Update on My Novel: Month 25

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

MAY STATS

Days Writing: 7
New Words: 1303
New Chapters: 0.75

Total Word-count: 72,605
Total Chapters: 21

May was a funny month for my novel. I had great success with my 500-words-per-day minimum in April, and stated that it was my intention to maintain that pattern through May, though with more days of work. On the one hand, I did maintain my 500-words-per-day expectation, but I certainly did not increase my number of days at work.

I realize that 1303 words divided by 7 days may not look like I did 500 words each day, but I only wrote new material for 2.5 of those days (the 1303 words), and the rest of the time was spent reading through and revising Chapter 21, and each of those days I revised 500 words or more of what had originally been written.

To be fair, these numbers don’t give the full picture of the work that I did either. I may not have had much time for With the Beast, but halfway through the month I decided to revise my approach to the novel entirely. I realized I was being too casual about the whole thing and wanted to treat it more like a serious business. I conducted a number of board meetings with myself, where I reviewed all the different projects I am working on, evaluated whether they were worthy of continued effort, created a regular work schedule for my writing, and addressed likely obstacles to keeping that schedule. All of which I hope will lay the foundation for increased performance in my writing, though at the expense of much of my writing time for this particular month.

I am very excited about the new schedule, though. It will take discipline, but if I am able to follow it I will have 7.5-10 hours each week to work exclusively on With the Beast. Given my average rate of writing, that would be about 2000 words written and revised each week, or 8000 each month. Not bad at all!…if I can keep myself on task.

That will be the challenge and the hope. I do believe that I could finish this novel at the same crawl I have been moving at lately, but I am not content with that. I need this process to go faster! I’ll let you know if I’m able to obtain that with my next update.

And as always, here’s a small snippet from what I wrote this month.

Of course some days an entirely new situation arises that Clara has never seen before, such as when she finds a cluster of tiny, golden eggs on the underside of the tomato leaves. She brings them to her mother for analysis.

“Yes, it’s some sort of insect,” Eleanor sighs wearily. “They’ll eat the leaves as soon as they hatch.”

“What do I do?”

“Two things. First you must check every leaf daily and scrape off any eggs that you find. Next you must take a board of wood and lay it at the foot of the plants. Turn it over every morning, before the sun is fully up, and crush any bugs that are sleeping under it.”

Clara follows both steps to the letter, and the next morning she nearly screams when she turns over the board and is met by a mass of dark beetles scurrying all about! She presses a fist to her mouth to suppress the shout, but paces back and forth uncertainly, not wanting to follow through with the last of her mother’s directions.

But she knows that everyone is counting on her…what can she do but follow through? So she screws her eyes shut and stomps her foot down on the mass. Then again and again, peeking every now and again until the deed is done.

And each morning faithful Clara continues to squelch out their number and scrape off their eggs until their numbers finally diminish and the crops are saved.

Update on My Novel: Month 24

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

APRIL STATS

Days Writing: 16
New Words: 4173
New Chapters: 1.25

Total Word-count: 75,955
Total Chapters: 20.25

In April I wanted to prioritize my story above all other hobbies and to write or edit 500 words each day. To the first matter I didn’t have very much success. I worked on my novel for only half of the days this month and there certainly were times where I didn’t prioritize it as highly as I could have.

But as for the second point I found some real success! I wrote or edited 500 words for all but one of the days that I worked on the novel, and on several days I wrote quite a bit more. The result of is that April showed more progress than any other month in the last year!

So of course the 500-word minimums is going to remain moving forward! I have always heard the importance of never having a 0% day, the advice that you must always work just a little bit on your personal projects, even if it is only the tiniest of contributions. And I do believe that that is good advice. Regular consistence in even a small effort will eventually build up to something substantial.

