppeteer. Today she live-tweeted during the spacewalk because she knows things, like the people in the red shirts stay inside the ship.
My schedule for my novel hoped for the third draft to be complete by the start of June, allowing me all month to focus on something else while beta readers had the draft. My goal was to work on a short story this month, and thus I jumped at the chance to take the class when it came across in email.
The draft is not on schedule. This isn’t surprising as this is exactly the first time I’ve ever written a third draft, but it has been somewhat frustrating. It was nice to take a weekend off and focus on something else creative instead. As an added bonus, I walked away with a completed draft of a 3000-word short story. This is the same story I’d hoped to write over the whole month of June!
It was a wonderful class, and if you’d like some fantastic information about short stories, then you should consider the course. We did several exercises and then concluded with an actual draft. Each exercise was critiqued by two other classmates as well as Mary Robinette. This wasn’t as stressful as it sounds, and not nearly as bad as reading out loud like I did in Dallas.
I found a lot that applied to my novel, as well. The class has reenergized me this week, and I’ve accomplished a lot both in my writing and my mindset. I think the rest of the draft will speed up as a result. I can hope!
The only downside to the class (which was announced and anticipated) was the sheer amount of time taken. I estimate it took up at least 25 hours of my weekend, perhaps closer to 30. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything other than eat, sleep, and the class aside from an hour to go to Mass. I didn’t get my normal amount of sleep either, which made the writing all the more interesting. She does have the class on her Patreon, if you’re interested in a version with a slower pace.
Long story short, you should definitely consider the class!
It is the season for walking! This is one of the few pretty photos you’ll find here I didn’t snag off of a free photo site. I took this on a recent morning walk to the park nearby. No filters were necessary.
This week was a little less productive on the novel writing, but I did develop the backstory for a wood elf cleric. No, I’m not currently involved in a D&D campaign, but I don’t let such minor details stop me. The novel is still going well; I have just been slowed by life events. This is fine, as it is not my jobby-job which funds food and things so I’ve been happy enough plotting an RPG character I may never use.
I have been puttering around with the novel though and hope to make some big decisions regarding a prologue soon. I’m at a point I’m either going to share more details about something that happened in the past, or I’m just going to reference them because we saw them in the as of yet unwritten prologue. Decisions, decisions. My writing group recommends the prologue because they want to see the full effect of my magic system, which otherwise won’t happen for most of the book.
Reading went exceptionally well, and I’m ahead of my 2018 Goodreads’ Reading Challenge goal. Since I last posted, I have finished:
- Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly. This follows the journey of Astronaut Scott Kelly as he spends a year aboard the International Space Station. This was both entertaining and informative, and I really enjoyed learning about some of the traditions of both astronauts and cosmonauts.
- That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion by Fr. Paul Scalia. Fr. Scalia is the son of late Justice Scalia, and the book is straightforward and articulate as one might expect. It may have been a series of blog posts or thoughts, so seemed a little less connected than I would have liked. I did enjoy the read though.
- Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. This is the first of the Powder Mage trilogy, and I liked it so much I’m going to the library to pick up the second book immediately. Expect a full review soon, but it is safe to say I recommend the book.
How about you, readers? How is your writing going? Did you read any good books? Would you add a prologue?
A few weeks ago, I read One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler. One Beautiful Dream is now one of my favorite books. I rarely laugh out loud or cry while reading, but I did both multiple times as I read through her tale as a mother pursuing her dream of writing.
Pursue your passions, love your family, and say goodbye to guilt—pipe dream or possibility?
Work and family, individuality and motherhood, the creative life and family life—women are told constantly that they can’t have it all. One Beautiful Dream is the deeply personal, often humorous tale of what happened when one woman dared to believe that you can have it all—if you’re willing to reimagine what having it all looks like.
Jennifer Fulwiler is the last person you might expect to be the mother of six young children. First of all, she’s an introvert only child, self-described workaholic, and former atheist who never intended to have a family. Oh, and Jennifer has a blood-clotting disorder exacerbated by pregnancy that has threatened her life on more than one occasion.
One Beautiful Dream is the story of what happens when one woman embarks on the wild experiment of chasing her dreams with multiple kids in diapers. It’s the tale of learning that opening your life to others means that everything will get noisy and chaotic, but that it is in this mess that you’ll find real joy.
Jennifer’s quest takes her in search of wisdom from a cast of colorful characters, including her Ivy-League-educated husband, her Texan mother-in-law who crushes wasps with her fist while arguing with wrong number calls about politics, and a best friend who’s never afraid to tell it like it is. Through it all, Jennifer moves toward the realization that the life you need is not the life you would have originally chosen for yourself. And maybe, just maybe, it’s better that way.
