Willow Word Count…10 years later….

Last night, Scrivener informed me that I had passed the 150K overall word count on Willow. Which made me wonder what the original word count was in the 1st draft. I did some digging and came across this blog post that I did a little over 10 years ago, when I had finished the first draft.

First Draft Total:

Word Count: 462,257
Chapter Count: 79 and a prologue

Third Draft Total (pending)

Word Count: 151,179 (as of today)
Chapter Count: 44 (firm)

Wowwwwww. That’s a pretty dramatic cut. A lot of that was tossing out a bunch of extra storylines, dropping a lot of supporting characters arcs (some will get pushed to the next book if it happens), and simplifying a bunch of things. It’s taken me ten years to figure out it. I have to say though, this 3rd draft of Willow is the easiest draft to handle yet. I can actually work with it–I think writing the novella helped me with that. And I now can see the completion of this book looming close. I want to try shooting towards completing it by the end of this year, but we’ll see. ^_^

This also makes me want to go back and reread all the older posts I did back when I did more blogging. Man, my writing process has changed soooo much. I’ve been meaning to go back to more blogging anyway.

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Willow Update

Last night I finished revisions on Chapter 42 of Willow, which means that I have 2 more chapters to revise…

…except…

…Chapter 42 was the penultimate chapter, and in getting it to where I want, I have come to the realization that the set up for it needs to be written in a earlier chapter. So now I need to go back and rewrite that chapter.

Which means, actually, I still have 3 chapters left to revise.

Well, I guess it could be worse? At least it’s not the entire middle section I have to rewrite?

Guess I better get to work.

The Next Big Thing – The Weeping of the Willows

There’s this meme post going around called "The Next Big Thing" where new authors answer questions about the books they’re working on. I’ve been tagged by Sofia Samatar back in October, and then tagged again by my VPXV classmate Blair MacGregor in December. So I am really, really late on this. But never late than never, hey?

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Weeping of the Willows.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Different elements of the story came from different parts of my life.

When I was in college, I had a friend who had kept swords in his dorm room. Sometimes, we would stage  fake fights. From that, I got the idea of a black girl assassin.

Because of my Christian charismatic background, I wanted to write a world that explored the nature of prophecy. I combined that with the madness of the Greek oracles to come up with the concept of voices in my story. I also love growing herbs, and that’s where I got the idea of herbmasters instead of doctors.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I doubt it would ever get turned into a movie, but I think an older version of the girl who played Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild would be perfect as my main character, Coren.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A black female assassin is assigned to kill a herbmaster, but becomes a bodyguard to his son, the prophesied destroyer of the world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

When I finish it (and by God, it will get finished), I plan to send it to agents, but also to publishers. We’ll see what happens then.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Officially, I started writing this in 1992 and made it up to 15 chapters before I stopped in 1997. I picked it up again in 2004, decided I had no clue what I was doing, threw all those chapters out, and started rewriting from scratch. I finished the first draft in July 2007 and saw that I had enough for two books. So I broke them in half, and I’ve been in rewrites since.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hm…probably the closest would be the Sun Sword series by Michelle West.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Over time, the story evolved to the theme of identity. What is identity? How can you claim identity when it’s been taken from you without your knowledge? What must you sacrifice to forge your own identity? In a way, the book mirrors my own journey as I wrestle with these questions.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Swordfights! Plagues! Talking trees! Politics! Meddling aunts! And lots of swears and oaths…

To be honest, I’m still in the revision stage, but I’m always posting updates here at the Café in the Woods. Feel free to follow me here, or on Facebook and Twitter if you want more timely updates.

Include the person who tagged you, and add other people if you like:

As I said, I was tagged by both Sofia Samatar and Blair MacGregor. I’m going to return the favor and tag my other VPXV classmate Veronica Henry, as well as fellow Madisonite Monica Valentinelli, and David Steffen who is one of the masterminds behind The (Submission) Grinder, an alternative to Duotrope.

Weeping of the Willow Update: Resetting the Counter Back to 1

Well, I can’t put it off any longer.

The main reason I went to Viable Paradise was to get help for my work-in-process, The Weeping of the Willows. I had reached a point where I was in revision hell, and I needed clear eyes to get myself out of it.

What I learned there was that 1) everyone goes through this, 2) I got a good complex story, and 3) I need to CUT THINGS DOWN. Right now, I have so much happening and so many characters, trying to juggle it all wore me down.

I’ve looked over my outline and cut out some stuff. Some storylines can wait until the next book. I’ve combined some characters into the main characters, making the latter stronger. And ::deep breath:: I’m starting all over again.

So you see the Willow in progress counter to the right? It’s back to zero.

That was probably the most painful part of this whole process.

But…in theory…this revision would go faster. I no longer have 60 chapters to wade through. It’s been streamlined to 45 chapters. We’ll see how this works.

Last night, I edited the first page. Only a kazillion more to go. It’s a start.

