One Writing Project Down, Eleven More to Go

Alright, time for me to peek in on my blog again. This is starting to become a monthly tradition… or maybe that’s quarterly.

Even if I’m not writing on my blog, though, I am doing some writing.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished my fan fiction. Mind you, this was just something I was playing around with while I was in the process of moving and couldn’t devote myself to my regular work. My motivation was to see if I could write a game—complete with background story, character development, weapons, dungeons, bosses, etc.

Conclusion? Why yes, I can write a game (provided said game broke the mold and was a two-player interface instead of a solo player).

Things I learned in the process:

  1. Writing an entire game by yourself is harder than you would think. I didn’t have a problem with developing a storyline, but coming up with different weapons and bosses was hard. And we won’t even get into how to make mazes. I stand in awe of the maze developers.
  2. You have to plot adventures. This is really important, as you need to know what people and things you will need later. For example, weapons are often introduced before they’re needed—or they might be needed multiple times.
  3. Even when I have a plot, I still “pants.” I found writing just to a plot was rather restricting (suffocating, even)—especially as I came up with good ideas along the way. So, what happened in actuality, was that I pantsed between (and sometimes in the middle of) plotted chapters.
  4. When you simultaneously pants and plot, you end up with twice as much product as you intended.

How much product, you ask?

Originally, I plotted 50 chapters—certainly a respectable amount when you consider that my shortest chapters were around 1,200 words, and major chapters—dungeons and bosses—could have as many as 8,000-12,000 words.

The reality? This story clocks in at 114 chapters and 459,339 words.

Let that sink in for a minute. Acceptance, which is, according to industry standards, a bit on the long side for a first novel—even one that’s urban fantasy—has approximately 109,000 words.

My fanfic is a little longer than four Acceptance novels—or, in other words, as long as the entire planned series.

The Flames of Prague, which is long even to historical fiction standards, is roughly 80,000 words. It would take nearly six of those to equal this one fan fiction.

It took me right at a year and a half to write it. That means I averaged 25,519 words per month—or roughly half the speed you work during a NaNo month—only this lasted 18 consecutive months.

I’m not disappointed by those figures. If I applied that same work ethic to my new stuff, then I could turn out a historical fiction novel roughly every three months. (Of course it’s not the writing part that’s really time-consuming; it’s the editing. Editing takes two or three times longer than the initial writing, I’ve found.)

Maybe one of these days I can afford to hire an editor/proofreader to do that heavy lifting and I can put more of my effort into writing new stuff. Just in the last year, I’ve come up with two more ideas for historical novels (I’m loathe to call one a romance, since the lovers will die at the end). That makes a grand total of three historical romance novels waiting in the production line, not counting the sequel to Flames, a potential sequel to the sequel, or any of the Acceptance series (of which there are three more to go, plus an estimated 3 prequels).

I don’t have to worry about widespread writer’s block any time soon; I have enough to keep me busy for some years.

Now that my fanfic is done, I plan on turning back to The Flames of Prague. It’s had a major edit already, and I’ve handwritten the secondary edit; I just need to get those corrections typed up. Then it will need to undergo several rounds of proofreading. I’m hopeful that I can get it out by the end of the year.

I also plan on picking up The Bloodsuckers again. I’m not sure if I want to commit to one episode a week again. That has its benefits—in that it prevents procrastination, and desperation can shake all sorts of things loose—but it also its drawbacks in that it forces smaller episodes and more filler. My fan fiction was written as a serial novel, but I rarely did one chapter a week; it was more like one chapter every 2-3 weeks. This allowed me to make longer chapters (something a lot of people have complained about with Bloodsuckers). Another thing is that the quality of writing seems better in my fanfic. This could be because practice makes perfect (if you’ve got one million words of crap in you, then I just sloughed about half of that; including the other stuff I’ve written, I’ve passed the one million word mark), but it could also be that I took more time with my fanfic; I didn’t feel the need to hurry things along until the very end, when I just got tired of it and was ready to move on to other things.

I think I might try plotting some of The Bloodsuckers, too, because I want it to take a darker and more adventurous turn. Plotting will allow me to set up some situations and characters that will come into play in the future. It will also help me avoid sitting at a blank computer screen and wondering what in the world I’m going to do next. When in doubt, follow the plot. But if I want to go off-script a little, too, there’s room for that.

Just as my fan fiction started with a challenge—to see if I could write a video game—The Bloodsuckers originally started with a challenge, too: to see if I could write a serial novel of equivalent size and scope as Varney the Vampire. My fan fiction has proven that I can lay down some serious wordage when I want to (although it’s still nearly 200,000 words short of old Varney), so it’s not a matter of if, but of when.

