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The Last Quarter

Photo by Christophe Ferron: https://unsplash.com/@christopheferron

I come to you 8 days from my deadline on Tales. I’m at 73.5% complete as of my last reckoning, which means I’m nearly in the final quarter.

And things are getting hard.The pressure is on. The anxiety is building.

The last 2 parts are the least polished out of the whole book, and missing the most content, which means I not only have to edit and polish the words, but create new content to fill in the gaps—missing scenes, mostly, and a few changes that I can’t seem to avoid making.

I’m still trying NOT to rewrite what’s there, especially if the content mostly does its job. My focus is on patching what needs to be fixed. But with the gaps I need to fill, and how I seem to have made some serious story errors as I wandered around trying to find the end of the book, there is an inevitable bit of rewriting that must happen this week.

It makes sense that the last two parts of the book would be the least polished. I spent the least amount of time on them. I went over everything that came before 2, 3, 4, even 5 times. The last two parts were written basically in one go. And then they got broken out into two parts, with lots of holes, after the first edit, when I realized what needed to happen to give the structure some balance and symmetry.

So I have anxiety because I have about 12 scenes to write and polish in 8 days, and some are brand new scenes, and it is arguably the most difficult task yet because it’s also the end of the book, where everything needs to come together like I had planned it from the start.

Ha ha. Right.

All the pieces are in place, though. It’s mostly a matter of mastering my anxiety long enough to sit down and get to work.

So I just wanted to report here to let you know that I’m on track, approaching the final quarter, but that my work is not yet done. I could use a little encouragement now—and also someone with a switch to stand next to my desk and smack the back of my hand each time I type “Facebook.com” into the browser.

Also, to remind myself not to be afraid of the deadline—the deadline is the main reason I have made such stunning progress in the last month. Even if I miss it by a few days (which I DON’T plan on doing), it still counts as a win in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, that’s probably enough kvetching. Time to get to work.

Jan. 3 Writing Update

Photo by André Sanano: https://unsplash.com/@andresananoJudging by the state of my inbox, this is the day when everyone returns to work. Since that means my life will soon become very full again, and I’ll be even shorter on writing time, I wanted to take this opportunity to mark it: I made massive strides on Tales of the Republic over the holidays.

I’m at about 60% complete on this round of edits now, even having adjusted my target for the manuscript upwards by 5k words, to 85k words total. For me this kind of progress is huge.

The word count adjustment is due to the fact that I keep adding words as I go. There are several missing scenes to write yet in the finale, but the extra 5k should cover them.

But I’m not dwelling on it, just barreling ahead. I’m enjoying myself too. I usually hate edits, so to feel joy in editing is a relief, to be honest. Part of that is a change in my process, but a bigger factor is a shift in my mindset. I’ll be writing more about that soon in future posts.

After I get to 100% on the edits, the book will go to a copyeditor, then back to me a few weeks alter for proofing and post-production. After that, it will be out the door. I’ll tell you more about the launch as we approach. Finally seems like I’m in the homestretch on this one.

The Nonfiction Work-in-Progress

I didn’t make progress on any other fiction since my last update, but I did solidify and then expand the outline for the nonfiction project. I’ve also got an ebook cover for it…and that means I have a working title: Practical Fiction. It’s going to be a nuts-and-bolts type of book focusing on the writing process.

Basically it will cover all the “tools” (mindsets, habits, ideas, and exercises) that I’ve relied on to transform myself into a writer—tools that I found lacking in the many many books on writing that I have read. Tools that I picked from many places and gathered together into my own practical system.

Writing seems simple on the surface. Sit down and type words, one after the other. But as most new writers know, it’s more complex than it seems. This will be the type of book I wish I had found ten years ago, when I was just getting started.

Not rocket science, and most of it not even new information. It’s out there. The challenge is finding it and making it into a system. So the book is my attempt to put it all together for you and for me. To describe my system and try to show someone else how to use it. And as it always goes, I’m sure I’ll learn some new things myself while I’m writing it 😀

New Urban Fantasy Story

Last update for today: this month’s story, “The Door Below the Comic Store” is being published now (if you’re reading this at the time of posting). To get notified when it’s out and receive a free ARC (Advanced Review Copy), be sure you’re on my newsletter! I send free books and deals to readers there as well.

I’ll post again when it’s ready. Have a good one!

