Milestone Checkin

A few months ago, I announced my intention to update the eighth chapter of my fencing novel, Gray Metal Faces, during NaNoWriMo 2018. It’s now past time to report on how that worked out.

Awesome.

Yes, well enough to deserve a one-word paragraph. Italicized, even.

I completed the updates to the eighth chapter weighs on November 30, and after added my work to the draft of the previous seven chapters, I used the consolidated document to validate my results. This means I “won” the NaNoWriMo challenge of fifty thousand words — yeah, it’s supposed to be all original work, and my updated chapter weighed in at “only” 24K words. They say you’re not a cheater if you’re never caught; I say it’s impossible to cheat if nobody ever checks up on you.

At the beginning of December, I took inventory of the novel. Finishing the update to chapter 8 left me with one more chapter still in rough draft format; revising chapter nine would give me a second draft of the entire novel. My annual holiday vacation was coming at the end of the month. Did I really want to devote a good chunk of time during those two and a half weeks to working on that update?

Oh yeah, baby.

It wasn’t easy, and I doubt I’ll ever work on another major writing project during that time — but on January 8, a few hours before my flight back home, I posted the final entry to the chapter 9 revision.

The second draft of Gray Metal Faces is now complete. At over two hundred a five thousand words (a number so large that it must be spelled out in letters), it is far too large to be published as one novel. A number of options are available (cut out a third? separate the nine chapters into three trilogies? market the work as nine novellas?), but I’m not in a rush to deliberate among them.

What I want to do at the moment, is appreciate having reached this milestone. When I began working on this novel almost eight years ago, I had no idea how I could even complete a first draft. Completing this revision was an enormous accomplishment, and for the moment, I am content.

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What, Where, and When

Been a while since I’ve posted an update, and I didn’t want anyone to think I’ve disappeared:

  • The update to chapter 8 of Gray Metal Faces should be completed by the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo on Friday. This project has been largely successful, and my progress has inspired me to update the ninth and final chapter in December and January.
  • For the past several months, I’ve been teaching at a community college. Once the semester ends a few weeks from now, I’ll post about my experience there, and explain why I’ve yet to comment on teaching in this blog.
  • My non-fiction writing has been stagnant for far too long, primarily because I’ve been so focused on teaching. I’ll have more to say on that as well in the coming weeks.

Since deciding to trust my instincts, life has been predictably unpredictable. I’m still learning how to make this new life work for me, but I’ve never been more certain about my decision.

Good and Tired

Made myself get up early on a Sunday and work on my revision of chapter 8. Completed the first of four new scenes that will appear in the middle of that chapter. After I’m done with those, then it’s on to minor revisions of the chapter’s beginning, then major revisions, including one more new scene, to its conclusion.

Yeah, it was hard to drag my ass out of bed this morning, and there’s something to be said for getting adequate rest. But I can’t be afraid of being tired. The image of the leisurely writer, composing at ease while sipping a cool drink, is a dangerous myth that I’ve too easily fallen for. If the only way to make this career work is to be good and tired, then fire up the coffee maker.

NaNoWriMo 2018

For a number of reasons I may (or not) explain at some point, I haven’t been blogging lately. I’m hoping that, with this new fiction project I’m announcing today, I’ll be posting here more often.

For NaNoWriMo 2018, I’ll be updating the eighth chapter of my fencing novel, Gray Metal Faces. Those updates will be made on a separate, private blog, and I’ll be posting updates on my progress here.

Been a while since I’ve committed to a project of this size, and with my other obligations (in other words, all the things that have kept me from blogging) I’m not sure how I’m going to pull this off. But today isn’t about worrying. It’s enough to state my intention, and let this announcement serve as inspiration to find a way to get this job done.

Deplate

[Todays’ prompt for The Daily Post: Deplete]

“I just ran out of gas,” Rex explained. “Didn’t have enough left in me to get those last two touches.”

“So your energy was deplate?” Butch asked.

Depleted,” Annie interjected.

“No, deplate. Past tense of deplete, just like now and late. Everyone knows that.”

