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:: yawn :: Put a fork in me, I'm soup - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2006-01-23 20:45
Subject: :: yawn :: Put a fork in me, I'm soup
Security: Public
Tags:personal, writing
Another 4,100 words on Trial of Flowers and I'm out of gas.

That makes 18,600 words today. I should travel more often.

Seriously, some observations about this experience.

First, it's my best single writing day ever. My previous best was about 17,000 words, while working on Mainspring. And that was exhausting to the point of self-abuse, wiped me out for days. Today's production comes on the heels of a very good writing week. I will note for the sake of discussion that this week also contained a major crisis in the Child's life, now resolved, which ate most of my time and attention Saturday. (Despite which I still managed 13,800 words that day, most of it prior to the eruption.) So family issues and travel didn't stop me from writing. I'm only stopping now for sheer end-of-evening fatigue and the need to be at work in the morning. The writing engine in my head is perking merrily along.

Second, I floundered fairly much in the first 50 or so pages of this novel, though I had an outline and story to follow, so I don't think that writing was worthless. Just difficult. But much as happened when I was working on Death of a Starship some months ago, once I caught the trail of the story, I began to run with it. I began to understand the groundwork my writing subconscious had laid and it all started to come together. Remember, I sold and am writing this book off a five paragraph outline and a short story published in this setting in Leviathan 4. That's all the prep there ever was.

Interestingly, as I come closer to the end, I begin to write lookahead notes. This is because the plot choices are narrowing (duh!) and Fred is closing me off. For the first 70,000 words, the only lookahead note I had said [ MORE COWBELL ]. (It's still there, by the way.) I now have a series of lookahead notes that read like this one:

Jason --> Kalliope/deal fails --> back with armies --> joins Enero's charge against Restorationists/Sniffers/black dogs [ where does Provost come in?/Hamish ] --> slay Ignatius --> some dreadful thing --> sacrifices love

Only because the plot logic drives me there. Fred is still throwing up surprises, and I won't know how the book ends til I get there. Among other things, I seem to have killed Jason off a few pages ago (that would be "Kalliope/deal fails" above), which means he's going have a hard time finishing his plot arc. Fred will provide.

I think the most important thing for me personally is that with Death of a Starship and now Trial of Flowers, novels have stopped feeling like work to me and finally started to be the kind of fun I've had with short stories for some years now. I have no idea if this thing is good yet -- I'm far too close to it -- but I'm confident it will be good by the time it hits your hands in book form.

Looks like Tor came along at just the right time... :D Thanks, guys!

To speak to the numbers a little more. I think I could have hit 20,000 words today if I hadn't spent so much time getting on and off airplanes, waiting for luggage, etc. As it was, I had about 3+2+1.5+2 hours of writing time today, 8.5 all told. That means I averaged slightly under 2,200 words an hour. I've said for years my burst speed was 2,500 words an hour, but it's typically rare for me to sustain that speed for more than an hour or two.

After today's performance (see? live without a net) I doubt I'll get much done this week. Working in Omaha eats more of my day because the nature of the hours as well as real commute, and I have social engagements the next three evenings. (Hi, guys -- you know who you are.) I'd like to swack down a thousand or two thousand words an evening, and hit it hard again on Friday when I'm travelling once more.

In the mean time, y'all play nice. I'm going to sleep, and dream of massed camelopards charging through hip-deep snow into the face of hellish opposition.

Update: Yes, I gmailed the file to myself in case the iBook develops a fatal seizure overnight. Now I'll sleep better.
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corvida
User: corvida
Date: 2006-01-24 05:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
18,600. Holy cheetos!
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2006-01-24 16:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I doubt that Jay's had time for Cheetos what with all that writing. heh
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corvida
User: corvida
Date: 2006-01-24 18:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm surprised he's had time for breathing.
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M.K. Hobson
User: mkhobson
Date: 2006-01-24 05:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You're my hero, Jay.

M
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Rose Fox
User: rosefox
Date: 2006-01-24 05:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Very nice! I love reading you and being reminded of how entirely plausible it is to accomplish such things. It's great to know that a real person really has 18k-word days. So well done, and thank you.
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User: elvesforeyes
Date: 2006-01-24 05:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Wash
Wow, that's amazing. Traveling rules!
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oracne - Victoria Janssen
User: oracne
Date: 2006-01-24 14:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
WOW that's a lot of words.

dream of massed camelopards charging through hip-deep snow into the face of hellish opposition.

This, I totally would read.
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Snuffy LaRue
User: jess_ka
Date: 2006-01-24 14:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow.

Also, your live without a net performance--graceful!
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Jason Erik Lundberg
User: jlundberg
Date: 2006-01-24 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Dude. Awesome. You are superhuman.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-01-24 15:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is fascinating. So you did about 75 pages, in one day. Amazing!

How rough would you say the writing was? Will you have to do a major rewrite once the drafting is done, or is it pretty strong so far?

And how did you drown out distraction?

For what it's worth, I've always found the opening 50 pages the hardest pages, and the page that need the most reworking. One suggestion that I thought was cool was to bang out the entire draft of the novel, and then KEEP GOING and just re-draft the opening 50 pages, now that you've found your voice. I've gotta try that some day...

Thanks for sharing this. And I'm glad (and a little scared, but in a good way) that you're finding novel-writing fun!
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User: unwrecked
Date: 2006-01-24 15:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
doh -- that was me, Mike. LJ logged me out.
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Jenn Reese
User: jennreese
Date: 2006-01-24 18:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wowzers. Still stunned at that word count, even after a day.

Also, it felt good to read that you floundered in the first 50 pages. I've been stuck in my first 50, floundering, and perhaps I just need to keep going. Maybe I'll find my feet in the next fifty.

Congrats on the marathon!
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scarlettina: Everything Easier
User: scarlettina
Date: 2006-01-24 19:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Everything Easier
Oooh! A kitty in space! Icon love!
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-01-26 20:56 (UTC)
Subject: You're amazing, we all know that, but is the Kid okay?
Just checking.....
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-01-26 20:57 (UTC)
Subject: Re: You're amazing, we all know that, but is the Kid okay?
Sorry, that was me.

law
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