However I also feel that that piece of advice needs to be paired with another, which is that you don’t build up inertia until you put in enough effort to overcome friction. If I write so little each day that I can’t even feel the progress, then quickly I stop seeing the point in it and I stop. I may not have to write thousands and thousands of words, but I do need to write enough that the experience feels rewarding. For me that seems to be right around the 500 word mark.

Now let’s just see if I can pair that 500-word minimum with more days at work. Imagine how much I might have written with 20 days, or 25! That’s what I’ll be striving for in May and I’ll let you know in a month how it turned out. In the meantime, here’s a little snippet from my work this month.

Purging out the fungus takes a toll on the field. It is a matter of weeks until the last traces of it have disappeared, and during that time entire sections are carved out and burned, leaving ugly scars of desolation scattered all around.

But to William’s great relief, at last the crop is showing signs of healing. An entire week passes without a single new infected stalk, and those that remain of the crop are all thriving wonderfully.

The stalks are now so tall that they reach higher than any of the family members’ heads. They are thick, too, each as wide as two of William’s fingers. Individually they are impressive, but gathered in their legion they are completely tremendous! Three thousand stalks, straight, tall and slender, all of them reaching out green arms to salute one other, all of them standing faithfully in their rows and columns. One cannot help but feel that they are viewing a great army of satyrs!

All combined this great battalion weighs nearly five tons, a truly staggering mass, especially when one considers how it was sucked out of the earth by the finest of straws. Through a bed of threads has grown a city of giants.

“I believe we are in the clear,” Eleanor says to William as they look over the field at the close of day. “I was thinking to return to the gardens with Clara tomorrow.”

“Yes, I’ll be able to manage from here,” William asserts. “They’re too great to fail now, just look at them all!”

Eleanor lefts her arm around her husband’s shoulders and strokes his curly hair. Silently the proud parents watch over their tremendous brood.

Update on My Novel: Month 23

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

MARCH STATS

Days Writing: 22
New Words: 1525
New Chapters: 0.25

Total Word-count: 71,186
Total Chapters: 19

My goal for March was to work on the novel every single day. Even if I accomplished very little, I just wanted to learn how to be consistent in having some daily effort. And so far as that’s concerned, this month was a fair success. In all I worked on my novel for 22 days. Not my best ever, but certainly better than any months of late.

Obviously the 1,525 words written isn’t anything special, though. I only finished writing chapter 19, did an edit on all of it, and wrote a small piece of chapter 20. This continues a depressing trend in my performance. During the second year of working on this novel I have accomplished far, far less than I did during the first. Much of the time I feel like I am only scratching out the story a single grain at a time, and this feeling leads to a negative cycle. I feel dissatisfied from accomplishing so little, which makes me less motivated to put more time into it, which obviously makes me accomplish even less.

One of my major problems is that there are so many other things I want to fill my free time with. I want to have relaxation and recreation, just like everyone else, and I also struggle with more hobbies than I know what to do with. With these two forces combined it is a very hard thing to just say “no, write your book instead.”

I’ve been thinking about this, though, and there’s an experiment I’d like to try. While I might find it impossible to close the door on all my other ventures until this novel is finished, I don’t mind temporarily scaling them back. During the month of April I want to work on my novel every day, and I want to write or edit 500 words at least on each of those days. And so long I haven’t met that quota, I won’t do any of my other side activities during that same day.

I’ll still go to work just as much, I’ll still spend quality just as much time with my family, I’ll still take care of all my errands…there just won’t be any of my other personal treats until the novel has been cared for. And it might be that this excessive, and it might not even be sustainable…but that’s alright, because I can always recalibrate at the start of May.

I’ll let you know how this experiment goes next month, and in the meantime here’s one of the new pieces I wrote this month. Enjoy!

“Unless you want to take your chances, you should give the woodworker a drawing of exactly what sort of mirror to make,” John explains.

“Like how it should be shaped and all that?”

“Yes, exactly. Here, stand on this stool and look at what I’ve got laid out on my table: schematics.”

“Drawings!”

