Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Get Up Under the Hood

If novels were engines, my hands would be greasy. I've been pulling things apart, moving things around, replacing worn parts. Blah! The metaphor is already wearing on me.

The work I'm doing will make the story much better, but it's quite an undertaking. I didn't know where to begin, so I just started on one issue my editor identified. Because everything is connected, that one issue led me to all the others. I'm getting much closer to cracking the code. Once I have that, it'll be a relatively simple thing to write.

Unfortunately, the editing process will have to be done again and that will add weeks to the timeline. May 1st is not looking good. I'm not giving up on it yet, but it won't be entirely in my control.

Here's to patience. There really isn't a point to rushing and releasing a crummy product. Unless the goal is to disappoint readers and encourage them to skip whatever else I write.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Outlining, and Progress Bar

So there are three kinds of writers when it comes to approaches to a writing project. Outliners, pantsers (discover writers) and in-betweeners.

Outliners figure out the story in advance by creating an outline. Some are extremely detailed, others are a single page.

Pantsers don't have an outline. They start writing from the seat of their pants and find out what happens as it goes along. This is also called discover writing because, well, they discover the story as they write.

In-betweeners do a little outlining and then sort of seat of their pants it.

I started as an in-betweener leaning toward pantser. No more. Outlining is my future.

The genesis of the Bigfoot world was an idea that popped into my head several years ago. Where did it come from? What was I thinking about that caused it to pop up? I have no idea. I do recall saying to myself, that would be a cool idea for a novel. I was quite enthusiastic about it for two or three hours.

When my nephew challenged me to do NaNoWriMo, I knew what story I would tackle right away. Fortunately I had lots of notice, nearly a year before the next NaNo cycle would start. So that January, while on a Disney cruise with my family, I started jotting down notes about my Bigfoot world.

I had no notion of the story, though. I spent many hours on deck, writing in my Black and Red, but no story came up. Eventually I had to stop world building and force myself to focus on story. I had the vaguest notion that it started with a group of kids hiking in the mountains.

I created terrible outlines for three books on that trip, and some of it stayed. I jettisoned most of it, but some of it remains. Hopefully, the good parts.

So that brings me to today.

Faced with editor feedback on book 1, I realized it was necessary to outline the book. What an interesting process. I learned a lot about the structure of the book and now can easily see where the changes and additions need to go. So now it's time to get busy and do it.

The progress bar for book 2 will be frozen for a while, I'm afraid. I will put up a progress bar for Book 1 edits. I won't know the word count goal behind this one until I've finished outlining the changes and additions, so the progress bar will sit empty for a bit. My gut tells me it's going to require about 15,000 more words, net. But since I'll have to delete a few things, I'll probably need to write closer to 20,000.

Then it will have to go back for edit of the new material . . . then it can be prepared for launch, which is still May 1st. We shall see . . .

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dear My Editor,

Thank you for the work you've done on my manuscript. You've caught a lot of mistakes and a few continuity errors. Better yet, you identified several things that can greatly improve my book. I had intended to publish this by April 1, but I think I'd better step back and reassess.

On behalf of my future readers, I thank you again. Because of the work you've done, they will be better entertained.

I'm going to dig in and make some important changes. I hope it won't take me too long, but it's clear that progress on Book 2 has to stop. There is enough changing in Book 1 to effect what's happening in Book 2.

This has been an excellent learning experience.

Eric Edstrom

PS Thanks for your nice comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and that you care to find out what happens next. You'll be the third to know.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bigfoot on History Channel's Monsterquest

So I watched this episode of Monsterquest with great interest. After all, I have a novel coming out soon about Bigfoot. But my Bigfoot has very little in common with what they talk about in this show. They analyze the famous Patterson footage, and come up with no conclusions of course.

To explain why my Bigfoot departs from the popular conception would spoil the fun. So let's compare:

1) Huge hairy beast? Yes, but . . . beast has connotations that don't apply.
2) Big feet? yes
3) Ape-like? No!

My Bigfoot is no ape. Hmm. What might it be?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I Don't Review Books

1) No one cares about my opinion
2) If a book is good, I have nothing to say other than "I liked it"
3) If I didn't like it, I certainly didn't finish it. I used to physically toss a book across the room if I didn't like it. That was my way of letting go of the project of reading it. I don't throw my kindle or iPad. Pity.
4) In general, I try not to say negative things about anyone's work, except [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] and the Chicago Bears.
5) It's tedious work to write reviews
6) I don't like to read book reviews
7) I don't trust reviews
8) See item 1

Walking and Talking

Gorgeous sunny day here in Wisconsin today, so naturally I grabbed my little voice recorder doohickey and hit a local bike trail for a walk. I'm not skilled at dictating fiction, but getting better. For me, it's really a brain dump with some dialogue, description and notes to myself. I hope to get better at it because it's extremely efficient. Out and back was one hour, got the final two-thirds of my short story sketched out. Once I got into the flow, I was on fire!

