Tag Archives: word metrics

Sometimes I get lucky

My wife’s new schedule sucks, but it plays into my plans on occasion. I also call my parents every Sunday, but they’re on vacation right now. I started my day, like always. Dogs got fed, social media got surfed, other apps that drive news to me got browsed.

Then I read the last two chapters I wrote on The Hat. I’m at the phase where plants and payoffs have to get installed and not just the loose storyboarding I do. This led to deleting nearly a thousand words. Some of this has to do with the fact that Lizzie’s Mini Cooper doesn’t have a trunk, it has a tailgate. Oops.

The dogs were in sleep mode for some reason. They’re crazy right now, but I’ve learned to strike when the iron is hot. I replaced everything I deleted with better words, then added more. Days like this make me wish I kept a better count, but it looks like I wrote about 5000 new words total. The story is a handful of words under 20K right now.

Lizzie came away from the disaster with a partial victory. Any subsequent attempts won’t go so easily. She had a crisis of faith during the disaster event, and there was a bit of soul searching. We also learned about some new abilities the hat has, and they’re kind of scary.

I need to go back again and make specific parts of the aftermath more personal for Lizzie. It involves little things, but will make some of it more real. My next move will be to go back through and flesh a lot of things out. In fact I may start from the first page and do this. I like to move forward with confidence, and doing these things helps me move forward. It may sound like one step forward and two steps back, but I’m about ten thousand words ahead of where I thought I’d be right now.

Lizzie did a bit of shopping therapy after moving where the bad guys went. In a way, it’s revealing the confidence she will need to get through the next phase. She’s looking like a more legitimate superhero now. She also has a new fatalistic attitude that could be just what’s needed… or actually fatal if things don’t work out.

I engaged in an extensive text thread with my daughter, and fashion consultant. I needed to make sure Lizzie’s new outfit made sense. She read what I had and said it sounds great.

I’m setting myself up for something odd too. This story will require a longer denouement than others I’ve written. After the main story ends, I want about three things to happen to sew up loose ends. I’ve always believed that was a bad thing. I’m worried about it, but maybe I’ll gain clarity by the time I get there. This has to do with it being a buddy story. They each need their bit of something, but they need something together too.

I want to try something fun in this book, but I’ll be damned if I can figure it out. When I do a story break, I center three asterisks (***) and jump the story ahead. Easy peasy right? This time, I would like to do three bass clefs. I can’t find a keystroke to include a bass clef to save my life. I even looked for emoji’s, and can’t find a bass clef. There are some treble clefs, and plenty of musical notes. Why no bass clef? I thought for sure Times New Roman would have one, it has all kinds of symbols.

Do any of you know how to tell a word processor to make a bass clef? Maybe I could use clip art and squeeze down to size.

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Wednesday Update

Today is my rotating day off this week, but I took the next two off. There are big things happening at my house, and I need to be here for that.

My morning started off like most. I get up when the dogs demand it. Today it was somewhere about six A.M. After feeding dogs, making coffee, and the usual routine, I decided to start from zero on my WIP called The Hat. I found a lot of errors, and feel bad for having sent it to my critique group already.

I also made a stupid mistake. I edited my way through, and it stopped at about 3000 words. I’d spent my first hour editing the submission to critique group instead of the manuscript. That was easy enough to address, but I felt stupid.

I had plenty of interruptions, and that’s my excuse. My interruption looked like this:

Frankie isn’t much of a cuddler, but today all she wanted was poodle time. She isn’t all that big, and can wiggle beside me in my chair. The iPad fits on the arm of the chair, and it’s a pretty comfy writing position.

Once the edits were finished, I was also refreshed on the story. I decided to keep on writing. Lizzie learned how double-action revolvers work and took a few practice shots. Their symbiosis grew when she trusted the hat to drive while she slept. It was still her body doing the driving, but her mind got to catch a few hours sleep. Turns out the hat is kind of an aggressive driver though. Lizzie and the hat are starting to mesh really well, but they still bicker.

My story is over 11,500 words now, and I feel like I’m 5000 words ahead of where I expected. Beginnings are always this way for me. I start strong, I finish strong, it’s the middle that bogs me down. This was always intended to be a novella, but if it reaches novel length I won’t panic. I don’t know if these are formal rules, but short stories generally don’t have as much setting as novels. If it looks like I’m approaching 70K at the end, I may beef up my settings to raise the word count. I may also need one more plot twist, but I’m thinking about it even now. I don’t know what might be expected in a novella, but I assume it’s somewhere in the middle.

