Return of the Phantom Stranger – July 31, 2019

Hello, again.

It’s been a really long time, I know, but I have an explanation.

I’ve disappeared for long stretches of time before, but this time it’s different. I haven’t been quiet because I’ve been depressed, or frustrated, or burnt out.

This time I took a break from posting my progress on social media and my blog because I wanted to focus more effort on finishing the first draft of my novel. So guess what…

I finished the first draft of my novel 🙂

At 8:44 pm, on July 30th, 2019, in my office in my home, I finally got to write those two beautiful words, The End.

So, Yay, Me 🙂

The draft is the single, longest writing project I’ve ever finished. It’s huge. Way too big, way too wordy. But hidden within that giant pile of garbage is a good, entertaining adventure story. My job for the next few months (years?) will be to dig that story out.

I’m honestly not sure what will turn out to be harder, writing the thing, or editing it 🙂

None-the-less, despite a tendency to procrastinate, despite the small hardships and dramas life has thrown at me these last eight months, and despite trying to keep up on my other responsibilities, I stuck this part of my goal out to the end. I’m feeling pretty accomplished by that.

So, some stats…

I decided to make this latest attempt to write a novel on September 21st of 2018. NaNoWriMo (a yearly online writing challenge) was a little over a month away, so I thought I had plenty of time to prepare for it. I spent the last of that month and all of the next writing outlines, summaries, character bios, and researching stuff I thought I might need for my story.

I began writing the novel in earnest on November 1st, 2018.

I met the NaNo goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days in only 21, and was really happy with that. I figured at that rate, I could easily have the entire novel written by the end of the year.

It took slightly longer :p

Including all of the prep work, it took me a total of 313 days to get here, 272 of which was spent writing the actual novel itself.

A science fiction novel, which is what I set out to write, should normally be about 95,000 to 125,000 words long.

My monstrous pile of dung clocks in at 236,913 words. At least twice as many as it should be.

All of the prep work I did in September and October of last year added up to another 59,247. I kept track.

The word-count for this blog, which I started to chronicle my attempt, comes in at 46,328.

So, in total in the last 313 days, I’ve written 342,488 words related solely to the goal of writing a novel.

That works out to about 1095 words a day for 313 days.

Not too bad. 🙂

Ray Bradbury once said that if you want to become a writer, you have to write a thousand words a day for three years. That’s 1,095,000 words.

I guess I’m nearly a third of the way there 🙂

While I did average just over a thousand words a day, I didn’t write that amount each and every day. Some days I wrote more, some less, some not at all. So I’m very happy to see my daily average at that level.

Incidentally, yesterday, determined to finish the draft, between 9:30 am and 8:44 pm, I wrote 9,749 words. That’s the most I’ve ever written in one day. It’s more than even Stephen King claims he writes daily. So I got that going for me 🙂

Now, Bradbury never said that writing 1000 words a day for three years would make you a “good” writer, just a “writer”. My new goal now will be to use the rest of that time to become “good”.

Those of you who have been following my writing blog, (yes, the three of you) will know that I haven’t spent the last ten months doing nothing but writing.

I work a full-time job (to be fair, there have been quite a few layoff weeks in the last year), I’ve worked on a lot of projects around the house (the kitchen is nearly done, as is the greenhouse 🙂 ), taken on some rather whimsical side projects (pinball machine, cosplay costumes), gone to several concerts, organized several events, spent time with my family, basically lived life. I tried not to let the writing project interfere with my true responsibilities, and I think I succeeded.

I’ve also had to deal with the curve balls life tends to throw at us – managing my health (not bad but could be better), work issues (layoffs), relationship issues and stupid petty dramas from stupid petty people. Life happens. I managed.

While I was still blogging consistently, I wrote about most of the issues listed above. I tried to keep as much detail out of the writing as I could, so as not to identify anyone directly – I didn’t do the best job with that, as some bent noses will attest to 😉 – and in the end my blog became more of a daily “Life” journal than just a writing blog.

I think that I needed that. I needed a way to organize my thoughts and feelings, to spell them out in front of me so that I could better examine them, and find ways to deal with them. I really should get back to blogging regularly, not for the people I think read my blog, but for myself.

I have to thank all of you who have read my ramblings. The “likes” on my posts (whether you read them or not 😉 ), the words of encouragement, the occasional question of “Hey, how’s the novel coming along?” all went a long way to keeping me focused on finishing at least this part of my goal.

My wife, my kids, and a very few very close friends deserve an even bigger “Thank You”. Without their encouragement, and occasionally their indulgence, I don’t think I would have ever stuck it out even this long.

So, what’s next? Where do I go from here?

I’m going to put the story of the good ship Bonaventure and her valiant crew away for a little while, a few weeks, perhaps a month or so, and work on some other writing projects. I want to let the story sit for a bit so that when I’m ready to start making it bleed red ink during my first pass at editing, I can do it with fresher eyes and hopefully some small amount of detachment. There are a few article and essay ideas I’d like to see if I can write, and I have an idea for my next novel that I’d like to begin fleshing out for when NaNo ‘19 comes around.

As a gift to myself, a reward for finishing this goal, I went out and bought a Chromebook to replace the aging and ailing MacBook I wrote my draft on. It’s a small, lightweight machine, bare-bones but with a great battery life. I’ve been playing around with it for the past several hours, installing a Linux operating system on it and a very good word processor. I’m retiring the old Mac before it does finally have the biscuit, and I’ll (hopefully) be writing my next novel on this new, ultra-portable machine.

As I’ve said before, my main goal with this particular attempt wasn’t really to “write” a novel, but to learn how to write one. Have I done that?

Yes and no.

I certainly haven’t learned all I need to be a novelist, there’s still a long way to go before I can claim that. But I have learned that I can make the effort, that I can stick with it, write (almost) every day, and get to that finish line.

I have to learn to write well, to write efficiently, to make the story that’s in my head come alive on the screen or on the page.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I hope to learn a lot more in the coming months and years.

For today, though, after I make this post, I think I’m going to take a little break. Do some yard work, some chores around the house, play with my new toy or maybe just watch some Netflix.

Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll start a new writing project.

Thanks again.

Hope you’re all well.

July 31, 2019

BTW- I wrote this post on my new, Linux-powered Chromebook. It’s the first piece I’ve written on it 🙂 Also, this post’s word count is 1,479 words, so there’s my writing goal for today 😉

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