Thursday, September 27, 2012

750 Words, Every Day?

September Critique Giveaway still open! Scroll down one post.

This past August 8, I got an idea that is, for me, a little out there: commit to a target word count per day. Every day (mostly; keep reading). On my WIP -- not blog posts, student letters, conference-session planning, or any other kind of writing. That stuff would be extra. Over and above. Same with writing-related tasks like research. And querying. That would be over and above.

This is hardly a new idea, but I've always been one to schedule writing time rather than a daily word quota. And had I been happy with my productivity lately? Well, not so much, to tell the truth. Hadn't I been wishing for awhile that I could write faster without losing quality? Very much so. And, I suspected, I could. In fact, I might gain quality if writing a daily quota, and therefore writing faster, kept me more constantly immersed in the story.

So, I came up with a plan.
  • Write 750 words per day on the WIP, every day, for the rest of 2012, with days off as follows:
  • 12 specific dates that include 2 holidays, 2 election days (I'm a pollworker and we have 14-hour days), 3 conference days, and 5 vacation days to visit our kids this fall.
  • Calculating on August 8 the number of days left in 2012 gives 145. Subtracting 12 leaves 133. Multiply 133 x 750 and you get 99,750. That's the number of words I propose to write on my fiction between August 8 and December 31, inclusive!
Now, take one more look at that total. 99,750. Am I going to stop there? No, because add just 250 little words to that -- about a page! -- and you hit 100,000. How can I stop so very short of 100,000? And because my daily minimum is 750, there's every chance I can write a fair amount more. Because when you're more regular, you get more days when the words flow, and 750 can seem like not much at all. At least, I had more days like that back in the time of contracts and deadlines. And I'd like to get them back.

What 100,000 words represents almost makes me giddy. When I began my challenge, I needed less than half this total to finish my current WIP. I love revision more than drafting, so once I get to the revision stage, I could and can do more than 750 words most days. Another way to look at it is that 100,000 words will give you roughly two complete MG novel drafts. Maybe close to three!

How's it been going? If you'd asked me on August 7 whether I'd be almost done with my draft by the end of September, I'd have said no way. Sometimes I think I'm more of a binge person than a steady, everyday one; and often it's a lot more realistic and constructive to evaluate progress by the week than by the day. Still: I am almost done. And it rocks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September Critique Giveaway

It's critique time. Enter to win!
  • I will critique TWO manuscripts. "Manuscript" means the first 1000 words of your children's magazine story, chapter book, MG novel, or YA novel.
  • No picture books, easy readers, poetry, or nonfiction.
  • Just comment on this post and state that you wish to enter.
  • Extra entries for following, Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, etc.
  • Include your email, OR check back to see if you've won!
  • Enter now through Wednesday, October 3.
  • Please, no stories that you intend to enter in an ICL Children's Writer contest.
  • Winners announced Thursday, October 4.
Let the entering begin!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

You Gotta Love the Equation Bookshelf

For the math-loving bookworm or book-loving math geek in your life, this bookshelf is a hoot. The important stuff (i.e., the operations you do first) go inside the parentheses, the next most important inside the brackets, and finally you take care of everything within the braces. You could totally make a statement at any given time about which books you'll read first, next, and last, or what items on the shelf are your favorites. I trust those parentheses, brackets, and braces move, because that would be the coolest, and just imagine the equations you could arrange (with books or other items as Roman numerals, equal signs -- use your imagination!). You could send coded math messages to your fellow math person; you might not have a fellow math person in real life, but you would in a book. And yes, I do sense a book idea coming on...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Book Pick -- The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, by Trenton Lee Stewart

If you've read the three Mysterious Benedict Society books, two of which I posted about here, and here, you won't want to miss this prequel, which portrays Nicholas Benedict as a nine-year-old boy (he's a grown man in the MBS books). And if you haven't read the MBS books, do! (It doesn't matter if you read those books, or this one, first.) In a Dickens-meets-Agatha-Christie sort of way, Stewart gives us the story of an orphan entering yet another new orphanage, except that two things make this situation different: Nicholas is a genius afflicted with narcolepsy, who falls asleep whenever he experiences a strong emotion; and the orphanage was once the Rothschild Mansion and is rumored to contain a treasure. This last might be shrugged off as just a story, except that from his careful observation of the orphanage's director, Mr. Collum, and the man's tapping on walls and thumping on floors, Nicholas realizes that at least one adult on the premises believes the treasure is real. Well, who wouldn't want to get their hands on a treasure? And who better to match wits with Mr. Collum than a boy genius?

The portrayal of Nicholas's genius especially interests me, and when we get inside his mind and follow his observation and reasoning, and when he takes specific action such as figuring out how to make a key mold and then a key on the sly, his intellect is most convincing. I also love that his problem-solving includes clever ruses and acting at times, as well as puzzling things out in the expected mental-exercise sort of way. Other traits, such as his photographic memory and especially his extreme ability to speed-read, seem a little more like plot conveniences. We have to take the author's word for these more. On the whole, Nicholas is likable and believable, and part of the charm of the book is that though several of the characters seem stock (Mr. Collum, the bully group known as the Spiders, Nicholas's friend John), we don't care, because they come alive. In fact, that these are familiar characters coming alive just adds more enjoyment to the book.

Another thing I adore about this book is that it's one to sink down into. It's thick (468 pp.), it's definitely upper-MG reading level even though the MC is only nine, the writing is descriptive and all-around stellar, and Stewart has the confidence to take his time getting the mystery plot rolling -- not something a mystery writer normally does. As far as the reading experience goes, people who like Harry Potter or older-style MG that's a little longer, a little slower-moving, and a little higher reading level than a lot of fare today, will enjoy this. As will readers of smart mysteries such as Blue Balliett's or Elise Broach's books. Highly recommended.