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 60% complete
(50,731 words revised / 85,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Publishing

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … 2,694 words written (6,000 estimated total words) … Status: Writing

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

Nonfiction

Work-in-progress for writers … 500 words … Status: Planning

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

Photo by Mich Elizalde: https://unsplash.com/@mich

Since the big quitting, I find I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

In the morning, I sit down to write, as usual. That habit has been trained over three years and it’s the most familiar thing in the world.

After a couple pages of editing Tales, I take the dog for a walk. So far, so good. It always feels good to do something active in the morning. If I don’t do any other exercise for the rest of the day, at least I did that.

And when I get back home, my body tenses, ready now for the flood of communications that normally come roaring in. I’m ready, I brace myself, I open my email…and this morning it didn’t come.

Of course this is still the holiday break for many people. I’d forgotten that! And most of my clients and coworkers are on vacation, so it’s kind of quiet on that front.

But for the past several years that has been my routine. Writing and walking in the morning, and spending the rest of the day at the day job and reacting to all the other projects I had going on in 2016.

Since the big quitting, there’s this hole in my day. And I have to figure out the best way to fill it with productive writing.

But I find myself doing these other things instead, and they’re worth listing out so that I can pin and then exorcise them like demons:

  1. Check Facebook. And Twitter.
  2. Check WordPress.com stats. Sigh.
  3. Check book sales. No.
  4. Check email.
  5. Refresh.
  6. Refresh.
  7. Refresh.

God damnit. The worst part is that now I have all this time to write, but my body and mind aren’t trained to do the work yet.

My body and mind are trained to check email, prepare for the next meeting, respond to messages from the night before.

And the absolute worst part is that on days like this, when there are so few emails and notifications, I actually feel bored.

BORED!

How can I be bored when I have 62% of a novel remaining to edit by mid-January?

How can I be bored when I have Translocator 2 and 3 to plan and write?

How can I be bored when I have a short story to finish and dozens more to write?

How indeed. And yet…

Now that I’ve made the time, I’ve got to learn to fill it productively. I’ve got to learn to associate the hits of adrenaline with productive work instead of spending the remainder of my day reacting or checking my phone.

Time to rewire my brain to get the same high and satisfaction out of writing that I usually get out of reacting to emails.

So how do I do this? The same way I kickstart any habit.

  1. Make a detailed calendar with deadlines
  2. Create an accountability system
  3. Reward myself when I hit my goals
  4. Forgive myself when I don’t

• • •

Focusing on the things I can control—words complete—I mapped out the percentage to complete I need to hit to get Tales of the Republic in to the copyeditor by January 15th. That’s about 10% progress every 3 days, or roughly 2-3 scenes per day.

That’s my primary focus right now, but if I get bored, then I can switch to the current short story, or the nonfiction project I’ve been noodling with.

If I’m not feeling the fiction, I can also use the blog as a warmup, like I did with this post today.

And at the end of the day I can read in my genre. I’ve got several short stories queued up on my Kindle.

• • •

I wrote the above blog post as a warmup this morning and came back tonight to fill out my progress. After my slow morning, I got things moving and started making progress.

I edited 4,000 words fiction (adding 937 to manuscript of Tales)
I wrote 1,350 words nonfiction —this blog and the outline/intro of the new nonfiction book for writers.

A good day. And I’ve made HUGE progress on Tales since the last update. I jumped up 13% since the last update 5 days ago! Best progress I’ve made in months.

No changes in short stories since the last update, however. That’s okay with me 🙂

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 43% complete
(34,368 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Post-production

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing (2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words)

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

Nonfiction

Work-in-progress for writers … 500 words

Christmas Eve Writing Update

Whew, a lot of good stuff has happened since I last gave you a writing update.

First of all, “End of the World” has done all right for it being the first piece of fiction I’ve published in several months. I had zero expectations, so I can’t be disappointed. I’m simply happy it was well-received by those who have read it, and continues to sell a bit.

Door Below the Comic Store - High Resolution - alternate fontBut my focus has been on what’s next. Edits for my next fantasy story, “The Door Below the Comic Store” came back, and I’ve already gone through those and produced the ebook. I need to finish the paperback, and then that should be available about January 10th (my target).

My newsletter finds out about everything first, so sign up if you want to be notified (and get a free review copy!) Here’s the cover for “The Door Below the Comic Store”.

