Sunday, August 23, 2009

Status - August 23, 2009

Meh week. Between family stuff and a crunch at the dayjob there was little time for writing, and only about half of that time was spent on the book.

Deep edits are done on 5 of 7 sections. About 1 section behind where I wanted to be by the end of the week.

Only big fixes remaining are the shot sequence, and the clues about the good Doctor’s growing stress. Also playing with an alternative conspiracy theory: what if Dr. Banks and Drake arranged to be on the wall that day in order to let the refugees in, vs. it being a random event? This alters only a few lines of dialogue, but it significantly changes the flavor of events later in the story. It makes the Taft stuff work better (plot and counter plot vs moustache twirling evil), so I think I will go with it; but it also implies the protagonists know a lot more about what is going on than I had intended.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Writing Selfish?

I recently skipped a family vacation to write.

This made me wonder--am I being selfish?

For a successful, best selling, multi-millionaire writer, this is a no brainer. For a mid-list author, this is a good question, and for an aspiring writer (like me), it is kind of a daunting question.

Having mulled it over a while, I have not found a good answer.

Let me know what you think, and how you balance writing with other parts of your life.

The cost to others

To be successful, I must write often. My strategy is to write every day. In the last year, I have only missed one day. However, these daily writing nuggets are typically small -- 1/2 an hour, an hour, two hours if I get lucky.

About once a week, I get to supplement these nuggets with a larger block of time. I try for 4+ hours, my wife often pushes back trying to limit this to ~2 hours. These large blocks are vital, necessary to work through especially difficult bits and to tie together the accumulated nuggets.

Here are a couple articles that articulate why writers (and other makers) need these big blocks:

A discussion from a writer’s point of view If you hate meetings, and the original article, which is from a programmer’s point of view: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

So what impact do these writing habits have on other people in my life?

I get up early to write. Sometimes I stay up late to write. I do not write during family time. So, the net effect is that I spend less time with my wife in the evening, and give up TV primarily, and sometimes sacrifice sleep or exercise. A small but noticeable impact on others.

The big block time has a larger impact. This time is squeezed out of time typically used for family or social activities, as well household projects and (gag) shopping. If you look at a weekend as having 4 periods: AM/PM, AM/PM, then my weekend only has 3 periods because one is absorbed by writing.

And, as previously mentioned, I use a part of my vacation time to write instead of, well, vacationing.

Add this up, and there is definitely a cost to the other people in my life, especially my wife and children.

The benefit to others

But what do they get in return, and is this a fair value?

So far, not much. Writing makes me happy, relaxed, and agreeable, but I have not made much money, nor do have anything published that would impress a non-writer (so my wife doesn’t get to brag at dinner parties...yet).

When I have more published, there will be three benefits for other people in my life: a bump in income, status/recognition, and the one I think is most important: a life lesson that dreams can be achieved with persistence and hard work. This last is an important lesson for my children, as I hope to inspire them to take charge of their lives and live their dreams.

There is also a benefit to the readers, the consumers of my writing. Entertainment at least, but hopefully more than that. I try to pose challenging questions, try to offer some insights on life, and try to offer a message of hope...but it will be a while before enough of my writing is out there for this to be assessed, and as the producer I am not the one who will judge this value.

So, I am undecided. My writing has a cost incurred by the people around me, very little benefit to them so far, but it has the potential to reward them for putting up with it for so long. Is writing selfish? I don’t know.

What do you think?

Status -- August 16, 2009

Back to the day job, and family is back in town. So, the writing has slipped once again into sllllooooowwwww motion. Since the Big Push ended, I have logged only 5 1/2 hours on the book, enough to revise half a section. Was hoping to finish that section by Sunday (today). Not there. Still have three chapters to go.

I have 3 sections (well, 2 1/2 now) and an end-to-end proofread before this thing goes out to the first readers. If this trend continues, it will take another month, maybe even 6 weeks, to get there.

Good news: I am revising an area where I have chapter-by-chapter feedback from the Writer’s Bloc writing group, so my revisions in this section are a bit more focused and confident.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Big Push

I just finished a 10-day writing marathon while the rest of the family was out of town. I kept this time free of social obligations, took a little time off work and crammed in as much writing in as I could.

My goal was to have the second draft done and the book ready to distribute to 1st readers.

It was a smashing success, though I did not get quite as far as I had hoped. Probably a month of normal paced work left before it is reader ready (30% to scrub, and a final read-through).

During the Big Push, I managed to get in two months worth of work. Let me caveat that -- between family and the day job, I have very limited time to write, so my ‘month’ is about what a full time writer can do in a week.

Anyway, reached the end and did a rolling edit going backward, section by section, fixing anything that was broken and performing sentence level edits. Made it through 4 of 7 sections, including the middle section which is 3x as long as most of the others. This leaves 3 sections to edit, a start to finish proofread, then it will be ready to go out.

After getting feedback, I expect there will be one more draft before I begin marketing the novel, but the Big Push has brought me two months closer to that goal in just over a week.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I started this book last year in July, so I am just past the 1-year mark. To celebrate, here is ZPF’s origin story:

It started innocently enough (excerpts from writing journal):

Zombies: Various thoughts
July 14, 2008 -- been on a zombie jag lately, reading some zombie stories and thinking about zombie home defense.

Ahh. Zombie home defense. Sadly, my wife does not take this as seriously as I do, so our home has many vulnerabilities--principally unprotected window wells and several ground level windows on the front porch. We also have a flimsy fence--it could keep a couple zeds out for a couple hours. After that they will probably be in the yard

Next, it evolved into this:

Zombie Proof Fence
July 20, 2008 -- still in the zombie theme
> A story making fun of the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, and of the concept--a long fence that will keep one region of Australia (or another nation) free of zombies.

Zombies remained on my brain, and I realized that human survival would be far easier if natural death did not result in zombieism. To this end:

July 20, 2008 -- still in the zombie theme
Redactol, redactase, redactinase, restorol, restorase -- a drug that can be used to treat the living so that they do not become zombies when they die. The problem is, if this drug is ingested by a zombie, that zombie becomes a super-zombie.

That ended up as Reverol in ZPF the book.

And the final straw:

The kid
>One of my thoughts is that zombies won’t actually win...they will be fairly easy to contain and deal with...the world will be different, but it will still function.
>Show a young kid, 4-6, working as zombie bait...luring them into a trap.
>Kind of silly.
>Point: zombies are not that frightening.

The kid ended up being a 12 year-old refugee, but it took a few months for the character and her arc to solidify.

After this, more and more ideas popped out. As late as August 6th, I was still trying to whittle this story down to 1000 words for the Writer’s Bloc flash fiction challenge.

Then came World Con. The world science fiction convention was in Denver in 2008. So I went. And it blew my mind.

During the convention, the flash story grew into a short story outline, and about 6 pages of notes on the world. A new writer's series at the convention and chatting with several authors convinced me that I should tackle a book.

At some point in August (I did not capture the date), I set aside other projects and committed to writing this book. By September, I was passionately working on it.

Ever since, I’ve averaged 60 hours a month writing, and most of that has been on the book.