Words Not Seen

Steph’s been hounding me for weeks to be able to read Genie Memories and tonight, I finally deemed it worthy to be read by others.  (I think all writers can attest to this feeling – “It’s not ready yet!).

Anyway, I store my chapters in separate files.  GM-1 for Chapter 1, GM-2 for Chapter 2, and so forth, so I combined them all into one file for easy printing and gave her the first 10 chapters.  It came out to 35 single spaced pages and 18,890 words.

So that got me thinking …

The genesis of Genie Memories was a scrapped young adult work entitled Zero.  I finished 8 chapters of that before realizing that it was a more grown up story.  Total word count – 21,660 (64 pages)

Genies was the next incarnation and I managed five chapters before realizing I had the wrong character and the wrong plot arc.  14,364 words and 38 pages.

The 1st draft of Genie Memories was the piece that I took to Viable Paradise.  Good story, but having it work-shopped by pros and fellow writers opened my eyes to a plethora of new plot arcs, character development, and things that I was just plain overlooking.  These 43,607 words or  111 pages became the basis for the second draft…

… which is now up to 20 chapters and roughly 33,639 words.  That will change, obviously, with editing.  I know of at least one entire chapter that will be gutted and there’s a lot of revision yet to happen.  In total, the story is a tad over half way complete.

And here’s the kicker – by happenstance, I also have open my ‘Abandoned Scenes’ file.  I keep one of these for every draft.  It’s where I put all the scenes that I’ve written but for whatever reason (story evolution, revisions, etc), they no longer fit.  So I put them in this file in case I ever need to pull them back out.  This file contains 14,739 words (28 single space pages).  That’s just shy of 10 chapters of material I’ve removed  from the second draft of the story.

For those keeping count, the total words written to date is 128,009.

The readers will never see these words and one might think they’re wasted but they’re not.  In fact, they are necessary for the writer.  I’m going to paraphrase something John Scalzi told my VP friend Catherine Schaff-Stump at Viable Paradise (original blog entry here):

Write down all the extra stuff that’s in your head.  Puff up the story and put in every tangent, bit of history, and whatever else you want to do.  All the characters, their clashes and problems, how they got into this situation, and their entire lineage if you want.  Play around because this is what teaches the writer about their story.  That’s what the first draft is for and it’s allowed to suck.

Then cut stuff out.  Ruthlessly.  Leave only what the reader needs to know.  And the writer knows what that is because they wrote it all down before.

So keep that in mind next time you pick up a book.   There’s an awful lot to the story you’ll never see.

Saturday Morning Race Recap

This morning, the Hughes family turned out in force to take part in the Jim Boughton Memorial/Grey Ribbon Crusade 5K Road Race.

I already blogged about my Coach, who was fighting brain cancer.  We had all hoped that Coach would have been able to be at the race but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  He lost his battle in early May and thus the race became a Memorial to him.

Shiny Hardware
Shiny Hardware for 3rd Place

The event was awesome.    I can’t give enough kudos to the volunteers that came out to help.  Even more impressive was that the entire event was handled by a student at Senior (a Junior) and most of the volunteers were High School students or their parents.   It was better organized than some of the ‘pro’ races I’ve been to.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 700+ runners and walkers came out and Alumni turn out was great.  I got to see a lot of friends whom I hadn’t seen in many years, so that alone was worth the price of signing up.

I ran a respectable race, coming home in 20:42 and taking 3rd in my age group, 41st overall.   Greg was a few minutes behind (23:12 ?) and  Jon paced Steph, helping her get a 5K Personal Best of 24:49.  Jon’s wife, Sarah, finished just a bit behind them.  Being the first Hughes boy across the line, I say the following with utmost humility :

“Eat my dust, bros.”*

Ahem, where were we?

Oh, yeah. While the race was great, it was also a lot of fun to be able to run with my brothers.  None of us could recall the last time that happened.  Greg is four years older than Jon and I, meaning we never got a chance to compete head-to-head in High School or College.  So aside from a few races in the late 80s, early 90s, today was the first time in almost 20 years all three Hughes boys were on the same course together.  It was an awful lot of fun to pound the pavement with my brothers.