“No. Schematics. Drawings are fanciful and imaginative, but schematics are technical, shown to scale, giving the exact dimensions so that anyone can create the thing you want to perfect detail.”

“So for my mirror…”

“The woodworker wouldn’t only know how it should generally look, but the exact size and shape of it as well.”

“Alright, how do I make one?”

“I will help you with that. Let me get a fresh sheet ready. Alright then, how tall should it be?”

Clara lays two hands on the paper and John makes a mark at top and bottom.

“And where should the handle come to? Very good. And how wide at the widest part? Excellent. Mind you, we can alter this as we go along if it doesn’t come out quite how you wanted, this is just to get us started. Now tell me exactly you wanted this to look, and let me know any time I start to go wrong with it…”

An hour later and the schematic is complete.

“Do you like it?” John asks Clara.

“It’s wonderful! I just wish I could hold it!”

“Not a bad idea. Better to look at a physical model than just a drawing–“

“A schematic.”

“Yes, a schematic. Go look for something that’s the same size as this handle and see if it feels right in your hand.”

Update on My Novel: Month 22

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

FEBRUARY STATS

Days Writing: 12
New Words: 2867
New Chapters: .75

Total Word-count: 69,756
Total Chapters: 18.75

I consider February to be a more successful month than January. Not just because I was able to actually work on new material, but because my mind was more dedicated to the work…sometimes.

The fact is my performance for February was still very low. I seem to have found my way into the doldrums lately, and I’m having a hard time getting back out of it.

Of late I’ve had the goal to just write something every day. As you can see, I still missed on that very lax requirement for more than half of the days this last month. And on the days that I did write, I didn’t strive to do more than the bare minimum. My average wordcount on the days that I wrote was just shy of 240, hardly anything at all

I’ve tried a few different ways to get out of this slump, and frankly none of them have lasted more than a month. That’s alright. I’ll keep trying new ideas until either I find something that sticks or I get this novel out the long way.

So for March my goal will be to double down on that “write something each day.” All I’m looking for is consistency. I want to find a routine that I can become dependent on every day, even if it only churns out 20 words each time. I will measure my success in number of days and repetition, not in final wordcount. Once I’ve got that, then I’ll look for ways to expand on it.

Come back April 1st to hear how it went. In the meantime here is the piece I have selected to share from my work this month. Enjoy!

It is a very heavy blow to William, it hits even harder than the worm infestation. The first loss had softened him, so now this one is able to strike deep and truly wound.

“I’m sorry, William,” Eleanor can see the heartbreak in her husband’s eyes. “Will we still have enough crops to make enough of a profit back on the mainland?”

“Who’s to know? And even if we do now, then what about after the next problem comes up? Or the next after that?”

Eleanor nods sympathetically. “Things seemed to go much more smoothly during the trial season, didn’t it? Of course we were growing much less, then.”

“Yes, there seems to be much more that can go wrong when there is an entire community of crops.”

“Yes, there is,” Eleanor nods. “I know your original plan was to earn one-fifth of what we initially spent to come out here. If we bring in one-tenth, instead, is that so much worse?”

“Ten years to be successful in our investment?!”

“But we’d still be able to hire at least one or two new hands and expand on the foundation we’ve already set. Why the next year we’d be able to double things up to that one-fifth level. The next year even further. Accelerate the growth, just as you had been saying.”

William nods, but Eleanor can see he isn’t too encouraged.

“But today is still a disappointment, and I certainly wouldn’t sweep that under the rug. I’m truly sorry, darling.” Eleanor rests her hand on her husband’s sunburned arms. “You’ve worked very hard, and you’re not wrong to want to see the fruit of that. I’m sorry.”

Update on My Novel: Month 21

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

JANUARY STATS

Days Writing: 13
New Words: 0
New Chapters: 0

Total Word-count: 66,892
Total Chapters: 18

Well, as you can see from these numbers, January was a very different sort of month, unlike any that I have worked before. My goal had been to carry on December’s “no back-to-back missed days,” but I didn’t meet that goal at all. And more alarmingly, I didn’t add any new words to my draft, I only refined the previous chapter.