I got a new piece of Lisa Burton art in the email today. My October micro-fiction will have a nice point of reference for people who like to read those. I think it came out pretty well.

After the writing ended, my daughter, her BFF, my wife, and I moved furniture. We’re finally getting rid of the seventeen year old carpet in the majority of the house. We’re having a fake wood floor installed tomorrow. This is a kind of vinyl plank that is hard to tell from real wood after it’s installed. It wears better than wood, and that’s a good thing for a family of dog lovers. We also tend to pick up road sand on our winter boots and this will hold up better than wood. I’ll get some pictures, but might not post them until Friday. Lisa has a guest tomorrow and we want that post to get all the attention.

We also have company coming for the rest of the week. That will eat into writing time, but I may get lucky on Monday.

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Feeling pretty productive

The dogs let me sleep a little today. I even took my time getting started. I did my morning surf through social media and enjoyed my coffee, before opening my WIP and reading what I’d done so far.

After that, the stars just lined up. I was the only human at the house, and while there was some canine intervention, I got do do what I love best. I added new words to The Hat.

Lizzie and the hat bonded, but they bickered all the way. They will never stop bickering, but it’s a lot of fun when they do. They decided to play the 3/4 size upright bass, and that required both of them giving a little. It works to establish the symbiosis they will need to finish their adventure. Some of this required me to go through my phone’s playlist, and I never write with music these days. I didn’t really this time either. I listened to some songs, chose one and paused. Then I wrote about it.

I tried to work the pieces from simple to complicated to show a kind of training sequence and some improvement. I’m not quoting lyrics this time, I did that for Will O’ the Wisp, and chasing the copyright license is more trouble than it’s worth. I think it works without them.

I faked my way through a couple of parts, which is very unusual for me. I like to get it right before I forge ahead. This time, I decided to work outside my comfort zone. I look at my words as placeholders to be modified later. Then I clipped the section and emailed it to my consultant. I included some specific questions, and can make an edit when I hear back.

I know you guys like playlists, so the story includes some Toby Keith, Creedence, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Dwight Yoakum, and even Commander Cody. I really liked the line, “We don’t need no stinkin bow.” It feels cliche, so I should try to come up with something better. For this kind of music, the bass isn’t played with a bow.

Lizzie and the hat also got to argue about hat styles, and changes in language. Most of this comes from the hat having spent over twenty years in a box. He missed the start of the electronic age we live in, and that’s been fun too.

Beyond that, I abducted a bunch of children, made it personal, and set Lizzie on the road to unemployment. In this case, stability is very important to the character, of course I had to strip it away. I’m not at that point yet, but the stage is set.

Before Old What’s Her Face got off work, I ended at 7051 words. Not bad for a two day total, and I have tomorrow largely available to write too. I’m into it, and after I talk to my parents, another few thousand words is realistic.

In writer terms, the character intros are over. There was a training event that teased greater things are possible, and the inciting incident went down. It doesn’t quite feel like the end of Act 1, because we haven’t glimpsed the hero that could be. It’s close though. I need to brainstorm the hero that could be part a little.

Drafting new material is my favorite part, and I’m so excited to get back to it. Bonus: I have enough for a couple of months at critique group too, so I’ll stop showing them Yak Guy and see what they think of Lizzie and the hat.

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Hello, Writing Cabin

I tromped into the writing cabin and caught Lisa unprepared.

“I thought you were reading and stuff. Let me just tidy up real fast.”

The office looked emaculate and I told her so. “What kind of mess can one robot girl make while I'm out? You don't even have to cook.”

“Dust, there's still dust even if I'm completely gone.”

“Suit yourself. I finished my backlog of projects, and decided to try a bit of writing today. You know, just to see if I remember how.”

Lisa broke into action, making coffee with one hand while she took out the Swiffer and went over the floor with the other one. She took a dust cloth and ran ahead of me to my writing desk.

The raven of Doubt glared at me from his perch. He bobbed up and down a few times in excitement.

