40 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Report Your Progress!

  1. I’m in research phase right now. I’d like to toss out a question re: how you compile research–I don’t mean whether you keep electronic files or store stuff in binders.

    But if you write books that are research intensive, and if you don’t have the greatest memory (maybe I’m the only one!), how do you categorize the myriad of factual data you compile in your research?

    By that I mean, there are standard things we can probably easily remember, like the cost of an “average” house in 1952, but research also requires a ton of minutiae especially when writing historical, for instance when the political and economic climate were different. Do you write your notes by general topics? Have “See Also” categories, etc?

    How do you categorize for yourself the bazillion and one factual details? Or can everybody but me simply remember everything they research?

    BK Jackson

    • Did someone page me? BK, my novels, all co-written with Lynn Sholes, are definitely research intensive. Like so many other writers these days, we use the Internet. When a tidbit is found that we can use now or later, we maintain a shared Dropbox research folder on each book and drag the URL link into it with perhaps a note or two. That way, one click will bring up the information when needed.

      Lynn and I tend to use a reverse system for researching. In other words, we don’t go looking for information and then write it into the story, we write an idea into the story and then go looking for information that supports it. This speeds up the writing process. Hope that helps.

    • I tried putting my research in Dropbox, but found it wasn’t compartmentalized enough. Now I’m using Trello.com for organization and loving it. It allows users to create “boards”, and then add items to “cards” on the boards. (You can upload files, create checklists, leave comments, etc. that are specific to each board.) Really useful for organizing not just a single project, but general writing and research, as well. My new go-to tool. The best part for me is that it allows me to dump all the business and research outta my brain so that I can focus on creating when my manuscript is open.

  2. I’m a mess, thank you for asking. I’ve been asked to send my full manuscript. Yay. A week before I received this request, I decided the ending needed revamping. Boo. Two days ago I replied to the request by asking if it was okay to send it this coming Monday. Haven’t heard from the publisher since. Have I upset him? Was my request unprofessional? Should I just burn the book? I know you should only query when your MS is done and clean. I thought it was. I can’t leave it alone.
    I’m a mess. Aren’t you glad you asked?

    • I understand how you feel, Amanda. When I went to my first Sleuthfest conference with my unfinished manuscript, an editor who read the first few chapters in one of those “Meet an Editor” events requested the entire book. I had to go home and finish it in a panic. Rest assured that a request for more of your work is an extremely promising sign, especially in today’s mArket. It shows you’re heading in the right direction. Good going!

  3. Amanda – I think the reason you haven’t heard from the publisher is that no one in the book business seems to work a lot in the summer, and not at all in late August, especially with this being the Labor Day weekend.

    My own WIP is in great shape. Finished the final (for now) draft last week, and I really think this is the one. I’ve spent the past week doing the word-by-word last edit, combing out the nits and fixing the surprising amount of typos and wrong words. I send it to my agent Tuesday. I’d have sent it today, but he’s not in his office this week. Labor Day, you know.

    • Ditto what John said, Amanda. Shrinks and editors take August off. I wouldn’t panic. And yeah, the hardest part sometimes is letting the baby go out into the world. You gotta do it. Good luck.

    • Thanks for the assurances. I’m better now. Of course it’s a long weekend. Hadn’t even realized. I should maybe get out of the house for a while.

  4. My dream is to write fiction, but I’m not yet convinced I’ll be any good at it. However, I’ve been to James Scott Bell’s intensive fiction workshop and read all his books, so I’m operating on faith I can learn to write a respectable novel. My fiction WIP is still in the outline phase in my Knockout Novel program (thank you, Mr. Bell!).

    For now, I’m focusing on nonfiction projects, which allow me to start building a body of work AND get a hands-on education in this whole writing and publishing business.

    I’m at the revision and editing stage of cookbook #2 (#1 launched last month), and am in the research phase of a book on reflective personality types.

    Thanks for the great Friday topic! I look forward to seeing what this talented community has in the works.

    • You can and will, Diane. I like Brenda Ueland’s advice about pausing for a few minutes each day to thumb your nose at the jeerers, critics and doubters. And that includes the little imp of doubt inside you.