And, to that end, expect to see a new episode shortly.

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6 comments on “One Writing Project Down, Eleven More to Go

  1. I’m not sure what you meant by writing a game. I know what Fan Fic is, like teenage girls writing little stories in the Twilight universe with them having a romance with Edward or Jacob. But how do you write a game? Is this like the old choose your path adventure novels where you write a short chapter and then go to some other chapter based on what action you take? Or do you mean you wrote a game by writing all the levels and what treasures and monster there would be on each level and what it would take to defeat that particular monster? If the latter, how is this Fan Fic, or even literature at all, wouldn’t it just be instructions to a dungeon master or programmer in how to implement the actual playing of the game? And how would anybody read this and make it seem like fiction and not just the minutia of a game design?

    I have read Fan Fic before from other people where the entire story was just their description of their dungeon adventure, but it seemed like it was just that, a description of random events with no purpose or plan. In them the entire motivation was: Let’s go into the dungeon and see what treasure we can find. I would think, in order for a story about a game to be in the least entertaining, there would have to be motivation, an objective, and some amount of character development. Games sometimes have objectives, but the only motivation is treasure and character points so they can level up. As far as character development, that’s pretty much non-existing.

    I am impressed by the verbiage though. 459k words is a LOT of words. Cranking out nearly a thousand words a day for 18 straight months is quite an accomplishment, but why bother if no one is going to read it. That same 459k words represents over 100 episodes of The Bloodsuckers, or about five complete novels. I’d much rather see another 100 vampire installments than, well, nothing.

    You can, of course, write whatever you want, but it seems this Fan Fic has sucked away all your time, both from actual creative writing and your blog posts and essays as well. If you feel like it, you could put the Fan Fic on an Amazon e-book publication and sell it for 99 cents. You might get some money out of it and the buyer will certainly get a great deal on volume alone.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      It was as I played a Zelda game that I realized that someone had to write the backstory and the story that unfolds while it’s being played. I decided to try my hand at creating a story that could be turned into a game. That meant 1) creating a backstory (since, in the case of the Zelda universe, the canon is flexible in places; you can, within reason, write what you want to get the characters/world to the present situation), 2) creating a current story and developing the characters, 3) having the characters go on an adventure that resembles other Zelda adventures, 4) create magical weapons, bosses, and dungeons.

      Of course, in my story, I have Link and Zelda fight their way through dungeons and bosses; in a game version, though, the player would take the characters through the dungeon himself. There are “fluffy” parts of the story that deal with character development and relationships that wouldn’t carry over to a game very well, but there are actually a lot of places in a Zelda game (and other role-playing games) where the action pauses and part of the story or backstory is revealed, so some non-action parts of the story could be told through those pauses. Even the end of the story–after the defeat of the final boss–can be distilled into a movie that plays in the background while the credits roll.

      I designed all of the action scenes as something that could conceivably be turned into a playable element of the game and the world is such that a player could move around in it and explore most of it at his leisure.

      And, it is readable. You can read all of it here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9961293/1/The-Legend-of-Zelda-The-Circle-of-Destiny So far, I’ve had over 163,000 views (there’s no way for me to get the total unique visitor count, but if you assume one reader views all 115 pages once, that’s over 1,400 unique visitors).

  2. Kunama says:

    I find myself curious about the editing process. How does one go about editing one’s own work? Grammar and spelling are obvious starts, but where do you go from there? (In the interest of not taking up time that you might not have spare – there a bunch of reputable resources you could point me at?)

    I wonder if there are others who sort of know what they’re doing but want more experience at editing, who might be willing to share some of that load with you… is that even a thing that’s possible?

    • Keri Peardon says:

      There are different kinds of editing. After you hammer out your story, you need to have an editor (or, preferably, more than one) read the story and tell you what works, what doesn’t work, what’s missing, and what you have too much of. You will then go back and do a major edit, where you will fix the problems that they pointed out (and you might end up changing things even more if you get a good idea). After that, it’s a good idea to allow your editor(s) to read the revised story and see if you addressed all of their issues and make sure that your new material doesn’t raise new issues. You may need to have a second edit at this point, which can be major or minor, depending on the feedback you receive.

      Once you’ve hammered out the major plot/character issues, then you (or another editor) will need to do a continuity edit (this is especially important if you’re writing fantasy). Since you wrote your story over a long time and changed things as you went, you can end up with things at the end not matching things at the beginning. Your initial editors might catch some of the errors, but they might also miss some; after all, no one knows your world better than you. Read your book quickly and over as short a period of time as possible (ideally you would read it all in one day, but if it’s a normal-length novel, that’s probably not feasible). The longer you take to read it, the more likely you are to forget what happened at the beginning–and fail to notice that the end doesn’t match up. If you read it quickly, so it’s fresh, you’re more likely to note contradictions.