Edits for “Wendigo” also came back. This is a paranormal/horror story, a bit of a departure from my usual stuff, but in a good way if you like dark and twisted stuff. It’s inspired by the Wendigo legend of the Navajo tribe, and is about twice the length of most of my short stories: 12,000 words, either a long short story or a short novella depending how you want to look at it.

Funny story: I totally botched the ending of “Wendigo” the first time through. I sat on it, knowing something was wrong, for a couple months before I finally gave up and sent it to my editor. I knew, for certain, that I screwed something up, but sometimes you need an objective opinion. Once I realized it was the ending that was the problem (thanks to my editor and the help of a writer friend), it only took a few hours of focused work to fix it. “Wendigo” also has a creepy cover that I’ve already picked out, and will share soon. That one is slated for release in February.

So now, as you can see, I’m ahead of the curve as far as scheduling goes. That’s never happened before, but damn it feels good. Things are going to be different in 2017.

And that’s not all!

I also wrote 3k words of a new science fiction story that I’m calling, “A Body of Work.” I doubt that will be the final title, as I almost always change titles several times before a story is done. This is a hard science fiction story set in the near future, after Earth has colonized Mars and built a dozen habitable space stations in near-Earth orbit. Also, aliens. Fun stuff!

And finally, I made a smidge of progress on Tales of the Republic. Par for the course there. Now that I’m ahead of schedule, I’m going to make a big effort to change that and get through it sooner. Won’t speak to launch dates yet (I’ve made that mistake before…sorry).

2017 is definitely going to be different.

Which story are you most excited about? Leave a comment to let me know.

Last day to enter 12 Days of Books giveaway

Oh yes! And today is the lat day to enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaways. Click that link and leave your email to enter 12 signed novels.

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 30% complete
(24,088 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Post-production

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing (2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words)

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

What It Means to Be Human

Photo by Patrick Tomasso: https://unsplash.com/@impatrickt

I believe people read to explore what it means to be human.

Who doesn’t love to pick up a new book, and get whisked away on an unexpected adventure? To fall in love with journey, the people? They are beautiful and they are flawed. Just like you.

It’s only natural to begin to empathize with their romance and their pain. Their loss becomes your loss. Their friendships folds itself close to your heart.

Life is to fiction as watered-down wine is to clear moonshine. Fiction is not life, it is life distilled.

Even a comedy has something to teach us between the punch lines.

Do you know anyone as well as you know the heroes and villains in your favorite books? Do you even know yourself that well?

And what other operation, apart from brain surgery, can take you so deep into the human mind?

This can be frightening, to be caught in such dark waters. But it also tends to open eyes.

Reading other people’s stories has something to do with what it means to be human.

Maybe the exploration is the meaning itself.

You can win 12 signed novels if you enter here between now and midnight on December 24, 2016! Award-winning novels, science fiction novels, fantasy novels. Do it!

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Also, check out my new short story about a garden and a robot named Michelangelo.

Nothing + Time = Something

Photo by Maxime Le Conte des Floris: https://unsplash.com/@mlcdf

Blogging is exciting when I have news to share. It’s harder on all the other days, when I have so much I want to tell you but none of it seems like big news, none of it worthy of marking as time passes. So instead of making a new blog I shrug and let it slip by.

Not today!

November was a lot of nothing in that way. I worked. I showed up for my responsibilities. Time passed. It felt like nothing until I looked up and it was December, the end of another year, and, why, would you take a look at that, it all added up to a little something in the end.

During October and November I spent my writing time working on Tales. Of course. It seems like that project is going to drag on forever, but I’m about 25% of the way through the second draft now. At the end of this draft the book goes to a copyeditor, then to beta readers, then to the world.

So, very close. It’s been a long time coming. It feels like nothing, but there it is: 25% complete the second draft. 20,000 words out of about 80k total.

The other thing I accomplished, and this is more recent, just this week in fact, is that I got a new short story edited and produced. This is a story called “The End of the World Is Better with Friends” that I wrote during the short story workshop I took in August/September. I ran it by a new copyeditor, who seems great, and produced the ebook and print book myself just today.

I’ve listed those two projects in the new Story Tracker section included below along with all the other stories I have in various stages of completion. I’ll include these Story Trackers on non-topic-based blogs like this so you can see what I’ve been working on, if you’re interested.