To be perfectly blunt the work of this month was a very difficult slog for me. I had a long, troubled sequence to correct in Chapter 18, and I rewrote it multiple times before I was finally satisfied with the result. It was hard to motivate myself each day to grapple with it again, and that is what led to the low number of days.

I am pleased to say that I have the deed done now, though. There will, of course, be later drafts and refinements, but the sequence in question is at least on the same caliber as the rest of my novel now.

What finally got me over this hurdle was that I wrote the sequence in as verbose of a way as I could manage. I pumped it full of prose and complexity until it was bloated to nearly twice the size of what I wanted in the final product! Then it was a relatively easy task to read through the mass and carve out only the best chunks, chipping away at the sculpture until the proper form emerged from within. Next time I’m having trouble with a piece I’ll have to remember this method try it earlier in the process!

Today I start writing Chapter 19. I’m very excited to get going with the new material and I hope it leads to a more satisfying experience for the month. Come back on March when I’ll give you the next update. Before I go, here’s a section from my work in January. It is, of course, extracted from that large sequence that gave me so much trouble. Enjoy!

Thus, one morning John goes into his favorite grove, cuts down that giant tree, takes the top off, and clears it of every branch until it is ready for the carry.

His cart cannot assist him for the first part of this journey, the ground is much too uneven. He must negotiate the way with his two feet alone, the full weight of the tree upon his back. He knew this, though, and has already fashioned a rope-and-leather harness just for the job.

So he sits against the fallen log and secures it to his back, then rises to his feet in stages. At a few points he is in danger of falling backwards again, but finally he manages to stand erect. However no sooner does he accomplish this than his whole frame starts to shake and he has to drop to his knees to keep from tipping over. It takes some effort to adjust to this massive and very top-heavy load, but gradually he becomes acclimated to it, and then he is steady enough to stand and walk forward.

What follows then is a very deliberate march. Every bump and divot, every tangle of roots, every patch of concealing leaves is a terrible menace, and his eyes constantly scour the tapestry before him, careful not to miss any nuance of the land.

Now he goes up a small rise in the land, toes digging hard against the slope. Now down the other side, each step planted broadside for better stability. Now descending a rocky outcropping, shoulders rolled so that the edge of the trunk scrapes against the stones for an anchor. Now splashing through a narrow stream, knees bent to absorb the shock of the water’s force. Now picking across the washout of a rockslide, heels crushing loose pebbles and sliding shale underfoot. Now lifting feet high over a series of fallen trees. Now stiffening against winds that pelt down the mouth of a ravine. Now slamming feet to a halt when a rabbit startles out of a bush just ahead. So many little obstacles that normally would not require any special consideration, but today they are all herculean trials!

Update on My Novel: Month 20

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

DECEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 25
New Words: 4003
New Chapters: 1

Total Word-count: 66,847
Total Chapters: 18

Coming into December I knew that it is usually a difficult month for writing, given how heavy it is on holiday festivities. I was also afraid that if I started missing multiple days back-to-back it would be all too easy to give up on it entirely until the new year.

So at the start of the month I made a commitment to not have two days back-to-back where I didn’t work on the novel. A lofty goal…and I made it!

The days that I missed were the 6th, 12th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 27th. As you can see, at the end I started missing every other day as the festivities ramped up, but I successfully managed to sandwich each absence with at least a little bit of work before and after.

And how about that grand total of 25 days writing?! I believe that is a new record for me, and I do think it was directly due to this idea of no back-to-back days off. 4003 words written means that each of those 25 days was a little light, but that’s still the most I’ve written in a single month since March.

If you’ve been following my progress, then you know I have tried a variety of different routines to get the most out of my writing and some of those have been more successful than others. I’m pretty excited about this new no-back-to-back-misses approach, though, and will certainly be carrying it forward!