      This is also a good time to do a fact check (very important if you’re writing historical fiction). Highlight anything you aren’t completely sure about as you read, then go back and double-check that what you said is accurate. If you didn’t do it while you were writing, get a calendar and make a timeline of everything that happens in the book. If you say that something happens on Saturday, then say that a week passes, and then say it’s Wednesday, you’ve got a timeline problem. If they go out to a movie or are listening to music or using technology, make sure it’s correct to the date of the story (this comes up when you write a story over a long period of time; the entire “Acceptance” series is set in 2009-2010, because that’s when I started it, but now that’s history, so I have to make sure I don’t have them using smart phones and things that weren’t around in 2009). Also, make sure any travel times are accurate for the distance that your characters are traveling and make sure you adjust time correctly if they cross a time zone. (I even went so far as to make sure that the moon phases were correct for particular dates, but that’s probably being a little overly anal.)

      Next up is a readability edit. Make sure that every sentence makes sense. Make sure dialogue sounds natural (I always recommend reading that aloud). Cut out parts that are superfluous or don’t further either the storyline or your character development. This is when you will cut your word count down (in “Acceptance,” I went from about 114,000 words to 109,000; look online to see average word counts for your genre and try to get close to that).

      The remaining edits will be for grammar and spelling. You need to do this repeatedly–like scrubbing a stain out of a white shirt. First, make a note of errors that you repeatedly make and keep that as a master list that you use to check all of your writing. (My list of common offenses are: lay versus lie, farther versus further, shuttered instead of shuddered, anyways instead of anyway, and lead instead of led.) Do a word search through your work to look for your common offenders and fix them. Then, begin reading your story and start fixing punctuation and other errors. Missing words–especially connector words, like “of” “a” and “the”–are particularly hard to catch, since we read words in chunks, not individually; our brain will automatically fill in words that are missing.

      Also, the longer you read, the more you will be caught up in the story and you’ll read for information, not to correct. Some ways to avoid this is to only proof a third or half of the book, put it down for a while, then pick it up where you left off. Or read it from back to font, so you can focus more on each sentence instead of the story.

      The person(s) that do you major edits is not necessarily the person you want proofreading. Some people who can give you great insight on your characters or plot can also read over the same error multiple times and never notice it. A good editor is someone who can be honest without being harsh. When I read people’s stuff, I make it a point to be positive about something–even if the entire story is awful. I will tell them that they described the world well, or that a character was interesting–something–and encourage them to do more of what they’re good at, while taking out all the horrible stuff. You will want to find an editor who will do something similar to you, because being told something is wrong/bad hurts. If they also tell you that you did good things, then you’ll leave feeling inspired to make changes, not crushed.

      Because of that, it’s generally recommended that people not have close friends and/or spouses as editors, since if they’re nothing but complimentary, you don’t get anything out of it, or if they’re nothing but harsh, your relationship can suffer. That being said, I’ve found that my husband and a close girlfriend are great editors of my work. They are thoughtful about what they’re reading and can articulate what works and doesn’t work.

      Also, make sure when you’re getting their feedback, you ask them questions. Make them elaborate on complaints and compliments by citing examples. Also, you may find that, as you write, you wonder if a particular scene is useful or not or if a character is worth keeping or is too one-dimensional. Make a list of questions that you have about your own work and ask them about it. Your editor shouldn’t just have a laundry list of complaints; you should have a dialogue with him or her where both of you talk. Don’t be afraid to run alternatives by them and see if they think that would work better.

      If you don’t have and friends and family you trust, or you try out some people and get back, “It was all great; I can’t name a part that I liked better than another,” then you might try an online or real-life writing group. You might to join the group and stay silent for a meeting or two and get the lay of the land. If you see that one person is very negative–to the point of being vicious and mean–then you know not to let them read your stuff. If, however, you find someone who can specifically cite problems and also cites things that work, then approach that person about editing. One thing, though: make sure that the person likes your genre. A fellow writer–whose book I love–said she got a retired college English professor in her writing group absolutely hated everything about her book (not the way that it was written, but the plot, characters, etc.). I pointed out that her book was a teen/young-adult sci-fi romance. Professor Oldguy wasn’t even close to being the target audience for her work, which explains why he didn’t like it. Even professional editors, publishers, and agents will openly admit that they only handle certain genres, because if you just don’t like novels about roadtripping college students full of angst and disillusion about the world, you’re going to hate even the best book on that subject that’s ever been published. (Look at me: I hated “Catcher in the Rye” and I still hate modern novels that aren’t about anything but deep thoughts and feelings; I want romance, action, or, preferably, a combination of both.) So, when picking out an editor, make sure that they like historical romance or fantasy or whatever it is that you’ve written, because if they don’t, their critique is going to be colored by the fact that they didn’t like your genre to start with.