      Finish that novel. You learn the most by finishing and fixing. Then lather, rinse, repeat….for the rest of your life!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Mr. B. I absolutely believe everything you’ve taught me, and there are some incredible models here on TKZ to follow. I’m grateful for that!

      I will work on strengthening my nose-thumbing habit and write on!

  5. Just starting my third draft of my first novel. I had it critiqued after the second draft, which turned up a major flaw or two. But better turn up by a critiquer than turned down by an agent, lol. I’ll be working on it most of the weekend and pitching it to agents at the Rocky Mtn. Fiction Writers Conference in three weeks.

    Is that only three weeks? Yeow!

    • Good on you for doing a one-on-one pitch, Leslie. I still don’t like pitching or discussing my projects in person. I prefer to present myself in writing. Years ago I had an agent meeting set up at a conference, and there was a wait list with people standing in line for the chance to get an appointment. I gave my appointment to someone at the last minute, I was so chicken! Good luck with your pitch!

  6. Finally too JSB’s advice and set a realistic goal, even with school starting back, that would push me but be manageable. 5,000 words a week. Granted, I haven’t had to grade any major papers yet, but I’ve hit my targets two weeks now, and am on pace for a third. So a MS that was 20,000 words this time last year, and only 36,000 near the end of summer (because we went overseas for a month), is now over 53,000 and moving forward every day.

    Thank you for that post, JSB.

  7. i”ve been in a sophomore slump for a long time. Started several projects that petered out. None of them seem to have an act 2. Frustrating.

    I’m outlining a new book. I think I’m more of a planner than the panser I thought I was. With a strong outline, I think I should have a strong Act 2. Going to use September and October as a write every day until its done time. Wish me luck.

  8. My WIP is more like WI no progress. Am stalled and distracted. But today is the first day of the rest of my book…

    Am caffeinated and confident. Going to open my chapter now.

  9. I’m making a few minor changes after a professional edit. Next, it’s going to my final reader, who is also my first reader. While she’s reading, I’ll be working on the query letter and synopsis (the hard part). This is my third novel-length manuscript, but the first to be to the stage of querying.

  10. I’m working on four short stories for the Writer’s Digest short story contest. Each story is in a different genre. It’s interesting to try to work in different genres. I learn a lot about all of them.

  11. Hoping to keep the buzz of the Claymore win going by having the entire manuscript polished and submission ready by the end of the year. I have a request for the full and two requests for partials and interest from another agent.

    Also fleshing out an outline for a short while I ramp up my freelancing. I now live and die (or at least pay the bills) by word count.


  12. Book #1 is ready to publish, if I could just get over the separation anxiety and get the publicity photo shot and the cover designed! Argh! My writers’ group is (justifiably) giving me crap for not having published yet, but I tell them, it’ll be published “this year,” I just don’t know WHICH year “this year” is! *grin*

    Meanwhile the first draft of book #2 is about a week away from being done. 103,000 words and counting. Seven scenes left to go, according to the outline. Woo-hoo! Then the real work begins. Bring. It. On!

  13. Just finished my first pass pages for my editor today, and am about 5K away from completing my next book. It’s a very good day. Happy Friday! 🙂

  14. Nearly done with an excruciating final revision of one, percolating and plotting the next. Maybe the reason the revision is excruciating is because I am SO ready to get on to the new!

  15. I’m in the middle of a second draft. The main goals are to punch up the wordcount from the pathetic 50k of the first draft, develop some characters, and improve on the tension build up.

    A couple of critique partners are waiting for it to tear apart, ahem, I mean, comment. 🙂

  16. My WIP (working title: ICE HAMMER) is gradually growing. After a summer slump due to audiobook recording and vacationating I managed to recently get over a hump of details and put out a rather significant portion of story very quickly the last couple weeks. Being the first of a series (and the first time I’m doing a real series) I’m digging deep in research and plot structure to make sure the characters can realistically survive the whole time span of the story arc. It is a challenge but I tell you what, I am learning a lot about a lot of stuff.

