Novel 7 – the pre-submission journal you’ve all been waiting for.

I thought I’d share some highlights of my writing journal for my latest novel. This one took me longer than expected, I tried a new process that I think will stick with me for years. Oh yes, I’m officially and outliner. Here’s the history.

Nice cover, eh.

Nice cover, eh.

July 3, 2012

Started a challenge with a few friends, Ben Brooks and Elana Johnson. The idea was to generate 30 ideas in 30 days. I went through spurts, 2-3 some days-0 the next, but the exercise was GREAT and generated some meaningful ideas. I’ll do a follow up post on this soon. The idea here is to fail fast and get used to the process of ideation. It’s something I’m comfortable with, but honestly, 30 ideas in 30 days is not for the faint of heart.

July 6th – false started on an idea that I might go back to someday. It came from the Concept Challenge and I put some good time into before realizing it wasn’t right for me at this point.

July 8th, wrote 1 paragraph in my Concept Challenge doc that resonated and turned out to be the novel I just finished (Novel 7).

July 11th, started in on my new book (which I’m calling Novel 7 because it’s my 7th full length novel attempt) with a new method. I’ve been a pantser in the past, but it’s always led to unfulfilled endings and HUGE reworks plot wise. This time – I built a heavy structure before I began.

July 15th – finished my 8k word outline (for Novel 7). Yeah. That’s 8,000 words of “throw away” stuff. Nobody will ever see this, but it became the skeleton of my book.

July 16th – 2,130 words in Novel 7. Over my daily goal, but the words-they-were-a-flowin’.

July 23rd – up to 6,500 words. Time for some feedback. I liked where the story was heading and I was experimenting with combining prose and verse chapters, but I had no idea how it would attach to children within my target reading group. I turned to facebook for help and found 6 teen readers in about 20 minutes (via their parents).

July 30th – wrapped up the 30 ideas in 30 days thing. The last 3 ideas were perhaps the best on the list. There’s something to this. I’ll hit this later in the ideas post as well, but yeah, this was a very good thing for me to try.

August 2nd – wrapped up part one of my Novel 7. It was bubbling around 8,500 words at this point. I shared it with my wife (my #1 reader – she’s tough J). This provided me with my first red flag.

August 8th. Got all the feedback from my first beta reader group (6 kids between the ages of 10 and 13). Received good reviews, but there was some concern, some common threads. Time to draft zero for a bit. Found out that the verse stuff I’d added resonated well with the age group, which shocked me, once again reminding me that this age group exceeds my expectations.

August 9th – vowed to never underestimate my readers again. Also – vowed to go all out – and stop worrying about readers and just write.

August 12th – put Novel 7 away and dabbled with Novel 8 for a bit.

August 14th – up to 3,500 words on Novel 8. Burned it in a fire. Goodbye Novel 8.

August 17th – Went to the drawing board a bit. I had a few images in my mind for Novel 7 that I wanted to paint. These helped me capture the mood of my book better AND helped me launch my first chapter in a better place, addressing the feedback and concerns of my tiny focus group.

August 18th – started writing again. Outline polished. A few inspirational images painted. Picked out a nice playlist to cue on spotify – time to hit this thing. Spent the day setting writing goals and deadlines. Deadlines which, for the most part, were iron clad.

August 19th – hit first goal. 1200 new words. Satisfying first chapter. This ended up being the first official start of what ended up being Novell 7.

August 22nd – up to 4k words. On target. This keeps on going. I write fast, but this time I’ve decided to massage the process as I go. It makes it impossible to count revisions, but it works for me because I’m a bit OCD and I like to feel closure as I work so I 1) read chapter/section written the previous night, 2) check it against my outline, 3) adjust outline (always happens), 4) revise chapter, and 5) write new words on next chapter. Rinse repeat daily for the most part. At this stage I can hit 1k new words consistently. Fast forward because the next few weeks are pretty much the same crapola.

Sept 20th – read THE PECULIAR by Stephan Bachman. I was blown away by the voice and the complexity of this book. The subtle mentions of environment and politics to add to his world building was handled with such poise it was nearly invisible – yet ever-present. Oh yeah, I took notes and implemented accordingly.

Sept 28th – hovering around 35 thousand now and some things are a bit wonky. I realized at this point I had a plot knot coming up that would require a big revision. Some, most authors would forge ahead, but it was keeping me up at night – so I had to go back. I NEEDED to fix a problem with my MC being more reactive, than proactive. It was driving me nuts, and honestly, it is something I should have attacked earlier. I went back a bit – so things slowed down.

Oct 6th  – most of the plot problems were hammered out and I moved on here. From 9-28 to 10-6 there was zero positive word count. In fact, I lost over 6k words. Down to 29k, but ready to march.

Oct 7th – added my first new words in a while. Back on track.

Oct 8th –  Read IDA B – by Katherine Hannigan. Great use of language and a good ‘quiet novel’ approach and mechanic. Also, wonderful integration of nature into the make-up of a character.

Oct 15th – Read MAY B – by Caroline Starr Rose. This was suggested to me by a crit partner as a good use of verse in MG. Loved the book very much, but learned more about pacing than verse writing, if I’m being honest.

