Tag Archives: Master of Professional Writing

Sneak Peek Blog Tour: Becca J. Campbell

It’s been a while since I’ve made time for anything but work. At the beginning of the year, that work was my day job. I put aside everything–homework, recreation, family…even my writing and publishing–because I knew how close my goal was. For two months, I buried myself in the day job just so I could crawl back out of it forever at the end of February.

But, as I’ve chronicled here, the end of one frenzy brought the beginning of another. I went from finishing up my day job to finishing up my Master’s degree. For another two months, I was desperately busy doing nothing but writing.

Everything got a whole lot better once I put on the cap and gown and walked away from the schoolwork…except, of course, I now had four months of neglect to make up for.

So now it’s time for recreation and family (not to mention my own writing and publishing). That all came together last week when I finally got the chance to dive into the newest novel from Consortium Books, Foreign Identity by Becca J. Campbell.

Foreign Identity is a light sci-fi puzzler. If I had to categorize it, I might call it romantic suspense. It’s Lost and The Truman Show rolled up in one. It’s a strange world, a living mystery, and two very ordinary people caught up in an unbelievable mystery.

The science fiction and mystery elements keep the story moving, but the real power of the book is entirely in the relationship between the protagonists, the conflict of true character, and the painful struggle to find a companion when you really, really need one.

It’s brilliant. It’s exciting fun trapped in the microcosm of two frightened people all alone. It’s a story well worth reading.

And since I’m lucky enough to be friends with the author, I get to participate in her Sneak Peek Blog Tour. That mainly means that you get a chance to win the book from me! Becca’s set up a Rafflecopter giveaway, and you can win a free copy of the book by signing up below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more chances to win, check out the other stops on board Becca’s Sneak Peek Blog Tour:

You can also learn more about Becca and get your own copy by visiting the Foreign Identity product page at Consortium Books.

Go there. Get a copy. Read it for fun. I did it for work, but that’s just because I have an amazing job. This was some of the most enjoyable reading I’ve done in a while. Now I’m off to do a little more. Later!

Nearly There!

On Friday, I dropped in to explain with great fear and trembling that I would have just three days to write 20,000 words.

I sort of exaggerated the dilemma, because I was only counting Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I left on Friday and Saturday, because I was heading to Arkansas for those two days to visit with my family there (and give a little talk on self-publishing to the Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas association).

That trip gave me six hours in the car both ways, and of course while I was in Arkansas–even with birthday parties and fancy dinners and writers’ associations–I had some time to myself. I should have called it five days, not three.

But, then, I know myself. With less than a week to write 20,000 words, I still only managed 2,000 words on Friday and Saturday. So, pretty much as anticipated, I showed up to work Sunday morning with 18,000 words to write in three days.

That was more than a little terrifying. I stared at my laptop in panic. I double-checked my word count (it hadn’t changed). I skimmed back through the last couple pages, hoping to ride some narrative momentum straight into a productive day of writing.

I went to get a cup of coffee.

I sat back down at the laptop, went through the whole process again, and went to get another cup of coffee.

Nothing was happening. I went for a walk around the empty office. Not a casual stroll–an aggressive, angry power-walk to get the blood pumping. I put in a good half hour, then came back to my laptop, opened the story, and just stared.

Finally I gave up. I went to Facebook and quipped. I went to Twitter and caught up on industry news and clever misattributed quotes. I did some administrative cleanup at all my many blogs.

Oh, hey! You can now email me from the handy-dandy Contact form!

And then–four hours in, utterly broken, and deeply ashamed of myself that I couldn’t even write one word, let alone 18,000–I went slinking back to my Google Docs.

But instead of opening the treacherous story tab (“GT: Faith – Editing Copy”), I opened the one next to it (“Prewriting Package for Ghost Targets: Faith”). I scrolled down to the plot outline/scene list and stared at a bunch of empty spots or brief, one-line descriptions. I frowned at one of those, shifted it down a spot, and fleshed it out.

Then I added a scene above it, to describe the one I was currently working on. And that generated a new scene, which bumped the one below it even further down. Then I skipped past that one and added a new scene after. I spent more than a hour adding fewer than 500 words.

