News Progress Post

Progress Report 2023 Week 03

After a rough start to 2023, which I described in my previous post, I was beginning to wonder what I was going to do with my writing career. Did I come to any conclusions? I’d also been unhappy with my title for Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Darkness Falls. There are too many titles like it within my genre. Did that get resolved? Let’s take a look at the numbers first.

Progress Report 2023 Week 03 By the Numbers

No words written — but I still got a lot done!

I spent the first week or two of 2023 trying to decide whether I would publish any more books. After feedback from the Facebook group 20BooksTo50K and from colleagues like Lynn in his comment on my previous post, I have decided to keep going. My wife played a role, too. She basically played the “are you really stupid enough to listen to random people tell you that you suck?” card. It was extremely effective.

Because, let’s face it. Most random people don’t have a clue just how much my writing sucks!

That said, as I reported last week, I finished the first draft of Evolution’s Hand Book 4: Blind Exodus. I have placed it in hibernation for about two months. Then I’ll go through it, subject it to ProWritingAid, and send it to a beta reader. In the meantime, I have some other work going on.

Goals from Last Week

Let’s go through my goals from last week so I can give you an idea of how I’m trying to rebound from near-terminal career doubt.

Continue plotting Book 5: Darkness Falls

I credit Dan Wells’s YouTube series on plot structure with getting me back into writing. Back in December 2020, I wrote a post that talked about how his videos broke my fixation on trying to write beats. At that moment, Wells’s seven point plotting system was what I needed to get moving.

When I plotted Evolution’s Hand Book 3: Primary Target, I struggled. What had been a breakthrough now felt restrictive. I knew beats didn’t work. I new the 7 point system moved me forward. Now, I wanted to find something that worked better. For Book 4: Blind Exodus, I also used the 7 point method. But I started looking for something different.

I recently found Plottr and tried it. I was delighted to find out it supported a variety of plotting methods, including the 7 point system! But its interface felt liberating. Wells’ system had me jump around the plot points while I sketched a story. Here’s his recommendation of what to do when:

  1. Sketch the resolution (plot point 7)
  2. Sketch the hook (plot point 1)
  3. Sketch the midpoint (plot point 4)
  4. Sketch plot turn 1 (plot point 2)
  5. Sketch plot turn 2 (plot point 6)
  6. Sketch Pinch 1 (plot point 3)
  7. Sketch pinch 2, which is the jaws of defeat (plot point 5)

In December 2020, that helped me get past a block. Now, it felt constraining. What does that tell me? It tells me depending my understanding and relative experience level, different techniques are helpful. Which is the same as saying it’s probably wise to learn basic math before algebra.

There’s nothing wrong with the 7 point method as Dan Wells presented it. Now, after writing four books, I think I need to tweak it, but just for myself. I might be wrong; my next experiment with Plottr might fail. But I can’t grow as a writer if I don’t make decisions based on my current experience.

So far, I’m excited about how Plottr fits into my workflow!

What Plottr did is help me think about the plot in a more organic way. I’m still using the 7 plot point system. I’m just using it in an order that feels better — to me. It felt so reasonable, in fact, that the outline for Book 5 is done. I’ve finished plotting Book 5: Darkness Falls! What’s more, I feel more confident in this plot than I did with anything I used my plot braiding worksheets for. I’m excited to see if that translates into a better book!

Investigate Grammarly or other companion for ProWritingAid

Someone kind enough to comment on my 20BooksTo50K post suggested I watch a video called Writing Into the Dark. In it, Dean Wesley Smith talked about his approached to writing novels. His dismissive attitude about plotting (the kind of plotting I just talked about in the previous section) shocked me. His point was that he never sat down to plan the plot. He wanted to be as surprised as his readers about how the book finished. I remembered that Stephen King, in his book On Writing, said roughly the same thing.

The confidence he projected made me listen. His raw numbers suggested, strongly, that he knew what he was talking about — the man has sold over 23,000,000 copies. It’s hard for me to fault the techniques that went into earning that kind of success.

One of the points he made was that there’s a difference between mental modes. When we’re having a blast — basically, acting like a 2 year old — we’re in creative mode. When we tear our work apart, it’s critical mode. He suggested that we should write with the 2 year old in charge.

I immediately objected. Don’t I need three or four rewrites? Well, he had an answer for that. It’s in Lee Child’s video Review Your Writing Daily. I’m an older adult. There’s not a lot that surprises me. There’s even less that makes me question my assumptions. Because I insist on facts, so that by the time something gets to my level of assumption, it’s been thoroughly vetted.

It’s a simple thing — don’t wait until the first draft is done to read out loud. Do it as you go along. But I think this could dramatically improve my output. And its quality!