“Not yet, dude. I'm not doing any editing today. It's time to move the Yak Guy ahead.” He knows The Enhanced League is ready to start editing, but I don't feel rushed to dive in yet.

I started by rereading my last few chapters. I made a small correction or two, and Doubt gave me the stink eye. Lisa showed up with coffee about the time I started writing.

I wrote one short chapter and it was kind of draining. It came in slightly over 3000 words. I don't know if it's because I hadn't written in a while, or because of the content. This chapter involved the end of the yak. He's been such a central character to the story it was hard to see him go.

“I'm really going to miss him,” Lisa said. “He's been at the cabin for a long time.”

“He has, and the next go round maybe we'll see the end of yak guy, Ted.”

“Then what?”

“Then, you probably have to pose for more posters and plan for a worldwide blog tour – or two.”

“That's always fun, then I'm going to use some vacation time.” She opened the window and let in some fresh air. Doubt took the opportunity to stretch his wings at the same time. She sighed as the yak crossed the meadow and headed for the snowy peaks. “He played a mean game of chess, you know.”

“Really, how did he move the pieces?”

“He told me the moves, and I moved them for him.”

“Kind of like he was playing against the computer then?”

“Not kind of, he was playing against me, my processors, and memory. He won more than a few too.”

“Maybe you can get him to come back for your radio show someday. Did you put his data in your Rolodex?”

Please, I'm completely electronic, you should know that by now, and yeah, I have his contact data.”

I checked email, and answered blog comments while she stared out the window.

“So what happens next?”

“Yak guy has to finish his journey. After that, I have a couple of novellas I want to try. That's how it will work out in a perfect world. They could be long short stories or short novels depending on the experiment.”

“What are we talking here? I might need to buy some new outfits for these stories.”

“One is a kind of paranormal superhero origin story.”

“Is that the one with all the hats?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“So you'll want the paranormal office then.”

“Absolutely. The other one is a spin on the lifeboat story. It has a science fiction background, but they're stuck in an underground bunker for a specific amount of time. The problem is they can't leave, and the antagonist is in there with them.”

“Got it, I already earmarked a bunch of hats and can get them ordered. I wonder what scream queens are wearing this season?”

“I'm sure you'll figure it out before we start. We have to give yak guy some closure first.”

The enchanted beer horns sounded off and came running. They curled around my ankles like a pair of cats.

“Hi guys, I missed you too.”

Lisa said, “I got a nice doppelbock from McCall Brewing for you to try. It's called Dunce Cap.”

“Huh! Did you pick that specifically for me?”

“Of course, I know doppelbock is your favorite.”

Woosh!”

“Don't woosh me, I know what you meant. Do you want the beer or not?”

“Of course, besides, these guys won't stop honking unless we fill them up.”

***

For those of you so inclined, I opened a Pinterest account earlier this year. I started a couple of boards called The Hat and Estivation that relate to my upcoming projects. You can check them out here.

 

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A good writing day

I landed out at the writing cabin at quarter to seven. I moved the little gyrocopter to the elevator and went in through the basement. It's still too dark to risk walking to the back door out here, and I didn't need the mammoth migration to decide my gyro looked like a good butt scratcher.

Lisa* had the office all ready for me, and handed me some coffee as I passed through the kitchen.

Yak guy wound up rescuing the children, now he has to figure out what to do with them. It's a long way to safety, and there is no home to return to. It was a good section, and I got about 2500 words in. We killed the bad guys yesterday, and today was a toning down that brought new problems. Now there's the possibility of more bad guys out there, being discovered by them, facing the wilderness, and keeping a bunch of kids safe and sound.

I weaved my hands behind my head and reflected on it – for about three seconds.

“Hey, you kids, put that down. Get out of the paranormal office. Yes, that's sharp.”

“Lisa, what's going on out there?”

“You wrote all these kids into existence, and I can't watch them all.”

“Can you get Yak Guy to help?”

“He's trying, but they're everywhere at once.”

“Run them all outside, and position them like a baseball team.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yup. It's nice out, and I'm going to write another Enhanced League story. They can fill in while we work on dialog.”

I moved my iPad to the deck, and looked at the position players. Our grass was dead, long, and muddy, but I used my imagination and hacked my way through. Lisa fetched some equipment from the basement, and she and Yak Guy each fielded a team. The yak himself served as the umpire, and the kids actually listened to him.