(L to R) Me, Steph, Sarah, Jon, & Greg.  And no, we didn't plan to get our numbers like that.
(L to R) Me, Steph, Sarah, Jon, & Greg. And no, we didn't plan to get our numbers like that.

*Did you really think I’d get away without a bit of trash talking, did you?

Viable Paradise 2010 Applications

To all my writer friends : Applications to the Viable Paradise workshop on Martha’s Vineyard close on June 30th, 2010.

The instructors are the same as last year – Jim MacDonald, Debra Doyle, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Steven Gould, and Laura Mixon.  On top of that, you get fetted by one of the best volunteer staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with.  Still unsure?  Read everything at the Viable Paradise Index or my own VP entries.

Without a doubt, attending VP has been one of the biggest influences on my writing career.  I see it every time I sit down to write.  Am I published yet?  No.  Am I a better writer?  Hell yes.

So get out there and apply.  Hurry up, don’t wait.

Hay Ewe

Spent the day learning how to make hay for the sheep out at the farm.

It was a rather interesting event.  For starters, my father-in-law assures me that this is a task best done with it’s around 90 degrees and humid enough to swim.  I’m not sure about that but hey, he’s the farmer so who am I to disagree?

I got to drive a tractor to rake the hay.  After that, we had to bale.   ‘The baler is  pulled behind a much larger tractor which also pulls a trailer.  My job was to ride on the baler, watch as the hay bales got shot through the air into the trailer, and clear up any jams.  In the process, I learned exactly how a baler works and how to take one apart and put it back together again.  That last part came courtesy of losing no less than three bolts, a belt, and a bearing.

I also learned that after a day spent making hay, the wife makes you ride in the backseat of the car (and only because it’s against the law to force me to ride on the roof).

Next up?  Learning how to nail a spittoon from 10 paces.

Hobbies Old, Hobbies New

Back when I was a kid, I learned to juggle from a cousin’s then boyfriend.  Then, I have running which continues to this day and probably until they have to chain me down in a hospice bed or something.  Writing, of course.

As I got older, I picked up a few new hobbies.  The foremost of these is Martial Arts.  Started it for self-defense, then found out I wasn’t too bad at it and had a lot of fun doing it.  As the skills progressed, so did the challenges, culminating in full-contact sparring.   The whole while, I keep telling myself  “I wish I’d picked this up when I was younger!”

And if I had, I probably would have learned that, A – you don’t block a round house kick with the side of your hand, and B – don’t let someone fold your palm until it touches your wrist while grappling.

I am currently nursing a Lateral Adductor Contusion (or Abduction Contusion, basically the nerves and muscles are shot), Bone Bruising, and a probable hairline fracture in my right hand.  It feels about as good as it sounds.

Ah, well.  You’re never too old to learn.  🙂

Thankfully, I can still type and with Steph off to a cheese workshop this weekend, I foresee a lot of writing getting done.

Did You Hear About Jeff?

Meet Jeff Stockwell.  Say hi, Jeff.
… Hi to whom?
The readers.
Readers?  What readers?  Google Analytics says you had about 20 visitors last week.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, gee … I’m a figment of the author’s imagination.  In that little tiny nugget of a brain, I’m a Magna Cum Laude from a highly prestigious Ivy league school, entered law enforcement, became an FBI agent, and was elevated to be Lead Investigator for the COC.
That would be the Corporate Oversight Commission, correct?
Well, you made it up.  So I sure hope so.
Okay, okay.   In your original appearance in Genie Memories, you had about 1,700 words of scene.  So what are you doing now?
I’m Deputy Chief of Police in St. Louis.  I now have
How’d that happen?
Because my writer is a hack?
What?  No!
Fine. Because he doesn’t want me intruding upon his BIIIGGGG Star.
In your original appearance, you had 1,700 words of scene.  Now you have …

The Scene : Two random, non-descript characters enter a bar.  They’re the sort of fellows that if the scene wasn’t focused on them, you wouldn’t notice them at all.  In fact, beyond the chapter you were reading, you probably won’t pay them a second thought.  At the moment, they sit down for a drink and start to chat.

