First Draft of "Caretakers" COMPLETE!

I handed the finished first draft of my second novel, "Caretakers", to my beta-reader on Friday night.

This version of the book came in at just a hair under 95,000 words.

The beta-reader started reading Friday night, and finished the roughly 400 page novel Saturday evening; she spent Sunday compiling her notes and going over them with me.

In terms of major work, we've identified a scene that needs to be added, another that needs to be expanded upon, and a third chunk that will have to be cut from the book ... all of these should serve to enhance the flow and understandability of the novel. Minor things were identified throughout the draft, to increase clarity or flow.

This novel is more complete as a first draft than "Here Be Monsters" was, and the beta-readers promises me that it's a better book ... more complex, more of a mystery, more exciting (I'm still nervous, but hopeful).

My plan is to take a few days off from thinking about the book before I start revising and correcting and adding and subtracting from "Caretakers" ... I already cheated ... I've been doing some work on an idea for the cover, and will probably spend some time this afternoon noodling with some photos, to see how they look when jammed into the templates.

From here on out, there's some drudgery. I'll read the book about a half-dozen times, fixing as I go, shooting various drafts to various readers to get their feelings about bits and pieces, as well as the whole thing. Eventually, when none of us can see the words any longer, I'll send it to my copy editor, and she will polish it into a market-ready work. Then Gail and I will fiddle and format the book and front and back matter and cover into a finished product, which should be available early in the New Year (if everything goes to plan).




Final Days of Writing...Now Comes the Hard Part!

I was able to write my way through another tough chunk of my next novel this past weekend, and am within days (hours, maybe) of finishing.

I should be excited, manic, over-the-moon ... but in some ways I'm not.

When I finished writing the rough draft of my first novel, I was elated. multiple parts of me hadn't actually thought that I would be able to finish the thing, so when I typed the last period, I actually jumped up and did a jig.

This time though, I knew that I could write a novel. More than that, I really liked my first novel, "Here Be Monsters", as did lots of people who's opinions I value and care about ... the second novel has to measure up.

This time I'm terrified that I might have used up all of my writing mojo on the first book, and this world I've created will be boring or smell funny.

I've certainly bled for this novel, which at the moment I'm calling "Caretakers", but I'm have moments when I worry that my time and effort and sacrifice - and blood - may not be enough.

It's not the first novel rewritten; I took some chances. It's nearly 100 pages longer, and much more complex. I feel as though my writing is stronger this time around, but wish that I was more confident about my ability to write a second novel as good as (or better than) the first.

I feel that I've improved my writing in the time since I published my first novel, and felt better writing this one, but am scared about the comparative turnaround times as relates to the creative process: the first novel took me 40+ years to work out, the second - less than a year.

My understanding is that all authors feel these concerns when approaching and writing and completing a second novel, but that doesn't keep the fear from nipping at my heels as I run headlong towards the end of this first draft of "Caretakers".

Even with the fear-monsters chattering at me from the dark corners of my mind, I'm going to finish "Caretakers" in the next week or so, and put it in the hands of my beta-readers ... I hope that you'll be able to check it out sometime early in 2014.




7 Tips to Stay Sane(ish) When You Can't Write!

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life"
- Ernest Hemingway
Yesterday I spent a part of the day at a book-signing. It's not an unpleasant way to wile away a few hours on a Saturday ... I sold some books, hung out with people who love books and writing and writers, and answered questions about my books and myself and writing.

The whole time though, I had this feeling of cheating, lazing about, almost of dishonesty ... writers write, and I wasn't writing during a perfectly good chunk of time when nothing absolutely necessary was getting done.

It's been said a million times, in a million different ways, by a million different people ... the best way to be a writer is to write.

I agree, but have found that despite my best efforts there are days (sometimes even weeks!) in which I am unable to write ... for various reasons.

My 'other' job, as a teacher, takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and focus (hereafter referred to as TEF), especially at the beginning of the school year.

My responsibilities as a father and husband and son and brother and friend also take a slice of my TEF.

A seemingly huge portion of my leftover TEF ends up being devoted to marketing and promotion of my writing, which translates into time that cannot be spent ... actually writing.

I'd love for my life as a writer to be more (in Ernest's words) lonely, but that's not likely to happen in the short term.

I'm reasonably comfortable with the fact that I cannot devote as much TEF to writing as I'd like to (I dream of the day when I don't have to jealously guard and hoard it to get my writing done ... who doesn't?), but I've come up with some ways to let my writing brain get some work done even when I can't actually be writing.

7 Tips for Writers ... When They Don't Have Time to Write!
  1. Send yourself emails - I know, it sounds stupid, but I send myself emails about writing every day while I'm at work, and dump them into an ideas folder.
  2. Keep some business cards in your pocket - I don't like to carry pens/pencils around, and everyone else always does (so I can borrow theirs); a business card is the perfect size to fit in any pocket and I jot down a few ideas whenever I can't send myself an email.
  3. Tell a friend - I tell my wife or co-workers or son a few keywords pertaining to an idea that I've had, and that they need to tell me about it later ... their memory is often better than mine with this sort of thing.
  4. Keep a pen handy - I know this sounds like a refutation of tip#2, but it's not ... keep a pen by the bed, by your favored reading chair, in the bathroom, and in the car (along with some business cards or post-it notes) ... you never know when an idea will come, and you shouldn't count on holding on to it all day without help.
  5. Google - when I don't have time to write, but have a minute or seven between classes or lunch or family stuff, I google for maps, research, names, news ... anything and everything that might help, or be useful, later when I can write (then I save/email the good stuff).
  6. Take a walk - it may not seem like writing, but taking a walk gets moves me around the planet a bit (and you too, I assume, unless you walk on a treadmill), and gets oxygen flowing, and sometimes I'll see something, or think of something, that can help advance my current work in progress.
  7. Read - you should always have a book (or a bunch of books) with you for anticipated/unanticipated downtime ... not only do writers write, but they must also read!
These seven tips should help you keep the ball rolling (and your sanity mostly intact) even when you don't have the necessary TEF to write.

Good Luck!