Permit

[Using today’s prompt from The Daily Post to develop an encounter from one of my story drafts]

“Just fixing to be on my way, once this log’s been cleared.” Jimmy squinted as the officer pointed the beam of his flashlight onto Jimmy’s face. “Say, John Law, mind getting that light outta my eyes?”

Without acknowledging Jimmy’s request, the officer moved the beam down to the lower edge of the van’s windshield. “Your county permit’s out of date.”

Jimmy scoffed. “Mailed my check in the other day, sticker ain’t come back yet.”

“Has to be there by the 31st — ”

“Check was mailed the 30th.”

“You’re late — ”

“It’s the goddam second of February!”

The officer brought his flashlight up to the side of his face, and flashed its beam across Jimmy’s face again. “Need to see your license and registration.”

Sitting in the passenger seat of the van, Rex reflexively reached for the glove compartment — but was immediately stopped by Jimmy’s right arm, reaching across his chest.

“Officer, you wanna gimme a ticket for an out of date county permit, go ahead. Do what I done last year — go to the registrar, show ’em my cancelled check for the permit fee, get them to waive the fine. People do it all the time. No need for you to see no — ” Jimmy spat out the next words — “license, no registration.”

The officer grasped his flashlight tighter. “There’s no need to get angry. I just need to see — ”

“You don’t need to see nothing!

Jigsawed

[A response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post]

Coach Dan approached the young fencer. “You look puzzled, my friend.”

Rune, a junior in his second year in the sport, shook his greasy head. “Last week you told me to extend my arm when advancing, to establish right of way. Now Annie’s telling me to keep my arm back, to prevent beat attacks. Every time I think I understand what I need to do, somebody tells me I’m all wrong. ‘Puzzled’ doesn’t really describe how I feel about all the contradictions — more like, my brain’s been jigsawed, and the pieces have been scattered all over the place.”

Taking Shape

Finished drafting chapter 9 of “Gray Metal Faces” this evening — and that means I’ve reached a significant milestone.

Nearly seven years ago — the exact date was October 16, 2010 — I posted a character study for what would eventually become Coach Dan. This was the start of a novel I’d been contemplating for years, and knew I would never be satisfied unless I actually wrote the damn thing. With tonight’s post, I have completed the initial draft of “Gray Metal Faces.” It’s not finished, and it certainly ain’t pretty, but it now has a sense of completion it lacked before tonight.

It’s like seeing the shape of a bowl emerge on a pottery wheel. You know it requires a lot more work, but it’s no longer a lump of clay. It has a recognizable shape — it’s a bowl, and seeing its shape emerge gives you a burst of inspiration. That’s where I’m at now with “Gray Metal Faces.” I can see its shape, imperfect as it may be, but still, there it is, after seven years of work.

Experience has taught me to take a step back and catch my breath after reaching a milestone with this novel. Not sure when I’ll get back at it (the next milestone will be a revision of the eighth and ninth chapters), but that time will come. For now, I’m going to exhale, and let myself appreciate this accomplishment.

Finish Strong

In a good position with chapter 9 as I head into the next to last weekend of the month. The first eight of the nine scenes have been drafted, leaving just the final scene in the novel’s final chapter. But I’m still climbing up a hill, rather than coasting to a conclusion; in many ways, I’ve been leading up to this last scene through all the years I’ve been working on this project. I can see the finish line, however, and I’m feeling a surge of psychic energy that I hope will allow me to finish strong.

Goal for this last scene is 6000 words (and I’ll say it again — having word count goals has been extemely helpful), a daily average of a little under 700 through next weekend. One last kick…

Getting There

Got a good start on chapter nine this holiday weekend. Eight hundred words or more each day, another five hundred the first day back to work. I’m at around twenty percent so far — still a long way to go, but at least I’m not playing catch up yet.

The pace will slow as the weekday grind sets in. Four hundred words on the days I work, double that on days off — I’ll have to pick up the pace on more than a few days to reach my goal, but I can get there. May have to push myself that final week, but this chapter is going to drafted at the end of September.