Courtesy of Inkygirl
Courtesy of Inkygirl

Character 1 : “So, how’s business been for you?  Land a role?”

Character 2 : “Sure did.  Desk Sergeant in Chapter Ten.  Nothing glamorous but I get a few lines.  Provide a clue to the main character too.  How about you?”

C1 : “Oh, I get a line in a later chapter and then I get killed.  But it pays the bills.”

C2 : “Don’t knock getting killed.  My cousin’s got a great career out of being the victim.  The whole story surrounds you and you get your name mentioned a lot.  Great exposure.”

C1 : “I suppose so.  Hey, did you hear about Jeff?”

C2 : “Jeff Stockwell?  I heard he got promoted to that Side Character gig.  Lucky guy.”

C1 : “No.  He got demoted.  Almost completely written out.”

C2 : “What?  No way!  He had a background and history and everything.  Graduate from a highly prestigious Ivy league school.  Decorated law enforcement career that led to a position as Lead Investigator for a government agency.  How did that happen?”

C1 : “Appearances in multiple chapters, over 1,700 words of dialogue.   Even had a role in supporting the main character.  It was going to be big.”

C2 : “So what happened?”

C1 : “The author thought Jeff took a bit too much from the main character.”

C2 : “Always protecting the big star, huh?  Typical.”

C1 : “Well, it is told from the First Person Point of View.  Besides, I kind of agree.  The role smacked too much of a deus ex machina.”

C2 : “Deus what?”

C1 : Oh, come on.  You’ve heard the phrase before, haven’t you?  Deus ex machina is when something or someone all powerful swoops in and solves all the protagonists problems.  It requires a suspension of belief and to be frank, it’s a bit uncreative.  That’s the reason why J.K. Rowling had Snape kill Dumbledore.

C2 : “Dude!  Spoiler!”

C1 : “Oh come on.  It’s been out for five years.  Get over it.  In any case, if Dumbledore lived, Harry would have kept relying on him.  He had to die. Otherwise, Harry would have been constantly saved by a much more powerful wizard.  It added tension having him do it on his own.  It’s the same with this story.  It evolved and Jeff’s role went out the window.”

C2 : “Wow.  So how’s he taking it?

C1 : “Not good.  He’s calling the writer a hack and all sorts of nasty things.”

C2 : “Well, that can’t be good for his career.  What’s he doing now?”

C1 : Deputy Chief of Police with less than 250 words.  We share a scene in Chapter 10.  I have to say, he’s looked better.  I think the demotion took a lot out of him.”

C2 : I can imagine.  Hey, maybe he can run with that.  Lots of writers use a corrupt high ranking police officer as a foil.  It could be the start of something good.

C1 : “Good point.  There’s some great bad guys out there.  I’ll have to mention that to him during the next round of revisions.”

C2 : “Yeah.  Hey, I gotta go.  Looks like the Author is about ready to do some rough drafting on my scene.”

C1 : “Good luck with the dying!”

C2 : “Thanks!”

The Importance of Crust

Our local co-op has some delicious Sourdough Pizza Crust.  About once every other week, we pick up some so that we can make pizza at home. Combine that with our own pizza sauce, fashioned from tomatoes taken from our own garden last fall, and it becomes a lot better than anything you could ever order in.

So this evening it was pizza night.  The tomato sauce was prepped and the cheese shredded.  The mushrooms where on the stove cooking down.  The oven was turned to 400 and the pizza stone about ready to be put in so that it could warm up.

It was right about then that we discovered we have failed to pick up the pizza crust.


On the positive side, when I ran out to get the crust, I also got cookies.  Cookies make everything better.