I got some exercise and much needed sunlight exposure in the process. The only downside was getting stopped by an old farmer who wanted to chew the fat. It was all good, though. He's going to be a character in something, I'm sure. He wanted to talk about gas prices and "orl" companies. Yes, "orl" companies. He had an embroidered deer on his corduroy ball cap. He told me he had bad lungs.

I had never thought of dictating fiction until I Kevin Anderson spoke about it at Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City (Next one is in Vegas, April 2012. Do not miss it!) Read Kevin's blog post about the topic for more info. It takes practice, but Kevin's reasoning is good. We're trying to tell stories, what's more natural than using one's voice to tell it. Typing or writing long hand adds friction to the process.

Besides, I need to get away from the computer screen. My eyes are about to burn out of my head from looking at it all day every day.

This was a great way to get a first draft done. I don't dictate very clean prose, so there's a lot of fixing to be done. I transcribed 1200 words of it when I got back and probably changed over half of it as I typed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Words Writ

Well, I committed writing today. Only 1500 words, but good. I need to get this short story done and out the doe. The good news is the whole thing is outlined, so it's going pretty quickly.

This story takes place in my Bigfoot world, after the events of book 1. There are no significant spoilers, though.

During my writing I made a great typo and coined a new word: Idiototic -- to be in a state of idiocy. I like it, as it captures a feeling I get when I have low blood sugar or not enough sleep.

No Progress Bar Bump Doesn't Mean No Progress

So the progress bar has gotten mired down a little, but that doesn't mean I haven't been doing any work. I have reviewed the writing to date to get a feel for how things were flowing and see if it felt right. Well, yes and no.

It's pretty good, but I think I can do better, so I'm going to have to back track a little. We may even see that progress bar go backwards. Kind of like putting the car in reverse to get a running start to get unstuck.

I also have to finish a shorty story in the next two weeks, so there's going to be writing that results in no forward movement on the bar.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fan Art

Book one isn't even out yet and I've gotten my first fan art. My daughter drew this depiction of TogYip on a restaurant placemat. She's seven and not really the right age for the book. In fact, she hasn't even read it. I told her the story and TogYip turned out to be her favorite characters.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Got a little written in the past two days, but I slowed way down when I realized the story was feeling kind of stale. I lost my main character's voice somewhere along the way, so I need to go back through what I've got and reassess. No problem, though. I don't think I'll lose all of it.

But I can't just forge ahead anymore. I trust my intuition on this, so I'm going to print it out and read it, then  figure it out.

This is exactly how it worked on book 1. I think I'd better do a bit more outlining. Since this is book two, there is a lot of plot stuff to figure out to properly setup book 3. I know where I'm going, but the trick is finding just the right place to pick up the story in book 2.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writer? Or Someone Who Has Written?

So this question is one that I have had to ask myself many, many times in my life. I've wanted to “be a writer” since I was 12 years old. I  remember sitting down at my desk in my bedroom with a stack of loose leaf lined paper in beginning my masterpiece.  Terrible stuff.

And that's usually where it ended.

I was always more interested in what would happen after I finished writing. Being on the bestseller list, having movies made of my stories, having validation of my intelligence because I'd written some great masterwork -- that's was what I was really after. So I didn't want to be a writer, I wanted to be someone who had written.

Fortunately I grew up.

I enjoy the process of writing now, except on days when I can't think of anything to write. But that doesn't happen very often, especially if I get enough sleep.

But there is still is a huge trap in this endeavor. I haven't fallen into it recently, but it's been close. Here's the issue. I start reading about the business side of publishing, I start following a bunch of blogs, I discover a whole new realm of information, and suddenly all of my brain power is focused on that side of the process. I'm not concerned about finishing the next work. I'm thinking about how many opportunities are out there for the work that I will certainly finish. I get all excited about it, and then I want to read more about it, and the next thing I know, all I've accomplished is reading.

Then it's an effort of self-discipline to get back into the creative mode and begin writing. So even though I enjoy the process of writing, the lure of being someone who has written is way more enticing. This is not just about writing books. In every creative domain it's easier to be enthusiastic about the daydream, the fantasy, than in the work.