Update on Willow (or Running the race as slow as I can…)

My friend Nicole recently ran the Chicago marathon. You can read her story, "Chasing Garbage Trucks (a marathon story)" at her blog, Five Penny Nicole. It’s really moving. Nicole is a fellow Chicagoan who also moved to Madison, so a lot of what she wrote resonated with me.

I mention this because as you can see, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this month. Just putting all my energies into my current short story and Willow.  And even those have been going slow. With work and Daniel’s school, I just haven’t had any decent writing time. And I also admit, I’ve been slacking in writing in the evenings. We’ve been watching Babylon 5, and while it’s an awesome show, I haven’t been able to dedicate my usual hours of work in the evening. Sometimes I do write, but it’s hard to concentrate when I’m engrossed in the workings of the Sintari. So it’s getting to be that it takes me two, maybe three weeks to finish a chapter of Willow. And at this snail pace, it would be a miracle if I finish at all next year.

In Nicole’s blog, she talks about running when most of all the sprinters and experienced runners had taken off, leaving the slow runners behind. She talks about running on the sidewalk because the police had open the streets to cars again. She talks about passing empty water stations because the helpers had packed up to go home. And she talks about how despite that, she kept on running. She had made it her goal to finish the course, no matter what place she came in.

It’s not like I have writer’s block that keeps me from working on Willow. While it feels like I’m chipping away at each chapter, paragraph by paragraph, what emerges from all that chipping is some real good storytelling. I’m taking time to think through the logistics: atmosphere, description, believable action. It helps that I’m not in a hurry. Yes, there are times when I get frustrated. I feel that I should be further along.  Here it is getting into November and I only just now finished introducing all the players and starting the dive into the story itself…

But wait…I lie. That last line didn’t feel me with frustration at all. It filled me with glee. It’s got me rubbing my hands in anticipation. I want to see the book to the end, and the thing is, I’m enjoying what I’m writing. It’s not like it’s turned into a thing I have to slog into. This week, I’m putting in the details of a palace that’s based on African architecture. Do you know how much fun it is doing that?

So yes, I’m going slow. But it’s okay. My goal is not to write fast. My goal is to write Willow and finish, so that’s what I’m going to do. And for all you NaNoWriMo writers out there who feel like you’re flagging, like you can’t keep up with the daily word count, ask yourself this: did I sign up for this just to write anything, or did I promise myself to write and finish a novel?

If it’s the latter, then congratulations. You got yourself a goal. Now just keep writing until you reach it. Oh, and thanks Nicole for re-inspiring me. Now if you don’t mind, I got some writing to do!

Short Story & Willow Update (or why the best bar stories never get published…)

Last week our home routine changed again. Daniel has started kindergarten. His transformation into a bona-fide student went so smoothly, I’m surprised he wasn’t standing at the school’s doors at 6am with his new bookbag and lunchbox, calling out impatiently, "What time is it? Will school start soon? How about now? Now? Now?"

Thank God it went so smoothly. Much better than his summer school program back in June, when he got being mistaken for a Mexican boy and put on the wrong schoolbus. I would go into more details about this, but I’ve realized something: there are just some stories that are only meant to be told once, in the heat of the moment. Told any more times after that, and then the power of it wanes. When Daniel did not get off his bus and I spent the next two hours trying to piece together what happened, my emotions became so churned, that when we finally found Daniel (safe and sound, and in fact taking great delight at his impromptu ride) I headed down to the bar where my book club was meeting, where I spat out the most vitriolic, obscenity-laden, ear-blistering diatribe railing against the ignorance and ineptitude of the whole Madison bus system.

Then, afterwards, when the room still ringing from my profanity-laced hollering and the group, in all their wisdom, got me a well-deserved Mike’s Hard Lemonade, I found myself thinking, wow. That was good!

I have since told the story since to other people, but it’s not the same. For one thing, I’m calmer and had a chance to think about it. And I’m also owing up to part of the whole mess, so the story loses its emotional impact. ("If we hadn’t lost the wristband he was supposed to wear…") And even if I did get upset about it ("Never mind that even if he did wore the wristband, they would’ve ignored it; much like how they ignored the wristband of the Mexican boy they claimed was my son…) it pales against the initial blizzard of frustration and rage I felt.

The profanity was the best part. I never swear all that much in public, and even among friends, I occasionally use a tame ‘hell’ or ‘damn’. But that night, whoa, I swear, the bar we met at got few more cracks in their ceiling from the words I was using (and I don’t regret it one bit—in fact, according to Time Magazine, it’s actually good for women to swear now and then. Acts as a pain reducer. Who knew?).

On the plus side, I did sell two stories in August. (Don’t worry, what I wrote above is related. You’ll see.) One will be published in October, the other sometime in Spring next year. So I crossed them off my list and took a look to see what other stories I had floating around the magazine markets.

Only two.

