Finally, it happened. Again.


Through Stranger Eyes is finally printed, and the red pen is anxious to have a go at it. Isn’t there something magical when you transfer the thing of your labours into a physical medium? I mean, when you type it and store it in the cloud or wherever, you know it’s there, it’s accessible, and if anyone ever doubts you wrote a book all you have to do is go online, access your files, and voilà! You can easily say, “Ha! In your face, nameless person who doubted me.”

But you have to admit there’s something so much better when the object of your desire, the reason you locked yourself away for weeks, months, or years and allowed people to think you’ve turned into a deranged hermit, is tangible and in your hands. I mean, it’s been three days since I printed it, and I’m still giddy and excited. Hell, I feel as if I can take on any one and any thing, maybe even tackle another one…

Just kidding. I will not start another story until I’m through with this one.


So this should keep me occupied for a few days (weeks or months, more likely). As I mentioned in an earlier post, once I fill this bad boy with as much red ink as I can fit on the margins of its pages, I’ll transfer all the changes into the digital copy, then turn on the macro function and sweep away all the nasty adverbs, filter words, etc that I have missed on all previous editing rounds .

My only concern at the moment is that the story came out at 140k words (!!!), which is 20-25k more than what I wanted it to be, and I doubt if I cut every adjective and adverb from the manuscript it would reach my intended word count. The funny thing is that the first draft was 128k words, but I needed to replace some of the scenes with new ones and ultimately had to add one or two extra, and that’s how I ended up with so many words.

Regardless, this ought to be fun!

How to blow some steam off

Ever since I said to myself “you’re about to finish the draft, Chris” the process has slowed to a near stop. Well, not really to a stop but words come to me a lot harder and I fail to meet my daily writing quota. Which, for a near-perfectionist on selective issues (yes, I know it sounds weird but I’m not a perfectionist in everything in my life) like me, it’s annoying. Mind you, I’m not as much a perfectionist as Patrick Rothfuss is, so no, I don’t go as far as making 80 drafts for one story (11 is the highest I’ve ever done for a short story and my average seems to be around 8-9). It reaches the point where I feel guilty for not meeting my daily word limit, which in turn makes things worse ’cause I push myself harder and that only leads to even fewer words. So, I thought, it must be the fact that too much pressure has accumulated inside. Which isn’t productive.

So, I decided to try (and I stress the word try because it won’t be easy and chances are I’ll fail at it miserably) to do as many of the following things as possible.

1. I will try to stop being so caught up into how much better other people’s work is than mine.

Ever since I started I always, ALWAYS compared my work to professional writers’ work. Yes, it’s good to have their skill and their work as a guide but perhaps a perfectionist in writing (like me) goes beyond that, thus making writing a living hell for him/her.

2. I will try to share my work with more people in my old critique group over at Scribophile or get me a beta reader (people willing to help, please comment bellow, thank you 🙂 )

I haven’t uploaded anything or written anything new since June, which is when I wrote the first line of draft for the novel I’m working on. I’ve put on hold all other short stories I had in my mind and dedicated myself to finishing the novel. It paid off, since I’m about to finish BUT at the expense of getting a pat on the back by getting a positive critique or comment about my work every now and then. All I had to go with was my inner critic and, being a perfectionist when it comes to writing, that critic may be a little bit too harsh. Probably. Not sure yet.

3. I must try to get in touch with “free writing” by using creativity prompts, usually visual stimuli like fantasy/scifi/horror images (in my case that’s what I like the most).

This used to be an exercise for me, before I started working on The Darkening. To help me write on a daily basis, I usually scoured tumblr and deviantart hoping to find an image that would stir something in me (btw, I love the word “stir”. I should make a mental note to pay attention on the number of times I have used it in my novel). Then I would sit down and write a small story, usually no bigger than 1000 words. I used to love doing that but it’s been ages since the last time I did it.

4. I must try not to worry about me having gone way over my original word limit for my novel.

There’s very little I can do about this but I have to somehow convince myself that when I start revising The Darkening, I will be able to cut the story down between 100k – 105k words. Right now I’ve reached 130k and I’m still not done. 5 more scenes… God help me, if I make it and an agent asks me to trim it by 10%-20%. I’ll probably cry if I see such a request or just throw my pc out of the window.

5. I must try not to think of the pressure the unavoidable rejections will put on me, when I’ll be querying agents.

I don’t think I have much to say about this. It’s just something I have to learn to live with. All the rejections in the world when it comes to submitting short stories are probably not enough to toughen me up when agent hunting comes. *Chris gulped nervously and made a horrified face.*

Have you got any other ideas about the issue? Some miracle technique that allows you to blow some steam off when you need it? If, so please let the rest of us know and comment below.

Status update: the closer I get to finishing, the further away I am from it.