 "All his life as he looked away to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.”  -- Yoda

For me, enthusiasm is an addiction, and like a crack addict, I compulsively seek out more and more information about what I'm enthusiastic about. Finding a new book or blog about my new area of interest delivers incredible hits to the pleasure centers in my brain. You'd think that being inquisitive and wanting to learn would be a good thing, and it is, as long as it doesn't keep you from doing real work.

I've played guitar my entire life practically; recently, I've had a desire to learn to play jazz. So naturally I got a bunch of books about jazz guitar, and I read them. It was thrilling. Didn't help me play jazz, though. That's why I'm taking jazz guitar lessons now. My teacher wisely does not feed my enthusiasm with books.

He would much rather have me practice.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good Progress, Low Efficiency

I wrote for a long time today and made some good progress.  I got over twice my daily quota. That said, my efficiency, or words/hour, was bad. I kept having to stop and think about what happens next. Funny how that works. Check the progress bar. At this rate I'll be done a month early. Don't count on it!

I don't outline very much. I've made some half-hearted attempts, but I haven't developed any skill for it. I'm going to have to do some soon, though. I'm getting close to an important turning point in the story and I need to be positive I know what I'm doing.

Had a surprise song erupt, too. So a good day from a creative perspective. Too bad my body is so sore from my workout. Everyone is bustling around packing for various trips. One is going to camp for the week and the other to CA for a book writing workshop. I've got to hold down the fort and remember to feed the cat and the guinea pig.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Escape From Undermountain: Back Cover Blurb

Writing the back cover copy is harder than writing the book. Many hours of labor have gone into this text, and it's only 137 words. Thing is, that's probably too long. I'm going to let it rest for a while, come back with fresh eyes.

The purpose of the back cover copy is to sell the book. It needs to say what the book is about, but not actually tell the story. It has to introduce our hero, spark interest with some conflict and then offer a combination of synopsis and hype. Like a movie trailer. Here's how it reads as of today:

It's day six of the expedition. Danny Michaelson and five other teenagers are deep in the Canadian Rockies. For Danny, the journey is an escape from the troubles of home and his mother's stupid boyfriend. He marvels at the snowy peaks, starry night skies and Breyona Lewis' smile. 
But fun becomes fear. Shriekers hunt Danny and his friends, the chase forcing them far from the trail. Exhausted, they turn to face death... and find salvation in the form of an eight foot tall legend.
Big foot. 
They're alive, but learning the secret of Bigfoot has a price: freedom. Carried to a hidden city, told they may never leave, the hikers must rely on each other to fight their way free. To get home, Danny will have to go farther from home than anyone has ever gone. 

Don't hold me to that. It will probably change.

I would have gotten a lot more written on book 2 today if I hadn't spent so much time on that. However, I exceeded my daily quota, so the progress bar has ticked up again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Act One

When I was writing the first book, the first twenty thousand words came pretty quickly. I knew how the story started and I knew, in general, where it was going. It was at around 30,000 words that things went down the toilet. Took me a lot of writing, deleting, writing, and deleting to finally break through the middle. Once I did that, getting to the end was relatively simple.

With book two, I know more about the middle. Very creaky start, but I like what I've got so far. It will change before I'm through. Something always comes up that informs the beginning. It's actually fun to go back and rework early scenes to better set the stage for what comes later.  It feels like cheating, but it isn't. It's like time travel.

Added 2111 words to the tally today, which is well above my daily goal. Draft one is at 10.2% on the nifty progress bar. I won't keep this pace, so it's nice to have a few days of buffer.

I introduced a new character today. Danny's grandma. You'll love her.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Cover for Bigfoot: Escape from Undermountain

Bigfoot 2 Started

Of course, the next book is needing to be written. I've gotten off to a good start 5.5% done on the first draft. I need to figure out how to use a status bar like Sanderson does. Not going to write it in thirty days, though. I've got other things to do, like writing songs, so I've scheduled three months to draft the second book. Since it's YA and not too long (70,000 words), that's a very doable schedule. If I stay focussed, book 2 will launch September 1st. And if I'm really firing on all cylinders, I'll be starting book three later this summer.

I'm really excited about where this story is going. I've been doing a bit of research, but I won't say on what yet, since I'm not 100% committed to that direction. I have a working title, but it might be a spoiler, so I'm keeping mum on that.

Bigfoot: Escape from Undermountain is Off to the Editor

Well, Bigfoot 1 is off to the editor. I should have the copyedit back in a few weeks. Then it'll take a couple days to digest all the changes and fix any problems. Hopefully it won't require any major additions. The book cover design is done, and it is AWESOME! I can hardly wait to get this project launched.

I'll post the cover art in a couple days.