So here’s hoping for another great month in January, I’ll let you know in February how it went. As usual I’ll send you off with a piece that I wrote during this month. Enjoy!

Then begins the crafting stage. Of all the phases, this one is the most routine and repetitive. There are many identical pieces and all must be cut to exact length and precisely shaped, so that they may be bolted together in a perfect fit. And as the full quantity of these has already been tabulated, John has a quota for exactly how many pieces to construct each day. Like a machine his arms memorize the movements and repeat them over and over, parts flying off the table in rapid succession until the full tally has been made.

Of course he cannot completely assemble the pieces of the mill at his workstation, for then they would be too heavy to carry down to the river. Thus he forms them into as large of pieces as his little wheelbarrow can bear, then he will carries them down to the river and completes their construction on-site.

This transportation phase requires some adjustments to the wheelbarrow, though. A single wheel and two leg supports has made for a most agile vehicle, but it simply won’t do when supporting massive constructs of lumber. So he gets rid of the legs, adds three more wheels, expands its bed, and raises its walls. Now it is a proper cart.

Then he treks down to the river, one load at a time. It is not easy to haul such large pieces over such a distance. The ground, while relatively flat compared to the rest of the island, is still far from a paved road. Indeed John thinks to himself during the process that he will have to prioritize making some roads during the off-season when he has a spare moment.

But for now there are no spare moments. He is still holding himself to a rigorous schedule and he must make many trips back-and-forth, every single day. By his copious experience he knows full well how much strain is behind every numbered task. He knows the exact amount of work to be accomplished and the amount of pain to be endured, and he does not let his day finish until he has met both quotas.

Update on My Novel: Month 19

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

NOVEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 13
New Words: 2121
New Chapters: 0.33

Total Word-count: 62,821
Total Chapters: 17

Definitely a quieter month for me compared to October. In fact it was my fewest number of days since July. Those days felt a bit like running in place, too, as most of my time was spent back in my previous chapter, adding in another scene.

November is a big holiday month here in the United States, and that definitely was a large factor in how things went. But December is an even bigger holiday month, and so I am anxious about falling into the same trap.

The hardest thing for me is to have skipped a few days, and then have to get back into the context of where I was the next time I start. It makes it all the more tempting to just skip the next day as well.

To that end, I’m going to take special note whenever a day passes and I haven’t written anything. I will make it a rule that I must write on the next day in that case. I’m far enough ahead on my story blog that I could even afford to take a day off there, if it meant having time to work on the novel.

We’ll see how this approach works. If it’s effective, then the absolute minimum number of days for me will be fifteen, which isn’t great, but still better than what I managed this month.

For now here’s a piece that I wrote during this month, it is part of the scene that I added into Chapter Seventeen. Fair warning, it is rather intense.

“Yes. See how you’ve clenched yourself? All the muscles in your abdomen tight as a rock? That’s no good. Then when it has to drive through that’s–“

A strangled cry emanates from deep in your throat as ‘it’ pierces through with a series of rapid surges, forcibly cutting its way through the muscle on its way towards the surface. You sift your fingers back and forth through the dirt, trying to focus on that sensation, willing it to take your mind off the pain at your belly. You give two sharp inhales, then try to relax your muscles.

It is a hard thing, though. For the flesh feels the knife’s edge within, and instinctively flexes itself against it.

“Focus on my voice,” your companion offers. “Make me everything you see, hear, and know. Better to turn away from yourself at this part. Better to make it so you don’t even know what happens.”

The knife-edge pulls back, then lunges forward again. Your somewhat relaxed muscles seize right back up and you cry out again! The knife-edge increases pressure, drives itself at the fibers. You give a long, guttural groan, clenching your fingers on the hard soil, gripping the entire earth for you anchor.

“Press on!” your companion cries. “Press on! You are so near!”