It seems the closer I get to finishing the first draft, the longer I am from actually doing it. 7 more scenes/chapters remain before the last full stop, the so painfully sought-after “The End” and yet never in these past 4 months have I felt more tired and the end further away from me than now. I don’t know what’s wrong. Perhaps I’m fed up with it, perhaps something inside me tells me that the story sucks, that there are too many plot holes or the plot points are too far-fetched (it’s a post-apocalyptic story, which means people assign it the “sci-fi” tag, thus some parts of it, should be far-fetched to a certain extent, right?). Perhaps I feel that I have often led the (potential) reader by the hand too much, instead of letting him/her think about some things, perhaps it’s because a lot of my character development is done by showing his inner thoughts (going over the top with italics, perhaps?). The point is, where at one point a month ago I could sit down and write 1700 to 2000 words in a couple of hours (usually between 10 in the morning and be done by 1 in the afternoon with a 30-45 minute total break), now I can barely write 1000-1200 words up to 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The fact that I have exceeded my originally planned word limit for the draft doesn’t help either. The uncertainty I see before me, doesn’t help either.

125,147 words. Two scenes away from reaching the climax of the story and closing the main character’s arc. Seven scenes before the draft is over.

Any of you, dear readers/fellow writers, know if having only 5 chapters left for what follows the climax all the way to the end of the story is enough? I keep having the feeling that all the key points are in the wrong place, either too soon in the story or too late. Every time I read a technical book related to structure, I see things in my book that are wrong, when the previous structure-related book said it’s ok. It’s so frustrating! If I ever get to finish this thing, I’m so going out and celebrating it with the few friends who know I’m writing.

Of course, try as I might, I can’t see myself feeling relaxed after it, ’cause I will have to find beta readers or editors who know the craft of writing better than me. Wouldn’t things be sooooooo much easier if every one of us aspiring writers had two mentors by our side? One also aspiring writer or newly published who could help with the big, eye-hurting mistakes and then another one who would be a well known writer who’s been at it for years? How helpful would that be? Both could benefit noobs like me so much.

Too much whining. If you have an answer to my previous question, please let me know. Need to prepare the synopsis for the next scene/chapter for tomorrow. Until next time, I bid you all adieu.

Staying focused

For the past two weeks, my mind has been all over the place and I have found it very difficult to focus and reach my daily word limit or use the time I have allocated to myself for writing. In my case that was because of weariness (it’s this time of the writing process where I need to take a couple of days off from writing, though saying it is one thing; doing it is a struggle against my guilt for it, haha) and because of a minor health issue. It made me think about it, however, so today I thought I should write a few things on the topic of staying focused.

Mind you, this is my take on the subject based on personal observations. It doesn’t mean the following will work for you too. It may be worth giving it a shot though, if you find it hard to stay focused.


Early on, when I had just started writing, I kept finding articles about the need to have a routine because it would help an aspiring writer. At the time I thought of that as too much, arguing that inspiration is not something that you can just summon out of thin air and expect it to work. I thought to myself that it would be better to just feel the need to write rather than force it. It wasn’t until almost a year later that I tried it. Since then I have seen remarkable change in the quality of the work I produce and, most of the time, it’s almost as if my mind switches on for writing when the time comes. True, not every day’s work is something I’d keep during revisions BUT the point is this daily ritual keeps me focused and eager to write. You may say “but you have a novel to write and to plan the next one, therefore you can stay focused.” True, but when I didn’t have a novel in mind or didn’t feel like doing it, I went on to my tumblr account, found a photo I liked and a wrote a short story of no more than 1000 words, just to keep me in shape. Did it help? Looking back to it, I think it added its own little corner stone. Had I written whenever I felt like it, chances are I would have never written anything or it would have been impossible to tame my mind now that I have work to do.

2. Time allocation

Yeah, that one’s a bitch. Our daily lives are packed full with things to do that somehow appear (and, to some extent, are) more important that just sitting down and scribble make-believe stories. However, you won’t get any writing done unless you allow yourselves to have even a 30 minute time frame to sit down and write. It sounds ridiculous, right? 30 minutes, you say? That’s all? Well, if that’s all you can spare in a 24-hour long day, then that’s all you can spare! Would you rather not spare it at all and keep your stories in your mind or in the form of notes? As long as you can find the right time for this 30-minute window, then you will be able to use it to your advantage, provided you have first followed suggestion number 1 above. I think the two work well together. You won’t produce 2000 or 3000 words per day but you will produce 500 words and that’s 500 more words than doing nothing.

3. Setting goals you can meet at the end of the day

I guess ultimately this suggestion could be part of both previous suggestions but I think it should be on its own. Writing something big, like a novel, with so many distractions around you (*cough cough* internet distracts people?! Life does that too?!) it’s nice to have set manageable goals for each day and see them come to fruition. My goals, as far as writing is concerned, are to end the day having written AND read for a few hours. See? Nothing grand or intimidating; just stay focused on my writing and reading routine basically.