Hilarious, highly relatable, and brutally honest, Jennifer’s story will spark clarity and comfort to your own tug-of-war between all that is good and beautiful about family life and the incredible sacrifice it entails. Parenthood, personal ambitions, family planning, and faith—it’s complicated. Let this book be your invitation to the unexpected, yet beautiful dream of saying yes to them all, with God’s help.
Although I don’t have children, her stories were instantly relatable, hilarious, and thought-provoking. I’d followed her blog, Conversion Diary, for a long time before she started writing books, so I knew she was funny. This wasn’t just a series of blog entries though, and I was delighted to track her progress from an overwhelmed mom to an overwhelmed mom with a book.
I immediately sent it off to a friend, who texted me a few hours after receipt with, “Why are we not friends with this woman? We could totally be BFF’s.” She suggested driving to Texas to see the author. My friend read seven chapters that night, which is impressive because she actually does have children. That’s how good the book is.
It is what led me to The War of Art, which I reviewed as well. It is full of all sorts of wisdom, both practical and spiritual. As a writer working on my first novel, I also found it motivating. If she can accomplish her dream while also running her crazy-awesome mom life, then I can finish my book.
Do yourself a favor and read this book, especially if you’re a mom. Have yourself a laugh and a cry with a nice glass of wine.
Last week, I set a goal for writing of 60 minutes per day. I more than made this with an average of 70 minutes each workday! Family is in town this weekend, and they take priority, so the workload has gone down. That’s a good reason!
Next week, hopefully, more of the same. I feel very good about my book and figure at my present rate, I’ll add about 50,000 words between the second draft and the third draft. I may have to cut, but that can be a new adventure. As it is, this draft stands at 43,000 words.
My writing group has pointed out several things I’d like to fix in draft 3.5, with the largest being I avoid telling to the point I don’t imply enough. I may have the details they need scattered across three or four chapters, unlinked and with no mark of importance. Most of the group has missed several key details until they went and looked for them again, which isn’t ideal. Hopefully, that will be less of a rewrite than draft 3.
Speaking of my writing group, y’all can be jealous. If I haven’t mentioned it, the group includes another epic fantasy writer as well as a webcomic author, a dungeons and dragons DM and module writer, and a poet. The poet helped me rename one of the houses in my book because as an engineer I had thrown together an acceptable collection of consonants and vowels. Apparently, words can sound better than that. Who knew?
I spent some time learning about free indirect speech, yet another concept not covered in Calculus class. Not that I’d remember anyway; I struggled with Calculus. I’d like to use this more often, but I need to consider it some more. Do you have any thoughts on this style?
This week, I read The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I’m two books ahead of schedule on my 2018 reading challenge. What are you reading? Do you have any recommendations?
I stayed up too late Thursday night reading City of Bones because I had Friday off. My body refused to sleep in so I was up at almost my usual time, and I felt like I had a hangover. There was no alcohol though. I guess I’m getting too old to stay up until 1AM!
Confession: When I wrote the title, I did a spell check to make sure the word meant what I thought it meant. I play with Microsoft Excel so much every day I never actually use the term for its regular use.
I read High-Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become that Way by Brendon Burchard on the recommendation of the same friend who recommended Captivate.
THESE HABITS WILL MAKE YOU EXTRAORDINARY.
Twenty years ago, author Brendon Burchard became obsessed with answering three questions: Why do some individuals and teams succeed more quickly than others and sustain that success over the long term? Of those who pull it off, why are some miserable and others consistently happy on their journey? What motivates people to reach for higher levels of success in the first place, and what practices help them improve the most?
After extensive original research and a decade as the world’s leading high performance coach, Burchard found the answers. It turns out that just six deliberate habits give you the edge. Anyone can practice these habits and, when they do, extraordinary things happen in their lives, relationships, and careers.
Which habits can help you achieve long-term success and vibrant well-being no matter your age, career, strengths, or personality? To become a high performer, you must seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage. This book is about the art and science of how to cultivate and practice these proven habits.
Whether you want to get more done, lead others better, develop skill faster, or dramatically increase your sense of joy and confidence, the habits in this book will help you achieve it faster. Each of the six habits is illustrated by powerful vignettes, cutting-edge science, thought-provoking exercises, and real-world daily practices you can implement right now.
If you’ve ever wanted a science-backed, heart-centered plan to living a better quality of life, it’s in your hands. Best of all, you can measure your progress. A link to a free professional assessment is included in the book.
This book was an enjoyable read, and with less fluff than some of the books of the same type. I liked how it was organized, and I highlighted a lot more passages than usual. As it states in summary, he identifies these six habits for increasing performance:
- Seek Clarity
- Generate Energy
- Raise Neccessity
- Increase Productivity
- Develop Influence
- Demonstrate Courage
My favorite chapter was the first one, on seeking clarity. It could be I enjoyed this one most because it was my high score when I took the free assessment. It seems I’m doing okay in that area. It still held many practical steps I can take to improve, some of which I’ve already started to implement.
