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.

Since last week

This past week here in Greece has been quite hot, at least for my taste. To be honest, I don’t like being in a hot environment. By hot I mean any temperatures that exceed that of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). I should say at this point that I don’t have an A/C unit in my house (please, don’t ask) and the heat in here goes beyond 33 Celsius (91-92 Fahrenheit). However, that temperature (33 Celsius) can only be achieved if I keep my super ATX PC tower (I have an inborn dislike for laptops, lol) switched off! By keeping the thing switched off, means I can’t write and this makes me feel guilty. Why? Because of the heat it generates.

When I bought the PC four years ago (back when I still had a job), I bought it having in mind that I wasn’t going to change it for at least 5-6 years, preferring to invest money on it then by buying something that would last longer and save some money in the long run. Have you ever regretted not doing something? It’s the worst kind of regret, I think. At that time I had thought to myself that a water cooler system wasn’t going to be all that necessary. I can honestly say to you now, that I regret not having spent the extra money on it. As my PC is now, its exhaust releases temperatures that exceed 45 Celsius (that’s 113 Fahrenheit!!). Can you imagine what it’s like having to spend several hours next to that oven (it’s my PC’s summertime nickname), squeezing your head for ideas while writing? I can assure you, it doesn’t work for me. Oh, yes, I should also point out that the above temperature (113 F) only applies when the PC is on but idle, meaning no heavy programs run in the foreground.

During summer time the PC stays switched off.

Luckily for me, last year I had to change my cellphone (I stress the ‘had to’, cause I’m not inflicted by consumerism). It’s one of these rare moments that I’m thankful for. That one sliver of brilliance (oh, modest me; lol) and epiphany that struck me then; spend the extra money and buy one that can support USB OTG (on the go). Of course OTG is an old tech but my previous cellphone didn’t support it (when I had bought the previous phone I had decided to spend with moderation, you see, thinking to myself “well, why one earth would I need to have OTG?? It’s not like I will use it.” DUH!).

Now that the PC is always off (or almost always with no more than two hours operating time max) I can actually hook my keyboard and mouse on the new phone and use it to write. Naturally, it’s not the best experience having to type on a 5-inch screen BUT think of the alternative. Re-read the temperatures I gave you earlier. It has drawbacks, one of which is that I can’t write more than 1000 words on it, because of the headaches I get by trying to read things on such a small screen (small when it comes to written work that spans thousands of words, perfect for almost anything else). Also, the word processor I use on the device isn’t as sophisticated as the one on the PC (and I don’t think any sane person would expect it to be, either). I can’t see the formatting, I can’t colour-code bits of the text, I can’t insert comments and notes to myself for when it’s revision time BUT I can do one thing; I can write! And I need that. At least at the moment I’ve written 32000 words (though it should have been more) which leaves about 70000 more to finish the first draft. If I ever get anywhere with my writing (though I have to be realistic and see the odds stacked against me), I could be something like Peter V. Brett (author of The Demon Cycle – great fantasy books by the way), who wrote his first novel (probably part of the second as well) on his cellphone. He calls himself “thumb-typing expert.”

Another thing that happened this past week was that I got a strange rejection for a short story. It was the type of rejection I had never encountered in the past and I didn’t know what to make of it. It read:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for submitting “XXXXX” and for your interest in XXXX. While we have to pass at this time, we wish you the best of luck in placing this story. It’s wonderfully inventive and poignant, and we hope to read more from you in the future.

Best wishes,
XXXXX, Founding Editor

The strange part for me was the last sentence. I had never been rejected with a smile before (they usually send formal letters of rejections) and most certainly never told to send another story to them in the future; not in that way at least. I was at a loss as to whether this was just another way to sweeten the pill or if it was the style of the story that didn’t fit with the style of the magazine. The latter would mean the story was ok and that I had chosen the wrong magazine for it. The first would imply that the story sucked.

I got so caught up in it, that I failed to see the bigger picture:
1) they described the story as “inventive and poignant”, which I can’t see any reason why they should do that, unless the story was at least ok-ish.
2) they made me realise how important it is to better research the magazines I sent stories to. I just get so excited when I finish editing a story and I deem it ready for the world to see, that I obviously forget to better research the potential market for it. And that leads to more rejections.

OK, I thought about that rejection too much already and it’s getting to me again. I’ll stop here 🙂

If you’ve had a similar experience with rejections or “thumb-typing” or bad writing conditions, comment below.

Hello everyone,

This last week has been the hardest for me, as far as writing is concerned. Though I had material to write about, I just couldn’t write it the way I wanted to. For some reason, the words just slipped my mind, the moment my fingers started typing the first word. Everything that followed the first word seemed dragged, forced and blunt to the point where frustration took hold of me.

You know that inner voice that stems from lack of self-confidence and usually screams at us when we try something new that is big or something we try for the very first time and we don’t want to mess it up? Well, that voice inside me, had a party going in my head. I hadn’t heard that voice since the first month or two when I first decided to write. I thought I had quelled it, especially after the email I got from the magazine that wanted my short story. I was wrong. It’s still there and it’s getting stronger.

For the past 40 days I have been following a new daily schedule and I have set a new word limit per day. I decided to follow Stephen King’s program that I read on a book of his, titled “On Writing, A Memoir Of the Craft”. In it he suggests that writers should aim for 2000 words on a daily basis, 7 days a week. I thought it was an ambitious goal, one that only pros would manage to do. Nonetheless, I tried it and, as it turned out, I too could do it. With the exception of 4 or 5 days out of those 40, each day I wrote 2000 words, which really made me happier than I can describe. Alas, this last week I have only managed to write no more than 3500 words. It was terrible.

I don’t know what the problem was. Probably my characters and my plot lack that certain something, which in turn makes me unwilling to write. I know I have to correct my characters and my plot (for some reason I seem to have a really hard time coming up with minor events that happen to my main characters that will make them more real to the readers – myself included – and at the same time never drifting off from the main storyline). Quite frankly, at this moment I’m at a loss.

Tomorrow I want to wake up and write 1500+ words of decent prose. I want to continue this for the rest of the week. That’s my goal. I want to succeed in this.