      Although my husband and friend are good editors, they’re not good proofreaders, so I ended up doing that all myself. If you can afford it, hiring a professional proofreader is ideal, but if you can’t, see if you can find a friend who is a grammar-nazi. Since publishing my book, I’ve learned that one of my friends loves to proofread, has done it for other people’s work, and he offered to help me. So I’m going to send him “Acceptance” and let him give it a once over (I’ve already done another proofreading, catching offender words that I didn’t know, at the time, were offenders); once that’s done, I’m going to give it a new cover and reissue it as a second edition.

      • Some very nice ideas here, you’ve even listed some I’ve never thought off. This is a good start to editing one’s work, even if it is just a short story and not a novel. I especially liked your paragraph about fact checking. Something that can really break the illusion one is trying to create if something is really anachronistic. But don’t feel bad about it, even Shakespeare famously had chimneys in one of his historic plays when they hadn’t been invented at the time. And even if you do all your homework and get everything right, you can still get caught out by a reader.

        One time I was having a fellow writer friend of mine read over a short story I wrote that was set in the early 1930’s. He liked the story and had some good comments about things I might change, but his biggest complaint was that, while reading the story, his attention came to a screeching halt because of two out of place references I’d made. The first was where I had the heroine drop her purse and several things, including her compact, fell out on the ground. This bothered him because he said women’s compacts hadn’t even been invented in the early ’30’s and his surprise over me saying that had broke his concentration. The second time was when I wrote that the police sent out a squad car to investigate a suspicious person. Again, his concentration was interrupted because he said squad cars weren’t around in the ’30’s either.

        This somewhat infuriated me because, of all the things he could chose to complain about, neither of these criticisms were actually true. Police squad cars were certainly around in the ’30’s. In fact, one of the better film series of the ’20’s was the Keystone Cops who were always driving around in their squad cars and promptly falling off them. And, tho I don’t know exactly when the compact was invented, there is certainly no shortage of women in movies in the ’20’s who were pulling out their compacts to either powder their nose or use the mirror to spy on those around them.

        Since he told me of these two irritations of his, I had a chance to correct him, but an author never gets that chance with the normal reader. If someone thinks you’re a bad writer because you show or say things they think are wrong, you’ll never know and they might not give your work a chance again because of their own ignorance. Really nothing you can do about that except hope you have intelligent, well informed readers. And, in passing, I might mention that my test reader had a college degree, worked in a high tech job, and had been writing for several years. He simply had no idea when some contemporary things were invented.

        This does bring up one other way you can fact check your stories that you didn’t mention, but that I find very useful. If you have as story set in any time from the 1920’s forward, you can just watch a lot of contemporary movies set in that time period. As an example, if you like the ’30’s and want to set a story there, watch some movies made in the ’30’s and set in the ’30’s. They certainly won’t have anything out of place. In fact, they might actually give you an idea of what was still around in the ’30’s that originated in an earlier time period. Plus you can pick up clues on dialog and diction that no longer exists. If you need to find some time appropriate movies, try looking thru the Turner Classic Movies listing. They have movies from the silent era right up to post 2000 movies.

      • Keri Peardon says:

        Yeah, compacts were invented in the 20’s, when it became socially acceptable for women to wear makeup (saw that in a re-enactor’s video on the history of 1920’s makeup).

        At the end of my historical fiction novel are endnotes that cover about 15 pages; I basically document everything in the book, from the food they’re eating, to the real historical figures they encounter, to their clothing, to the actual events that transpired, and even playing cards and the games they’re playing. (And I especially document bathing, which my characters do a couple of times during the course of the book.)

        I have all of that info in there partly because I’m anal and want to prove that I did my historical research (and I don’t want people arguing that it was impossible for a medieval man to fall in love with a Jewish woman; I can document that it happened), but it’s also there as a learning tool for anyone who wants to know more about the middle ages. I don’t just rattle off all the sources I use–which is typical for historical fiction–but I divide it up into categories, like clothing or food, and, where appropriate, I add notes to explain why I chose something or I give a little more historical background. So it ends up being a combination of bibliography and Author’s Notes.

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