4.Use some sort of an outline

Let me be crystal clear about this: not everyone can work with an outline. I’m not suggesting that everyone should use an outline. What I am saying is give it a shot, see if it works for you. Just do it right before you decide it’s not for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an outline in the most detailed form (like the snowflake method myself and others use, which could be a book of its own if you think about the amount of words written there). You could just have a notebook by your side when you first get an idea, write your thoughts down as they come and then rearrange them accordingly to have an easy flowing plot and story. That way you can save a lot of time during editing and revising. I tried writing “on the fly” when I first started and it felt nice. It felt very creative. But I had ideas popping up every page for things that had happened many chapters before because the story shaped itself as I wrote it. That meant I had to go back and change things in previous chapters or inserting a comment on the page to correct it later. Eventually, my mind got bogged down. I had material to write, ideas to use but it was a mess in my head and I felt overwhelmed. The result was to almost give up, thinking I just wasn’t good enough for it. The feeling sucked! Why? I wasn’t focused!

5. Try not to edit before you finish the entire work

Following the previous suggestion, it may be a good idea to avoid editing last day’s work on the following day. I know a lot of professional writers do it (if I’m not mistaken, G.R.R. Martin does it?) but they are who they are and have years of experience. For me, an aspiring writer, I feel that if I were to follow that I would most probably end up editing the edited edits (!!) more than actually producing new material. Which in turn would mean that staying focused on whatever new I had to write, would be a struggle. I don’t know, it’s possible I’m weak-minded and lack discipline. Think about this, however: this may work for you if you have very little time to spend on writing. If that’s the case, the last thing you want is to spend these precious 30 minute window you have into editing instead of finishing your story up and then edit.

6. READ!

I keep an excel file where I copy (yes, copy) entire sentences and phrases from books that I read. These sentences usually refer to things that an author used in their story and had troubled me in the past or perhaps ways the writer used to draw my attention to something. I then go over them, study them and see how he/she handled that similar situation. I try to see the technique used, how each sentence is structured and then try to see how would I write it instead. The result I produce is usually sub-par BUT during this process not only I get to learn how others (better writers than me) worked their way around my problem but at the same time I put my mind into the whole writing process again. Which as I pointed our earlier, keeps me focused 🙂 Also, while reading a book you may get that light bulb over your head glowing with an idea. Which gets the productivity juices flowing etc etc.

7. Avoid wasting time on the internet

Since most of us have things happening in the house that distract us all the time, try not to add another distraction. If you can, refrain from checking your Facebook feed or tumblr or whatever else you use. I have finally managed to free myself completely from Facebook (even though I have my personal FB page and my author page) and I hardly ever check them. In fact, at the end of the day, I may check momentarily my author page, just in case a new follower appeared or someone sent a message (which hardly ever happens, by the way). But now that I’ve freed myself from Facebook’s clutches, I’m more focused and I feel happier when I see it’s one o’clock in the afternoon and I have written almost 2000 words.

Progress Report

It’s been a while since I gave you a progress report on my work so far. If I remember correctly, it was on August 31st and it was around 73k words. So here’s how much I’ve written so far: 94500 words. It’s clear now that I will exceed my originally planned word limit. The good news is that the first 10 chapters will have to be condensed into 2 or maybe 3. There are 2 scenes with dream-like memories in them where we learn a few things about the main character but they will be placed between later chapters. A daunting effort, no doubt. “Murder your darlings” is the saying, right? Well, I’ll show them 😛 The reason for such a huge need to remove so many chapters is that my inciting moment takes place at chapter 10. It was a great blunder I made, as I tried to set the character, his relation to the rest of the world (which amounts to one and only family) and, the most important for the story as I saw it then, to show the fear the survivors of the Darkening experience and how the main character experiences it. I think I over did it… Alas, we can only learn from our mistakes. I just hope that when those  revisions and edits, the result will be a less boring story for the reader (the things we do for you, dead reader, lol) without failing to show the ever-present dangers the survivors have to face.

Heat has dropped considerably here in Greece and I can once again use the PC for a few hours. Slowly, but steadily I’m getting back to reaching my old word limit of 2000 words per day. I started by getting into the habit of writing 1500 words daily but the past couple of days I was able to write 2000 words in matter of 3 hours, so that’s good news. If everything goes as planned, I will have completed the first draft by November, at which point I will put it away and not think about it for at least 1 month, if not 2. Then I’ll roll my sleeves and get it edited, hopefully with a beta-reader (that’s another problem I will have to tackle – to find beta readers).

Finally, as you may have seen already, I made some changes to the blog’s layout today. New theme, deleted a page (removed the one about the ideas) and corrected the goodreads widget. Comment below if you can’t find something or if I forgot to add a widget from the old theme or just to tell me if you like the new layout.