And when I was done, I had a story to tell. I clicked over to the story tab, and started writing. By the time I went home last night (early enough to watch some TV with the wife and get a full night’s sleep), I’d written 8,000 words.

One day gone. Two days left, and 10,000 words yet to write. That’s still triple the daily output necessary to win NaNoWriMo, but hey, I did 8,000 yesterday. I think I can manage it.

Now I’m off to give it a try.

NaNoWriMo Every Day

I started writing books when I was…let’s say twelve. I first wrote Taming Fire while I was in college (ten years ago now), but I didn’t really hit my stride as a writer until 2007. In 2007, I finally finished two novels (my second and third). It felt awfully good to finish up two books at once, but those two had been slowly coalescing for most of five years.

So at that point, I was ready to accept that my “pace” for writing novels was about 2-3 years per title. To put that in a perspective that’ll be useful later in this article, those two novels combined came to 180,000 words. So I was writing about 36,000 words a year.

For that matter, the original version of Taming Fire (what you know as Taming Fire and The Dragonswarm), ran 140,000 words, and I wrote it in four years. That’s 35,000 words a year. See? I had a consistent, stable pace.

Then in November of 2007 somebody convinced me to try out a project called National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to complete a short novel (50,000 words) within November’s 30 days.

The rules are totally unenforced, but they say you have to start at the beginning of a new project, you have to write 50,000 words on that one project, and you can only count words written between 12:00am on November 1 and 11:59pm on November 30.

That’s it. You don’t have to finish the novel. You don’t have to edit it. (In fact, they strongly encourage you not to.) Quality isn’t at issue. It’s all about setting an aggressive pace.

I’d been trying for years to get my dad to write, and my sister had expressed an interest, and I was still on a high from finishing those two books in the summer, so I decided to do it. I got Dad and Heather to join, and we dove in.

I knew just how ridiculous 50,000 words in a month was (from my established pace of 36,000 in a year), but it couldn’t hurt to try, right? Even if we failed miserably, we’d have the beginnings of a novel to build on later.

To my surprise, it wasn’t ridiculous at all. That first year, we all three won (meaning we hit 50,000 words before the 30th). And I did better than that. I wrote all the way to the end of my novel…at 118,000 words.

Yeah. That changed my perspective a little bit. It was actually a pretty good story, too.

I’ve never recreated that NaNoWriMo experience. November’s always a busy time, and my life has gotten hectic, and (the real heart of the issue) I didn’t really have anything left to prove after that. So I’ve limped through or I’ve muddled the rules or I’ve just skipped NaNoWriMo altogether in the years since.

But I still use “NaNoWriMo” as a yardstick for writing. To complete 50,000 words in November, you need to average 1,667 words a day. I usually prefer to schedule my writing around weekdays, and leave myself the weekends to either decompress or catch up, so that requires 2,333 words a day Monday-Friday.

(To put it in that context, my phenomenal first NaNoWriMo novel averaged 3,933 words a day.)

Last week I talked about my due dates and the crazy ambitious schedule I’ve been wrestling with this semester. In the two months since I quit my day job, I’ve written

  • 50,000 words on The Dragonprince’s Heir (The Dragonprince Trilogy, #3) for Master’s Project
  • 20,000 words on Faith (Ghost Targets, #5) for Writing the Novel
  • 15,000 words on Oberon’s Dreams for Tutorial in Writing

That’s 85,000 words in two months, or 1,393 words a day. Oh, but I’m not done. I probably mentioned this last week, but if I’m going to pass all my classes (and graduate), I have to turn in 40,000 words on Faith for Writing the Novel at the end of the semester.

Another way of saying that is that I have to write 20,000 words between now and 10:00am on Wednesday, May 2.

And since I’m heading to Little Rock in a couple hours to visit Dad and Heather over the weekend, another way of saying that is that I have to write 20,000 words in three days. So…remember that first NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote unbelievably quickly? I have to double the rate of that one if I’m going to pass this class.

Don’t worry. I’ll do it. I’m amazing. But still…I really shouldn’t be using up time hanging around here. So…see you sometime next week!