It wound up qualifying as a short story, and not a micro, so I felt pretty good about that too. If you add them together the word count is the best I've done for a while. If you include this post, it will break 5000 words.

I put my hat back on, and put my iPad away.

“Hold it, buster. Where are you're going?”

“Home. All this ball playing reminds me that I need to play some too, with Otto.”

“What am I supposed to do with all these kids?”

“I don't know. Make them clean your radio studio?”

“My studio, and the cabin are spotless.”

“Make them play baseball until they're all tired.”

“I don't even have enough food for all of them, and where are they going to sleep?”

“They aren't picky. I wrote them a bunch of tents, put them in there.”

“Right, with all the creepy stuff that wanders around this cabin, I'll have to guard them all night.”

“It isn't like you sleep anyway.”

“I still need to recharge, and I like to take a bubble bath at night. What then?”

“Look, you're going to have to improvise. You have the yak, and Yak Guy Ted can help too.”

“Fine, but after these books are drafted, I'm putting in for some leave.”

“You should. We'll be in edit and beta mode and you can get away then.”

“I will too. Don't think I won't.”

“Okay, bye. Good day today.”

Whatever.”

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot, and makes regular appearances on the blog and in cyberspace.

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Productive Holiday

I headed for the writing cabin about 6:30 this morning. It was clear and cold, and apparently determined to stay that way. (Our high temperature today was a blistering nine degrees.)

Lisa* knew I was coming. (She monitors my phone and gyrocopter.) When I walked into the writing cabin, the fireplaces were pushing heat, and the coffee was hot. “What's the plan today, boss?”

“The Yak Guy. We're getting close to the end, and I want to keep making progress. Is the yak still in the basement stable?”

“Sure is.”

I turned toward the staircase, and Lisa stopped me. “Wait. Give him his carrot. I picked up a bunch, and give him one every day.”

“Won't Bunny get jealous?”

“Oh no. He gets some too.”

I grabbed the carrot by the leaves, scooped up some hot coffee, and headed downstairs.

The yak stood in his stall, but the gate was open. “Hey, brought you a carrot.”

“Thanks, but I don't care for them that much,” the yak said.

I glanced back over my shoulder. “You're going to have to eat it. Lisa thinks she's doing something wonderful for you.”

“Fine, but I've had to eat a lot of carrots in the last six months. I don't want to let out my saddle.” He accepted the carrot and started munching.

“I'm heading for the Wheel of Fortune part of the story. Is the Yak Guy ready for it?”

“He isn't too bright, but he seems to be ready when the next event comes along. All you can do is try. I don't know how he's going to react to a decision he has to make with imperfect information. He always wants to know all the answers ahead of time.”

“Don't we all. It seems more prevalent with Yak Guy's generation though. I have a hunch, he'll deal with it if I don't give him any choice.”

“You can always have me gore him in the butt again.”

“Heh, that was fun, but I don't know if we can do it again without it seeming forced.”

“I understand, but there are days I'd like to.”

“Alright, buddy, get your saddle on and I'll have Yak Guy meet you in the meadow.”

I tromped upstairs to my office and kicked Yak Guy off the couch. “Time to get to work.” He begrudgingly left, and headed outside.

Words flowed well, and the Wheel Of Fortune lesson is over. All I have to do is rescue some kids, then find some refugees, and reunite him with the love of his life. I think it's going to hit 80,000 words, and if not I'll have to enhance a couple of places. I have a hard time calling it a novel if I don't get the word count.

The yak led his human into the basement and got him all settled. Lisa asked if that was it for the day.

“I think I can manage a bit more, to be honest. I'm going to try a baseball story.”

“Oh, crap, I never called any of them.”

“No problem, this story is about a barbecue on a day when the players are off. I'm going to explore their feelings about being placed on waivers, and who their competitors are for post-season slots. We'll write it, and interview them all later to make it feel right.”

“Too bad, I would have enjoyed a barbecue and a dinner party. I have this cute little black–“

“Nevermind, let's just write it. Maybe you can put an old game on TV for some atmosphere.”

“Oh sure, no problem.”