Your long shout goes silent as the last of the air expels from your lungs. You choke silently for a moment, then ‘it’ bursts out of your navel like an arrow.

A strange cry, like that of a wounded animal, warbles out from between your numb lips.

“Yes! Yes! You’ve done it!”

Your whole body trembles as you let your torn muscles slacken. With face on the ground you catch a glimpse of a small gray creature falling to the soil. It drives razor-head into the dirt and scrabbles its feet madly. It disappears into that new womb, churning the soil up in a small cloud as it seeks its collective.

For a moment you feel nothing, and then all at once the entire ground seems to turn beneath you. A single massive force contracts and flows, like a massive underground river. It is the collective welcoming their newest brother.

With a sob you roll onto your back, weep the birth, and try to stop your body from its convulsions.

Oh, Go Be Bored!

Photo by David Fagundes on Pexels.com

A Story of Me)

I never lacked for food, clothing, or shelter as a child. I never brought any complaints to my mother in those departments. What complaint I do remember bringing to her, however, was that I was bored!

“Well you have plenty of toys!” she might say.

“Yes, and I’ve played with them all.”

“I haven’t heard you practice your piano lessons yet…”

“No thank you.”

“Why don’t you read a book?”

“I’ve read books.” (To be fair, I really had. I read many, many books in my youth.)

“Well I’ve certainly got my fair share of chores that you could help me out with.”

“I said I was bored, not a masochist!”

Clearly, it was up to me to resolve this dilemma.

It was a tricky problem. For starters my family was homeschooled and insulated, so I didn’t have any friends to hang out with. We didn’t have cable or internet or video games. We did have over-the-air television and movies, but I was quickly saturated with those and still dissatisfied. And it wasn’t entertainment I wanted anyway, it was something to do.

We did have a computer, though. A Windows 95, complete with Microsoft Office. Simply because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I gravitated towards this, and in my boredom found two great loves that have defined me ever since.

One was programming. I found how to record macros in Microsoft Excel, and I used that to start making simple point-and-click adventures. I would try to make sense of the generated code and modify it when it didn’t quite do what I wanted. I didn’t know that this “programming,” and I certainly didn’t know that you could make a living off of it. At that time it was just my own little world, and it would be years before I stepped into the wider universe of software development and made it into my career.

There was another “own little world” that I found on that computer, too. One day I opened up Microsoft Word and started writing out my first story. I got out all of four-and-a-half pages, literally could not think of a single other thing to say, so I typed THE END at the bottom.

I was hooked.

One story followed another. One about a superhero, one about a small ant, one about a group of orphaned children. Each one was longer than the one previous: ten pages, fifteen, twenty.

Finally, when I was about twelve, I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. From that point on everything I wrote was a fantasy. I scaled my writing up to an epic novel in five parts which totaled over 100,000 words. My next work was the only hand-written piece I’ve ever done, and it was over 300 pages.

And all of this writing was done primarily on days when I was bored. Eventually I got a job and went to college, and for a time was too busy for the writing. But thanks to the days of boredom, I had found the things that I loved to do, and I always knew that I would return to them eventually.

Boredom: The Sequel)

Nowadays, I am not nearly so bored. Of course there are the occasional moments of lethargic indifference, where nothing sounds interesting to me. And there are the brief stretches of time where I have to impatiently wait for something. But by and large boredom is not a way of life anymore.

And that’s alright, because I already have my passions to follow. So now boredom serves a new purpose. I don’t use it to seek out what vocation speaks to me, I use it to know when I’m doing a good job in that vocation. For example, when I’m writing a story and I start to get bored with it, I know it means that I’m leading the story down the wrong path.

Think of a story as a journey, one where you are willing to arrive at any destination, so long as it is an interesting one. With parameters that wide, you could take this journey in any manner of different directions. But of course, not all of those paths are going to be as fruitful. In this journey there are treacherous routes you need to avoid altogether. You certainly don’t want to get stuck in the bogs of inaction, or tangled in the doldrum forests, or lost in the mazes of irrelevant plot.