There’s one story that’s currently at Writers of the Future, so I should be hearing from that sometime this month. There’s another story that’s a rewrite request that I’m waiting to hear back on hopefully by this month as well. But as far as new stuff goes, I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Which means I better get some new stories out there to circulate, stat.

It’s not like I don’t have any stories to send out. I did a ton of writing back when Daniel was in summer school, so I actually have several finished stories sitting on my hard drive. Thing is though, these are all first drafts of stories. I wrote them as fun freewriting exercises and just never had time to go through them again. Or I figured I’d do some research first before I return to revisions. Then there’s one story I wrote a long time ago. But when I started the second revision of it, it started to get too wordy, too long-winded. The second draft was killing the story, so I set it aside to think on it some more, then promptly forgot about it.

Ever since I started writing, I’ve been of the opinion that good stories need to be revised twice, three times, four, maybe even five or six times before it’s ready to send out to markets. And I still stand on that. I’m working on a short story now that I know I’ll need a heavy duty revision for—it requires some research for it to be just right. It is a jewel that will need some good polishing to make right.

But I’m also wondering if my story-writing has improved as such that I can take some stories I wrote, do a general pass for spelling, grammar and punctuation, and just send them out. No toying with plot or point of view. No countless freewrites to figure out what the story’s theme or playing around with words to make it more lyrical. Just make sure it flows well, then send it out.

It’s a risky thing to do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to revising stories (and that’s the last time you’ll see me use the word ‘perfectionist’ when describing myself). I don’t want my stories to be merely good. I want them to be great. But who am I to determine if a story is ‘great’ or even ‘good’? The only way to find that out is to let someone else read them. But I can’t do that if they’re only sitting on my hard-drive. And there’s a possibility that the more revision I’d do, the less effective the story gets. There are some stories that do require carefully planning and revising, and there are some stories that are best when they were written in the heat of the moment, so to speak. Those stories work so well the first time, to rewrite them again would be an injustice, just like the school bus mix-up story. When I told it to my book club, it was perfect. I can’t recapture that again. (See, told you it was related.)

So here’s what I’m going to do. Starting this week, I’m going to start submitting a story a week. That means it need to be pulled off the hard drive, given a once-over to make sure it looks good, then find a market and send it off by Friday. If I do this for five weeks, it gets me five stories out in the market field. (I wanted to start this last week when September started, but with all the first day of school fun, I was pretty busy). So my goal is to have five stories submitted to markets by October 9. I’ll put a progress meter on the blog to show how I’m doing.

This isn’t something I’m doing for money or for show. It’s just a simple way for me to get some stories off my hard drive and out circulating until they find a place where they belong. Oh, yes, Willow is going along quite well. I just finished editing chapter seven, which ended on, I think, a wonderfully sinister note. I’ve been trying a new style of revision using Word 2007 comment feature—as I revise, if there’s something I’m really stuck on, instead of spending precious time trying to figure it out, I comment it with a couple of questions and continue on with the rewrite. The next time I open Word, I go to the comments first. Not only have I figured out the problem by then, but it also pulls me back into the story. I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner—it would’ve saved me a whole lot of backtracking.

But I will get Willow done. Darn it.

Weeping of the Willows update (actually, it’s more of a non-update…)

So this week is the last week of the boy’s summer school. Can’t believe six weeks went by so quickly. It’s a good thing I used all that time to focus exclusively on Willow…

…oh, wait. No I didn’t. Truth is, I did not work on Willow at all.

You see, back in June, I was working hard to make the June 30th deadline for Writers of the Future contest. Then I learned that another deadline for a rewrite request I’m doing got pushed down to August, which gave me the whole of July to focus on reworking my story. I’m glad it got pushed, because if it hadn’t, I would’ve just done a slap-and-dash rewrite and hope for the best. This gave me time to really contemplate on how to change the story. But yeah, because I was working so hard on these two short stories, Willow fell to the wayside because I didn’t have time to work on it.

Which don’t make sense at first–with the boy at school, I had oodles of time to write, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Except with all that time, I did other things too, like clean and nap and uh…read email…play Bejeweled…

But the other thing was that I was totally wrapped up in these short stories. I couldn’t put them down. I had to finish them to see how they turned out. There were the deadlines, too, but still–I was having fun working on these stories. And I felt that if I switched to Willow, I would lose my momentum in getting them sent out.

Both stories have gone out now. And I got a week left of freedom…of sorts. Except really, it’s only two more days, because I have in-laws visiting on Thursday. Which means we have to get the apartment clean. And I have an essay to wrap up that needs to get done by Saturday, which means I need to finish it tomorrow…

But I miss Willow. I miss working on it. I want to work on it again.

Okay, here’s a promise to myself. Make August Willow month. Sure, the boy will be back to being at home in the afternoons, but to be honest, I miss the structured time I had with him. Actually, there’s a lot more I miss from him not being around, but that will have to be a separate post. Trust me, come next week, I’ll probably be thinking, man, I so wish he was back in summer school…