I was less excited about raising necessity and developing influence, which also happen to correlate to my low scores. There are a lot of tips in the book on how to improve these areas, but the problem is I don’t care enough to pursue them. And I think that is ultimately the one flaw of this book – it appears to assume you want to do ALL THE THINGS. I don’t mean do all the things in life, just the things in the book. It is clear you can’t do everything, but also seems to promote doing more steps in the book.
I’ve tended to see diminishing returns in my own life when I start attempting to do ALL THE THINGS. Perhaps some people would find more success. It seems the author has. I think a critical factor is knowing when you’re happy with your performance, and then maybe playing Zelda instead of adding more.
So why am I reviewing this book here and recommending you read it? Because there is a plethora of practical advice and a lot of things to think about. While I didn’t wholeheartedly agree with some aspects of the book, I’ve been thinking about it all week. The process of identifying what I do and don’t agree with, as well as why, is educational on its own. Nobody is going to test you in a month to see if you’ve implemented everything so you can pick and choose what you’d like to work on out of the many excellent ideas. I’ve already had good success implementing just one of the tips.
I think it is particularly valuable to writers, as it seems we are prone to many distractions that keep us from our goals. Or perhaps we haven’t even set goals. Most of what I highlighted was tied to my writing in my head as I read the book. I’m looking forward to implementing more of the ideas shortly.
When I google how much authors write, I usually end up with word counts per day. This page states Ernest Hemingway did 3000 words a day, for example. They have 38 other authors and their counts, as well.
This was a fantastic metric during NaNoWriMo when I attempted to complete 50,000 words in one month. I succeeded, and now I am editing that same story. Editing = not pounding out 3000 words per day.
Scrivener may think I type that many on any given day, but it was probably from copying and pasting from Draft #2 into Draft #3. Not new words. One day this week, it clocked me at 118 words total. I may have written 2,118 words but in the process of revising deleted 2,000 and dropped the total.
As a result, I’ve switched to tracking time spent on the novel. In addition to helping me keep tabs on how long each step takes, it may help me spend more time writing. This week wasn’t a great week for a few reasons, but I still averaged 52 minutes of time on the novel each day. That’s working on my actual story, to be clear, not writing here or elsewhere.
I’m setting a goal for next week of 60 minutes, on average, per day. I think I can get in another eight quality minutes per day without dipping too far into my Zelda time. Those extra minutes per day will equal a whole day in this week’s time! I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have you seen those ads for the Best Self Journal? I liked the idea but thought I could do something a little easier on my own. I ordered a Moleskine notebook (Star Wars, of course), and have been trying to use it daily in a similar manner as other productivity journals. I’m terrible at doing it in the evening, but after breakfast, I try to identify three things I’m grateful for, three goals for the day, and a prayer intention.
This week I read High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. Look for a review soon, but one quote I’d like to share today is “Everything is trainable. No matter what skill you want to learn, with enough training and practice and intention, you can become more proficient at it. If you don’t believe this, your journey to high performance stops here.”
What are you training yourself to do today? This week? This year? In what area are you trying to become more proficient? I’m learning how to write a book if you missed my blog post announcing my adventure. I’m glad you’re here. Let us know what your goals are in the comments.
Upon Jennifer Fulwiler’s recommendation in One Beautiful Dream, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was later turned into a movie. He also wrote Turning Pro, which is on my list of books to read.
The War of Art is about the Resistance we all face when we try to move forward in life. I read it as a writer, but there are plenty of examples for others such as artists and entrepreneurs and even people who attempt to become healthier. Why? Because we all face this thing he calls Resistance, or the force that works against our endeavors.
In my case, I feel it as writer’s block, or boredom when I sit down to write. I see it when I feel like perhaps I should sweep instead of open my laptop, or I remember I have that shiny new Zelda game to play instead of editing. You may feel it when you commit to a diet but encounter an opportunity for ice cream two hours later.
This is one of those books it would be easy to respond with, “Oh yes, I knew that already.” Many of the examples are easy to identify with because we’ve all been there. Yet for some reason, we forget when we encounter Resistance. The book is therefore a good reminder and perhaps even a kick in the pants.
You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art . Black Irish Entertainment LLC. Kindle Edition.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It is indeed overstatement, but the idea is right on. We can always find other things to do besides our work when presented with Resistance, if we allow it to win.
I enjoyed the first two sections of the book but found the third part to be odd. I suppose it varies on your worldview and what you think of muses. It is a far more artistic line of thought than I use when approaching my work, but even if I didn’t find it useful, you may.
The book is a short read and very encouraging for those of us pursuing something a little more epic than the daily grind.