Each of these slows your progress, and some can even bring you to a complete stop. I know this firsthand.

Because for all the stories I mentioned up above, the ones that I completed in my teenage years, there were just as many that I only partially wrote. They were tales that I began with great excitement, but which somewhere along the way found unbearable to continue.

At the time I didn’t understand why I couldn’t finish those projects, why my stamina ran out on some stories but not on others. As I’ve gone back and read over the unfinished drafts, though, I’ve realized that I always quit right when I hit the boring parts.

It is barely tolerable to sit through the boring scenes as a reader, but it is all the more unlikely to power through them as the author.

In the course of writing this blog I have run into this same conundrum again. I had multiple instances where I dreaded continuing with my current story, and fortunately I realized that it was not an option to just force my way through. If I did that, then I would deliver stories that I hated and my readers would be bored out of their minds by, and eventually I would stop writing them altogether.

So instead I have learned to recognize that dread of writing for what it is: my journey has wandered into one of those paths of boredom. And when I realize this I say “Oh, looks like I found the wrong path. I really had meant to go down this way, but it’s better to give up those expectations than kill the whole thing.”

Then I delete the last few paragraphs–take a few steps back on the path–until I reach the junction where I turned into the troublesome area, and look for another way forward. And you know what? I’ve always been able to find one.

A Non-Boring End)

So here I am, writing stories that I truly enjoy, and I owe it all to boredom. Boredom led me to discover story-telling in the first place, and boredom showed up again just last week to save me from writing a lifeless exchange in my most recent story.

My first draft of the boys discovering the stranger had been platonic and rigid and unbearable to write. Thanks to boredom, that scene now features a freakish woman whose face has been turned to stone and a guard who wields a shotgun-crossbow. You’re welcome!

Come back on Thursday to see how that story progresses. I promise I will have course-corrected any time it started to stray towards boredom!

Update on My Novel: Month 18

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

OCTOBER STATS

Days Writing: 20
New Words: 3924
New Chapters: 1.25

Total Word-count: 60,547
Total Chapters: 17

Well this month was my most productive in a long while! It was the most words written since March, and the most days-in-a-month working on the novel since October last year! It would have been nice to break the 4,000-word barrier…but I’ll just have to keep that as a motivation for this next month.

A little less positively, I noticed during this month that I kept falling into a pattern of halfhearted writing. I would open my word processor, type out a minimum number of words as quickly as possible, and the quality just wasn’t up to the standard I have been striving for. I’ve told myself previously that it’s okay to only write out a few words during a busy day, but they still ought to be quality words!

On the other hand…maybe my tepidness is a blessing in disguise. It could be a warning to me that the section I am working on is not very interesting, and will be a slog for the reader to get through as well. A slow middle is one of the most common failings in literature, and I might very well be falling victim to it myself!

But if I am able to recognize this trend as it happens, I will still have time to correct it. I’m currently doing a once-over on my latest chapter, and in addition to picking out grammatical and logical errors, I will repeatedly ask myself “is this even interesting.”

For now, though, here’s a piece that I wrote during this month. One that I feel still has that spark I’ve been striving for. Enjoy!

But William has no more time for ruminations, for Eleanor is now ushering the family to their seats around the fire, and once they are settled she presents the first real feast that they have enjoyed since setting foot on the island!

The main attraction, of course, is the roasted bird.

“Oh, this is divine!” William exclaims. “What kind of fowl is this?”

“Well I’m not sure exactly,” Eleanor answers, “but it looked like some sort of pheasant.”

“Are we going to start putting traps out for them regularly, now?” he smiles hopefully.

“Yes, I think so. Try and catch a few and start breeding them I imagine. Though this came out quite dry and bland, didn’t it?”

Everyone murmurs in disagreement. But of course, this is the first fresh meat they’ve had since they arrived, and even dry, bland fowl seems succulent and rich!

