Category: Bumps & Bruises

Things don’t always go as planned.

A Progress Report from the Writing Cave

We passed the 60k milestone this week on Grandson of Science Novel, which is great! Of course, that leaves us only three weeks to hit our target of 100k by year’s end. Which would take an average of 2000 words per day. That’s only 1000 words apiece (have we ever mentioned that having a writing partner offers many advantages?), but that’s every day, and it’s significantly more than the pace we’ve been on. Like, very significantly. Back when work started on this one, we ran some numbers and came up with a plan that felt perfectly reasonable. And now, here we are, with nearly half of the book remaining to write and less than a month to do it.

So we’re a little stressed about missing our deadline. Life keeps getting in the way. We have all kinds of excuses, and we think most of them are pretty good. Unfortunately, we haven’t come up with the excuse that’s so good it lets us hit our deadline after all.

Thing about this deadline is, we imposed it on ourselves. Rune Skelley sets Rune Skelley’s schedule. So the consequences for blowing it are rather abstract. Assuming we do end up blowing it, we’ll miss out on the satisfaction of attaining it. And, the longer it takes us to write a book, the longer the gaps between our releases.

Setting goals and deadlines for yourself is vital for being able to measure progress, and even without a mean boss glaring at your tardiness, you need to take these things seriously. You need discipline, and you need to protect your writing time. You just can’t let deadline stress ruin the joy of creation.

Write Like Your Parents Will Never Read It

… But, um, they probably will.

It all depends on your subject matter, and on your parents. In our case, with books featuring so much vivid sex, profanity, violence, drug use, and trashing of religion, we felt pretty confident encouraging our moms not to read our stuff. (That didn’t work. It probably never does.)

Despite all our subtle warnings, our moms still wanted to read the books. So, we had to hand them over. Jen told her mom, “Kent wrote all the yucky parts,” and Kent told his mom to blame those sections on Jen.

The weirdest thing happened. Our moms liked the books.

Sure, they sort of have to. It’s in the mom job description. Of course they’re proud of us as writers. But we knew — or thought we knew — that our content wouldn’t be to their tastes. First of all, they don’t read much science fiction. And as mentioned above, it’s all stuff we’d never bring up in front of them. And we surely wouldn’t use such caustic language with them. They’re our moms!

We just don’t quite know how to process all this, and we probably never will. Happy to have happy readers? Absolutely. Glad not to have upset our moms? You bet! Wondering how well we really know these women? Little bit.

Having a writing partner means being able to disavow the parts your mom doesn’t like.

Our Nest Feels Empty

There’s a certain silence in the Writing Cave these days. Fewer characters are clamoring for attention, plot complications are down by a third, our writing lives have fewer distractions. And yet, the feeling is bittersweet.

As we mentioned last week, we’ve just released the final book (so far) in our Divided Man series. We’ve been living with Fin and Rook and their friends, family, and enemies for a long time and it’s distinctly weird to be done with them. That parenthetical “so far” up there at the top of this paragraph hints at our separation anxiety. Maybe we aren’t entirely ready to let go of the Tanners after all.

It feels a little like sending our kids off to college. We prepared them as best we could, and when the time came we launched them out into the world. We miss them, and the house feels distinctly empty without them around, but it was time for them to strike out on their own, to make their own marks.

New characters will come along to fill the void left by the Tanners and Tenpennys and talking lava lamps, it will just take a while for us to get to know them and become attached to them in the same way.

When our sons left home, we got a dog. Is it a coincidence that now that our first series is complete we’re talking about getting another?

Too Many Projects? There’s No Such Thing!

Throughout its many arched galleries and torchlit colonnades, the writing cave has lately resounded with the hammer-blows of feverish industry — because it was annexed for a side project that kept both Jen and Kent preoccupied and away from our writing. Alas! But that gloomy epoch draws to a close, and scrivenings are nigh once more!

The Labor Day weekend will see us plunging back into Elsewhere’s Twin to get it spiffed up and ready for its debut at the end of the month. Wow, that’s coming up fast. One more month. Good thing we’re awesome.

Working with a partner is like having extra days on the calendar to get shit done. Even when the distractions just won’t let up.

A Couple of Hours at IHOP

Another big storm rolled through our area earlier this week and knocked out our power. Again. This time it was only out for about four hours, so it was a lot less of an inconvenience than last time. We didn’t even lose our DuoLingo streaks this time!

For some reason the fact that we’re going to want to eat every day takes us continuously by surprise and we often waste a good half-hour taking an inventory of our pantry and debating the merits of various take-out options. Just as we were getting warmed up for our daily dinner negotiations, the lights went out and the battery backups all started chirping, and thus our decision was easy. We shut down all of the electronics, grabbed our trusty steno pad, and absconded to IHOP.

After stuffing our faces, we got down to business. It was our waitress’s birthday, so we tried to be easy customers, demanding only endless coffee (for Kent) and water (because Jen actually has tastebuds) refills. We spent the next few hours reviewing the notes we’d already made about Sibling of Music Novel. There were some points that are already moot, and some sidetracks we’ll probably ignore. We thought of a few things that had been discussed but never written down, so we added those. Some characters have already been renamed. It was interesting to find so much progress on a project that’s still really in its infancy. And it felt really good to see how much material we already have.