Well, I should really say that it’s been thoroughly vetted baed on my best understanding of the time. Just as the experience of writing four books has pushed me into Plottr, so it has pushed me to a different understanding of plot. What Dean Wesley Smith and Lee Child said triggered an intellectual cascade. I’m still processing it. But I had accidentally started reviewing my writing daily before seeing those videos, and I knew it had improved both my productivity and the end product. So it seems logical that reading aloud daily would be helpful.

Starting this morning, in fact, I added reading my previous day’s work out loud to the regime. The number of things I found to fix staggered me. If I do that every day, by the time I get to final draft, I might only have to do a ProWritingAid pass before beta readers — and then straight to proofing. That could cut months off my production cycle. Even better: it improves the quality of the output!

The bottom line is this: instead of buying Grammarly, I’m going to invest in reading my work aloud daily, as I write.

Investigate additional beta readers for Book 3: Primary Target

See the previous chapter. I won’t know for sure until I see how the next couple of books turn out. But it looks like I won’t have to invest in additional beta readers.

I hope this is a sign that I’m not too old to think flexibly and creatively!

Brainstorm ideas for the replacement title for Darkness Falls

I want to credit my wife and daughter with helping me come up with a new title. We went through dozens. I’ve never worked harder or longer to come up with a title. But I think we have it. Drumroll please! Evolution’s Hand Book 5 is now called:

Split Infinities

The creative wave didn’t crest there. The title for Book 6 was an outlier; it only had one word, whereas the rest had two. I didn’t really plan to re-title it; I was just thinking about it when I was blathering on about Split Infinities’s plot to my wife. Then it hit me. Another drumroll, please! Evolution’s Hand Book 6 is now called:

Unnatural Crypsis

I hope I’m not mistaking irrational exuberance for creativity!

Plot Notes about Split Infinities

That creative wave? It kind of got out of control. Plottr not only helped me write what I think is a better plot for Split Infinities. It helped me write a more creative plot. First, there’re some scenes that take place outside of our continuum. In that place, people look like the main characters from Uma Musume Pretty Derby. I actually cast the arc’s antagonist, Grace Moonshimmer, using Ikuno Dictus as a guide.

Glasses and all.

Also, I’ll be interested in how long it takes readers to pick up on the clues, but I needed a way to lock technology to a certain level, but reflect more advanced methods than what developed on Earth. So, can you guess what that might be, based on this image I used for inspiration for the character Marilyn Newspice?

The technology even fits the theme. You can see the original image on this Pinterest board.

I didn’t intend to write anything in the steampunk genre. But the story had other ideas. Plottr freed my creativity to a level I haven’t felt in decades. I could barely get the words out quickly enough while I laid out this arc. Heck, it was the same for all the main characters!

I took Dean Wesley Smith’s advice to heart. In the video I referenced above, he suggested that if the writer’s having fun, it’ll come through the text and the readers will have fun, too. So I hope my readers have a blast with this one!

Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2023 Week 03

I looked at the calendar and decided that if I wanted to publish Evolution’s Hand Book 3: Primary Target in the first half of the year, I needed to finish its final draft/ProWritingAid pass sooner than later. That heavily influenced my goals for the week:

  1. Begin the final draft of Book 3: Primary Target
  2. Research who I want to conduct the proof read for Primary Target
  3. Begin bidding on the cover for Primary Target

What Do You Think?

How has your rewriting process evolved over time? Do you read your material out loud to yourself? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Progress Report 2023 Week 03

  1. Dean Wesley Smith is big believer in Heinlein’s rules which are as follows;

    Heinlein’s five rules
    You must write.
    You must finish what you start.
    You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
    You must put it on the market.
    You must keep it on the market until sold.

    Simple, right? The idea of not rewriting it (editing it) is a hard one to get my head around, but then I know that I’ve edited a document over and over again just to discover that I had reverted several sentences to the original form. I don’t think I’ll ever not edit, but I think the fewer times you can touch it the better.

    I’m also a plotter too, although I tend to use a fairly loose plot that allows me to move with the characters. The best example I found was from the writers of Lost who said they knew the beginning and the end and had several stops planned for for the journey. The rest was yet to be discovered.

    1. I’ve heard of Heinlein’s rules. Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been writing — I think I last thought about them before self-publishing was a thing.

      I wonder what “You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order” means in the context of self-publishing? Or, I wonder if I should combine it with Dean Wesley Smith and Lee Child’s insights, and only rewrite if a proofread demands it?

      Because in Heinlein’s time, most writers would be at the mercy of the big publishing houses. If they didn’t rewrite to the editor’s standards, the likelihood of getting published would plummet.

      I’d revise “You must put keep it on the market until sold” to “You must market it until it succeeds.” Unless, of course, you get 100 reviews, and all of them are 1 star with notations like “I only wish I could have given it 0 stars.”

      I like idea of loosely plotting. I want to have an idea of where I’m going so I keep everything coordinated. Like you said, that gives me a chance to let the characters influence events.

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