In addition to the pheasant, there are two side dishes made from the recently harvested produce of their garden. The first is yellow yams that have been boiled soft, with green beans and peas mixed throughout. The second is another set of yams that has been sliced and fried, and is served with a dip made of mashed mung beans.

And even this isn’t all. A large bowl is also passed around, full of nuts and sunflower seeds, and also a jar of tamarind jam to enjoy by itself.

“How nice to have a dinner with dessert again,” John approves. “Would you like some, Clara?”

“No,” she wrinkles her nose. “I don’t like tamarinds. And that’s not what we’re having for dessert.”

“There’s more?” John looks in amazement to Eleanor, who reaches behind the stump she is sitting on and produces cashew fruit, cut into halves and topped with some of the leftover cane sugar from their test crop.

They all eat more heartily than they knew they could. There isn’t a single morsel left in any bowl or plate, and there isn’t a single finger that isn’t licked clean. They are quite full when all the food is gone, yet each feels they would happily eat just as much again.

Update on My Novel: Month 17

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

SEPTEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 18
New Words: 3145
New Chapters: 1

Total Word-count: 56,412
Total Chapters: 15.75

Well 3,000 words-per-month definitely seems to be my pattern of late! Actually, if I’m being honest, I was tracking well below that level until the end of the month, and when I realized it I redoubled my efforts just to be sure I made that mark. I guess 3,000 words unconsciously became a minimum standard for myself.

Also, I wouldn’t have had a chance of hitting that many words if not for a writer’s group that I am a part of. Each meeting we take an hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing to get out as many words for our novels as possible. I only attended one of these meetings for the month of September, but from that one session I got 1,200 words. Just by attending more of these (they occur on a weekly basis) I could get a lot more done each month.

For the past while I’ve been realizing that the greatest slow-down to my writing process is that I review each chapter after I finish writing it. I don’t get chapter polished to a perfect state, and there’s still going to be a lot of refactoring and revising to do later, but my work does become markedly improved from this editing-as-I-go approach. I think it is an important process, but it sure does put the brakes on my momentum.

I’m not sure what to do about that yet. I could push myself to edit each chapter for a set number of days only. I could try to be more sparse in smoothing out each rough spot. I could see if it is better to write out three whole chapters, and then edit them as a batch.

Perhaps I’ll implement some of those ideas this month, I’m still not sure. But I will be paying close attention to how things go once I get finished with Chapter 16. Come back on November 1st to hear how it went.

Before I head out, though, here’s a little snippet from my work this month. Enjoy!

An early chill crawls out of the earth that night and the family awakens to several patches of dew that have crystallized into frost.

“Is this a concern?” William asks Eleanor.

“No, not yet. We had a few cooler days last season as well, and none of them were a problem for our test crop.”

The wind picks up, and all of the family pull their blankets more tightly around their shoulders and lean closer to the fire.

“Well that’s a proper sea breeze, isn’t it?!” William exclaims.

“Yes, and a sea sky,” John observes the flat, gray canopy overhead.

“Well I think it’s quite refreshing myself,” Eleanor smiles. The wind picks up once more and she shrinks back into her blanket. “I’ve gotten so used to this hot and humid air that I don’t even notice it anymore. Nice to have a day that you can actually feel once in a while!”

“Well I prefer not feeling the day,” Clara shivers.

“Were you finished with your porridge?”

“Yes.”

“Well then why don’t you and I start on our way. The walk will help thaw you out.”

“But then I won’t be in my blanket anymore.”

“I’d consider letting you keep it around you, but then you’d have to carry it back at the end of day.”

“I’ll carry it!”

“And it will be hot and stuffy this afternoon, and you won’t enjoy having to carry it then.”

“No, I’ll be alright. Thank you, mother.”

“I believe you mean ‘please, mother,'” William cocks an eyebrow.

Clara sighs. “Please, mother?”

“Well, alright.”

“Thank you, mother.”