The Tracker helps keep me honest, and, as I’ve said, helps me see that my effort adds up to something over time.

The next time you hear from me, I should have a new short story for you!

• • •

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic, second draft … 25% complete
20,000 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words

Short Stories

“Centurion” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“Earworm” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“The End of the World Is Better with Friends” … 6k words … Status: Post-Production (indie)

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6k words … Status: Out for edits (indie)

“Wendigo” … 10k words … Status: Rough draft complete (tbd)

_
Photo by Maxime Le Conte des Floris

Good Distractions

Seattle trip near Pike Place Market

I haven’t written much fiction since my last update. Tinkered on short story revisions and procrastinated like a champion on novel edits. But my time was not wasted.

I spent most of my creative energy at the day job getting money to pay the bills. The rest of my time went into hunting for a new house in Austin, exercising and stretching to keep the back pain away, and–today–hosting an Indie Author Society meetup and setting up a future workshop on author branding. More on that soon. I’m really excited as this is the first workshop I’ve organized and I think it could help a lot of authors.

All that extra work last week was necessary because we leave for Seattle on Tuesday for a family getaway.

And, if I’m being honest, I think I could use a little vacation.

I will be working part time on the trip (of course), and doing a little writing too, but also trying to enjoy the downtime and soak in the atmosphere. We’ll be spending a lot of time in Capitol Hill, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle, so that part will be easy.

I’ll leave you now with one more photo, which I took last time we visited Seattle.

Seattle Gum Wall

I’ll try to post some new photos while we’re there later this week.

Until then I’ll be carving slices of time out of the day to write. Don’t need much, just need it to be focused. That’s the real trick to being productive.

A Tour of My Bookshelf

MG Herron's bookshelf

I’m experimenting with short book videos on my Facebook page.

The first installment is a tour of my bookshelf!

I’m posting them straight to my M. G. Herron Facebook page, but I’ve embedded the first video below for you to check out here.

Next, I’m going to do some short book reviews, starting with The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a wonderful short book and I know a bunch of interesting stuff about it, so it’s an easy one for me to do.

Like my page on Facebook if you want to see more videos like this. Doing videos is very much outside of my comfort zone, but I had fun with this one and decided to do more. It helps that they’re short, so they don’t take a lot of time to put together. Just need enough courage to smile into the camera lens and something to talk about.

Are there any books you’d like to see me review? Leave a comment on the blog and let me know if you do!

Writing updates

Here’s what’s new in my fiction.

I’m polishing those 5 short stories I wrote in the workshop. One has been submitted to a magazine. Another is awaiting some more feedback from beta readers. The other three need a little more work before I’m ready to mail them out.

Now that I have the titles more or less fixed, I’m going to list them here in the order I finished writing them:

  1. “Centurion”
  2. “Earworm”
  3. “The City of Many Worlds”
  4. “The Alien Apocalypse is Better with Friends”
  5. “Wendigo”

With any luck, I’ll be able to sell a few of these. I haven’t decided how long I’m going to keep them in the mail. Some of the more stubborn writers would keep them in the mail forever, until they sold. I don’t know if I have that kind of patience, but I want to give it at least six months to a year. These things take time, but the payoff is worth it for me. Selling a fiction story to a pro market has been a personal goal of mine for a long time.

In other book news, I also got all of the edits for Tales of the Republic back, and had a great call with my editor last Thursday. I’m currently doing a full read through of the manuscript and making detailed notes before I start the revisions.

To summarize the editorial feedback, the plot of the book is solid, but there is some work to be done on character depth, emotion, pacing, and some of the mystery that I unintentionally left off the page.

C’est la vie. I feel like this is pretty standard feedback for a first draft of mine, short or long. I’m glad that all the work I put into the plot paid off—not having to rewrite a significant portion of the manuscript is a relief (I rewrote huge chunks of The Auriga Project because of plot problems).

So I think I’m getting better at this writing novels thing. But I still have a lot to learn. Of course!

I expect the revisions will take me another month or two, so Tales probably won’t be ready until near the end of the year.

That’s okay. My first priority is always to write the best book I can.

It’s worth the extra effort to make readers happy, and to know in my bones that I wrote the best book I could at the time.

I plan to be writing for a long time, so patience at this stage is crucial. I’ve been on this journey for almost three years now and this is still just the beginning.