    For instance while the newer ergonomically curved ice hammers are lighter and considerably cooler looking than the older ones, as well as much easier to to use for vertical climbing, the old fashioned heavy straight ones have better ‘wieldability’ not to mention a lot more punch against bone and flesh and you don’t have to worry as much about ripping your flesh in a tussle.

    The past two nights I was able to overcome a difficult plot barrier for a particular set of characters via two or three scenes that combined getting food, stalking and tracking, keeping a large group warm in winter Alaska, training for combat, and team building as well as setting up the scene for the bad guys to come in to their potential doom. And I think did it all with an economy of words using action and dialogue among little bits of descriptives.

    In other words, I’m cruising along quite nicely, thankyaverymuch.

  17. First novel is out and doing well. Second novel is 1/2 finished. I’d hoped to be farther on the second at this point, but marketing the first is taking a bite out of my time and concentration.

  18. Anyone familiar with TLC fashion advice show, “What Not to Wear?” Well, I’m “How Not to Write.”

    Early this year, I became very discouraged. I’d been writing fiction seriously since 2009, and really, I’ve written professionally for 25 years, for corporations, some nonfiction. I’m in my 50’s, certainly no spring chicken. All my former writing pals have surpassed me, landing mega-agents and inking book contracts. I couldn’t get anywhere in writing contests, the rejections seemed to almost – spool and replicate on their own. I knew, though, that it’s several lagging issues holding me back – (a) lack story structure, (b) overcomplicate, (c) I procrastinate and doubt myself, (d) have attention deficit, and it surfaces in the kitchen sink plots.

    Feeling down, I decided to knock out a query on a new MS. Sent it to two agents. Well, the big agent bit. Requested a partial immediately, and in less than a week, asked for the full.

    Thing was, I didn’t have the MS finished, and I came clean with her, told her as much. She said she’d be eager to read it when I was done. Long story short (pun intended), now I’ve got 100K words, but the story derailed. The first 100 pages are solid, so is the ending. It’s that – sagging, kitchen sink middle that’s muddled and disjointed. I need to take things out and make the story more cohesive. I’ve dragged this out… over six months and fear the MS is unsalvageable.

    I’m not sleeping and I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to remember stuff. Our stock and trade is the ability to summon words fast – but my brain feels scattered. Plus, when I’m this anxious, I produce stuff that’s got the sophistication of a Dick & Jane primer, e.g., “Jane walked across the room to slap Dick resoundingly across the face.” At this rate, both Dick and Jane will be slapping mine. The agent was really interested in obtaining the full. Now it is six months later and I’m afraid she’ll no longer be interested. My husband says, “Send something good, don’t send something rushed.”

    To top it off, my ‘I’ key and ‘s’ keys are sticking on the keyboard. (Shaking head) Thanks for providing this kvetch corner.

  19. I am close to the end with my first WIP. I completed entering all of my editor’s suggested changes. Following a TKZ blog last week, I did the white sheet sentence by sentence search for typos, and found them all! Wrong! Now I am page 126 of 330 mumbling the entire book out loud and I have found more than my requisite 4 typos mentioned in TKZ blog. Aaargghh. I think typos grow inside a word document when one leaves it alone for an hour.. Hope to finish mumbling and publish with the help of smashwords next week.

  20. Just finished editing my third novel this year. Too much too soon. And next week I begin all over again. Writing them’s easy; it’s the never ending editing that drives me batty.

  21. Just now got back from five days in the mountains. Was in a huge wind storm with 120 ft trees snapping and crashing to the ground. Everybody okay and uninjured. One truck skewered through the windshield, dashboard and floorboard. Fortunately, it wasn’t mine.

    Catalina Eddie is in the final throes of editing and is screaming and thrashing to be born any day now.

    Cheers from Montana!

  22. Editing first novel, 92,000 words (and dropping)

    Finished editing short story, 8,900 words, looking for cover art and doing the interior design.

    Started second novel, about 4,000 words so far, struggling with the early stuff. My brain keeps heading to the big scenes. Contemplating writing those just to clear the noggin.

    Jotting down story ideas to keep the pump primed.

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