Oct 22 – hovering around 40K words and liking where it is going. This is a MG novel, so I’m thinking at this point I can project my final word count will end up around 50k, maybe 52 depending on how sloppy I’ll be during this draft.

Oct 23 – registered for Cheryl Klien’s Plot Masterclass. I adore her book, SECOND SIGHT, so getting a chance to hear from her in person was too hard to pass up. I also had a new deadline – must be “query ready” by 11/17. Seemed aggressive but doable.

Nov 5th – THE END – round 1. Planning on the masterclass got me pumped so I hit this pretty hard. I ended up heavier than expected, 56,244 word for round one (kind of round one). I had just under 2 weeks to polish before the class. Feeling right on track!

Nov 7th – started in on workshop materials for the Masterclass and I found some very weak parts in my book that had to be addressed.

Nov 9th – I underestimated the amount of pre-class work required for Ms. Klien’s Masterclass. I decided at this point to give up on revising until after the class and focus on being prepared for making changes learned from the class. This, in retrospect, was a good decision.

Nov 11th – read MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco Stork in preparation for the class. Loved every word – holy cow – it is so brave and honest. It struck a chord with me because of the special needs of my son, as well as identified some parallels with my MC in Novel 7.

Nov 13th – read THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING by Gus Kuijer – this book ended up influencing me (and Novel 7) a great deal, especially concerning my ending and my approach to things mystical or magical in my book. Brilliant book – you MUST read this.

Nov 14th – read MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS, By Lisa Yee. I adored how brilliant Millicent was (she’s a genius, what did I expect), but I fell in love with her sense of humor. The plot in this book is pristine. I immediately passed it to both of my daughters, who gobbled it up. (I was traveling from the 11th to the 14th – hence the heavy reading. Just sayin’ J).

Nov 16th – panicked because my book sucked and the plot workshop papers PROVED IT! Seriously, I stayed up most of the night trying to prepare for this masterclass. I’m a nerd for stuff like this – but I wanted to really absorb this puppy.

Nov 17thCheryl Klien’s masterclass was perfect for me. I wasn’t ready to submit, but I would have been bummed if I thought I was, because I was heavily influenced by the class. Tons of great info to take away, and Ms.Klien, as expected, is a fellow plot nerd. She is super smart and funny in person – I am so glad I went.

Nov 19th – deconstruction of Novel 7 begins. There was plenty to keep, but plenty that needed to go. New plan, new schedules, new deadlines – GO!

Nov 20th – found nearly 25k words worth keeping. Actually, I kind of love those 25k words, but it’s brazen for a writer to say things like this. Screw it – they are good words. I hope to share them with you someday.

Nov 28th – day before TurkeyDay! I finished the revised and improved of Novel 7. I was down to 42k words. In the revision process I lost nearly 20k words, added a character, combined 2 others, refined my MC’s drive and much, much more! Time for a little break!

Dec 1st – Set new revision schedule. Warned my trusted beta readers it was coming down the pipe asked if they would have time post Christmas to give me a good read through. Gave myself a week to let things digest, I usually like to wait longer but I wanted to get back to this.

December 3RD – read Jason Hough’s DARWIN ELEVATOR. Man, I needed this. It was nice to turn to an adult Sci-Fi for a while. Nothing like reading outside your genre to help refocus. I adored his book and blogged about it here.

Dec 8th – did a full read through of Novel 7 without taking notes during the read (hard thing for me to do). Wrote down impression and overall plot things to fixed. I did not cry and feel like I’d waited a few months, my usual reaction during this stage. Took it as a good sign.

Dec 12th –reorganized Novel 7 into “books” similar to a format found in Kate DiCamillo’s TALE OF DESPERAUX. I found the numbers in the chapter headings (chapter 1,2,3,etc…) distracting and not fitting with the mood of my book. Too formal. Decided to scrap them and rename all the chapters. Took WAY more time than I thought but it felt like progress and polish.

Dec13th – completely rewrote the last 3 chapters from scratch. They were fine, but not hitting the right chords – the resolution was there, but the emotional impact seemed forced.

Dec 16th – revision is finished. 46 some odd words. I’m really not sure how many times I revised the entire thing. Kind of impossible to tell with this new method, but I know I went over some tricky parts of the book multiple times, while others got a more traditional treatment (write, plot revision, voice revision, copy edit).

Dec 17th – Gave the finished book to my wife. She cried. Achievement unlocked. She also red-penned the heck out of it because she’d good like that.

Dec 17th part 2 – took time off until after Christmas to make candy and spend time with my family – distraction free!

Dec 29th – finished adding in my wife’s notes and a few of my own – then shot it off to a couple of friends for a read. 45,840 words. Give or take too man ‘hads and that’s’.

Dec 30th – read a crit partner’s book. Wanted to give up because she handles plot like a master – couldn’t stop reading it.

Jan 1st – sent crit partner notes. Tried to ignore the new book ideas that were coming into my mind.

Jan 5th – started Novel 8 – again.

Jan 6th – hated Novel 8 even more than previous. Burned it in a real fire. I’m not kidding. Its ashes now.

Jan 15th  – today. Started Novel 9 high concept thinking and it’s like love at first sight all over again.

That’s it. Easy. J