That seemed to get Lisa focused, and I cranked out a 1000 word micro-story. I'm enjoying these tales, but I don't know how the world will receive them at large. There are a bunch of stories, and a few recurring characters. It tells the story of a mythical season, but delves behind the scenes and covers a lot of activities off the field too. In a way, it has some similarities to The Playground in the way I'm relaying it. Because there is an overarching story, I can't do the twist endings my short stories are known for. There are some, but not with the frequency an Experimental Notebook would have.

I leaned back in my chair and took a sip of my coffee. “Let's make a couple of storyboards.”

“Are you serious? I didn't thaw out the left side of your brain. I might be able to, but don't want to scorch it again.”

“Don't worry about him. We'll just pin some cards up, and we can make them perfect later on.”

Lisa headed for the basement, and returned with two storyboards, a pile of index cards, some sticky notes, and all the colored pens you could want. What can I say, the girl likes making storyboards.

We made one for a science fiction tale I'm calling Estivation. This is like hybernation, but occurs when things get too hot. It involves a cute young couple who have to spend three months in a survival bunker while a parasite sun passes by their planet. I invented the term parasite sun for a gas giant planet that manages to ignite somehow. When things line up, their own sun plus the parasite sun, makes the surface deadly.

Their bunker is already occupied by a thief, and they all get locked in together. Happiness and merriment ensue. (Not really) They don't have enough food to last three months now. Throwing the bad guy out will expose them all to deadly radiation.

Lisa put that board aside, and we made one for a project called The Hat. This involves a hard working girl, who missed out on the family decision about what to do with grandma's personal possessions. She had to pull an extra shift and missed the meeting by a couple of hours. When she gets to granny's junk shop, her evil uncle decided to sell everything. All the heronine wanted was one of grandma's house plants, but even this was denied her.

When evil uncle's back is turned, she grabs a box and takes it home. Inside the box is an old fedora hat. It wasn't even grandma's, it belonged to the grandfather she never knew. Turns out the hat talks and forms a kind of symbiotic relationship with the wearer. This one is going to become a kind of paranormal superhero type story.

When wearing the hat, my heroine can see through his eyes too. They can communicate without vocalizing their words. She can see behind her, or wherever he is looking. She can also shoot guns while using his vision, while her own vision aims a different direction. On top of that, The Hat, plays an upright bass. She needs to wear him, and he uses her fingers and hands. This part is going to be great for character purposes.

I think my main plot problem is going to involve baby snatchers, and I've decided to include an unhelpful witch in the supporting staff.

The Hat is going to be more of a buddy tale, with my heroine and the hat making up the buddies. They're going to bicker and (hopefully) grow during the tale.

Lisa said, “So The Hat can be any kind of hat she wants, as long as it's a hat? Is that what's going on?”

“Yeah, basically. She can be seen in one thing, round the corner, and it's something else completely. Maybe headphones or something. Might make a reasonable way to avoid the cops.”

“This is so exciting, I'm going to order a small mountain of hats.”

“You party on, Lisa.”

And that's where I called it a day.

*Lisa Burton is my robotic personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories.

If any of you are that interested, you can check out pin boards for The Hat, and Estivation on my Pinterest site.

 

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Weekending

We didn't take anything too seriously this weekend. We started off with gift cards from Christmas. We did the standard thing, by each spending more than was on the card. Mine went to Men's Wearhouse, and my wife's went to the Apple Store. I wound up with some nice dress shirts and ties, plus a couple of pairs of pants. It was a buy one get one free deal, so not too bad. My wife got some wireless Beats headphones. Her 'phones are awesome too.

After dumping our cards (Plus about that much more of our own money) we stopped at Old Chicago for beer and pizza. All in all, it was a nice day together.

Today, we decided not to go out at all. There are a couple of movies that look interesting, but we both weren't feeling it.

I sequestered myself away and added 1500 words to The Yak Guy Project. It's not great, but it's progress. I'm off tomorrow and have the house to myself. (Myself and Otto, who has his own demands some mornings.)

I spent several hours doing research into one of my future projects. I may start outlining both of the future projects, but won't begin writing until I get my current projects finished.

My intention was to work on The Enhanced League for a while tonight, but I never got that far. Something about a Steelers game that got a late start.

I hope you all had great weekends. I'm very content with mine. We managed a fun date – day, as opposed to date night. I made small progress on projects today, and being content seems to cover it.

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