Eventually our electricity came back on and we were able to go home, but even so, progress was slow this week. Kent had a business trip, and instead of writing in his absence, Jen used the time to binge a whole bunch of stuff he’s not interested in watching.

And speaking of binging, we finished up the program we mentioned last time, and are happy to say that we don’t have to replot anything. We’re sure you’re as relieved as we are.

The Cat Ate My Homework

The great thing about having houseguests is we get to blame our lack of productivity on them. Plus, they brought their cat along, which gives Lady Marzipan someone to blame her lack of sanity on.

Wasn’t This Supposed to Get Easier?

It’s been quiet around the Skelley Compound, relatively speaking.  Our kids are both out of the house, the dog’s manic episodes have mostly faded away. We should have more time than ever available for writing.

Ha.

We haven’t been able to diagnose the cause, but our writing time has shrunk instead of growing. Somehow it always ends up being pretty much ten p.m. by the time we settle in at our desks in the Writing Cave. Which would be fine, if certain of us didn’t have to be out of bed at oh-shit-thirty the next a.m.

At least we’re still writing every day, so it’s not as bad as it could be. We’re just not writing as much as we should be every day.

We blame the dog. (We always blame the dog. I mean, look at this beast, isn’t that the face of someone who means us all harm?)

Another Busy Weekend

Busy with stuff that isn’t writing, unfortunately.

The current editing pass on Elsewhere’s Twin is thisclose to finished. Jen’s gotten to the chapters that Kent will find hardest to look at objectively. The thing we are encouraging him to keep in mind is that we’re not saying any of the material is bad, just that there’s a right amount (that being less than the current amount). And, by removing some of the good stuff, the great stuff will be able to shine that much brighter.

So far, he’s being a good boy about things.

One of the hardest things about being a good co-author is when you have to kill your partner’s darlings.

Size Does Matter

We are so close to done with the first draft of Son of Science Novel we can taste it!

Jen wrote the final scene yesterday, but we’re not actually done. Kent has one more scene on his plate that will fall before the last scene. Um. Obviously.

Here’s the thing. This draft is going to come it at around 95,000 words. That’s a lot of words, right? That’s a very satisfying, lengthy novel. We should be happy! The problem is that Science Novel, the book that this is a sequel to, is currently 121,000 words. That’s quite a discrepancy!

While Science Novel has had some edits, there is certainly still some flab there to be carved away. It will get smaller. But so will Son of SN when we edit it. The discrepancy will remain. Jen has this hangup about all the chapters in a book being roughly the same size, and all the books in a series, too. The key word here is “roughly.” No matter how much Kent teases, she doesn’t actually want all the chapters to be exactly the same length. But they should be able to measured with the same yardstick.

Since Jen is the keeper of the outline, and the creator of the stubs, she has seen this word count disaster coming for a while now and she’s been running around like Chicken Little. Now that the end is in sight, Kent has finally begun to believe her. We’ve given a lot of thought to the ‘problem,’ trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Every novel we’ve written previously has come out well above 100,000. Hell, the one before this (Son of Music Novel) came it at 182,900 (which we are not going to round to 183,000 goddammit). Our current draft feels like the runt of the litter.

The problem is not lack of plot. We have enough plot to choke a horse. Before we started writing, we were concerned that we might have another monster on our hands. It would be nice to think we’ve just improved our craft so much that we have transcended the need for editing, but the sky in our world is blue, just like yours.

We have identified a few places where we need to expand things, and we think we’ve discovered a hole that needs to be filled. It’s not 25,000 words worth of stuff, but it might get us up to the magic 100K.

Our current plan is to have Kent write that one last scene that is not the last scene, and then read the manuscript through, looking for what’s missing. It shouldn’t take long, since it’s so damn short.

This Just Became A Job

Having a day job is the proverbial double-edged sword for a writer. It consumes a big chunk of waking hours, limiting your available writing time. But it also gives you security and stability, so your creative efforts are unencumbered. This is the traditional, compartmentalized view of how things shake out.

Publishing puts a writer’s “work” and “creative” worlds on a collision course. Suddenly, in addition to creating high-quality product, you also need to plan and execute promotion, track your results, manage a budget, and show up at events, among other things. The business side doesn’t run itself. Depending on your publishing model, your DIY spirit, and your finances, most or all of those chores fall to you.

It turns into a job.

We’re going through something of an adjustment period here in the writing cave. It’s been a challenge to maintain our desired productivity on the WIP now that the first couple of novels have fled the nest. Which is ironic. We thought they’d take up less of our time once they were checked off the list, not more.

Jen’s mad skillz at project management (and her obsession with little squares of colored paper) have served us very well. Kent’s technological savvy has proved quite useful. We’re able to talk things out and divvy up workloads, because there are two of us. But it’s not easy. We’re still learning.

We don’t have any magical time-management secrets to impart, sorry. But to make up for that, we’re happy to report that we are making good headway on that WIP. Its first draft is somewhere around 75-80% complete. So, it might be a job, but it’s a job that gives satisfaction.