The September Offensive

The official due date for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is end of the year. But because DELICIOUS required such enormous and pervasive rewrites, I told my editor that I would have the first draft of NQaH on her desk by the end of September, to give us three months to fix it, should it too be catastrophically off-track the way the first draft for DELICIOUS had been.

I have about 25-26k right now–need to delete most of what I wrote yesterday, therefore the uncertainty. So I’m looking at minimun 2000 words per day to finish the darn thing. Feel free to bet that my editor wouldn’t see anything until the first week of October is over–that’s just how I roll. But I do honor my deadlines in an approximate fashion so I will be going after it.

To make sure I’m honest, I’m going to post daily (probably) updates here.

In the meanwhile, here’s a recipe addendum to DELICIOUS, in case you are hungry. 🙂

September 1: The word count stands at 27k exact at the end of day. I spent most of it writing in the master bathroom (where most of Delicious was written, and you’d have thought it would have been the kitchen, wouldn’t you?), while His Hawtness spent a lot of quality time with the kidlets.

September 2: 27,500 words. Spent most of the time kidlets were in school getting together a mailing list for the published author network of my local RWA chapter. Need to do better tomorrow.

September 3: 28,800 words. Did do better, but not by that much. My favorite way to write is to have a 14 hour day and spend the first five or six hours doing nothing, and then get alarmed as the end of the day approaches and start typing. Alas, can only do that when the kids are away at Grandma’s. 2nd graders have to be picked up five minutes after they’ve walked to school, it seems.

September 4: 1,200 words progress; total, 30,000. Not impressive, but okay considering that most of my day was spent following politics, which I haven’t looked at since 2006, and most of my evening spent having fun at The PHADE.

September 5: 2000 words progress; 32,000 total. His Hawtness came home early in the pm and picked up junior kidlet from school. Then Mom had the kids for the evening. So I got my 14 hour day.

September 6: Eked out 1000 words; 33,000 total. Usually after a good writing day I’d be totally chillin’. But I guess this public reporting is making me stick to my goal better than I otherwise would. Not sure how much of everything I’d be keeping in the end. But this story in the middle sections has an actual external plot–H/H have to get from place A to place B in time for big trouble at place B–so it is the external plot that is moving.

Interestingly enough, I had several days of awful time moving the story forward–see the bit at the top of the post about having to delete most of what I wrote on 8/31. And that was because I was stuck trying to sketch something of a big picture of the political situation of the Northwest Frontier of India (today North West Frontier Province in Pakistan) in the summer of 1897, right before the lid blew off. You’d think that with all the information already at my fingertips, I’d have no trouble doing a bit of a summary. But no matter how I summarized it, it was boring, boring, boring.

Long time ago, when I listened to the commentary on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the editor talked the big battle at Helm’s Deep, a few hundred men and Elves against ten thousand Urukhai. Their first cut of the battle was 28 minutes. And they thought it was awesome. So they expanded it a few minutes and expanded it a few more minutes. But with each expansion the fight became flabbier and less interesting. Their revelation? Just a battle, no matter how well shot, does not interest people. They had to keep the focus tightly on the protagonists and never leave them for more than a few seconds.

That’s a similar lesson I’m learning here. By itself, the danger that my H/H face isn’t interesting, even as we move toward the big fecal-matter-hitting-oscillating-mechanical-device moment in terms of the external plot, it still must be the conflict in their relationship that dominate the narrative.

September 7: 700 words today; 33,700 total. Writing barebones scenes can only take me so far. At some point, I lose my grip on my characters. I miss the little details that actually make a scene, and I cannot dig as deep into their hearts when I have not been dealing with their emotions, only their actions. So I took off much of the day to potter around the house, cleaning up stuff and cooking. Tomorrow I will be revisiting the half-scene I wrote today to put in paint on the wall and a rug on the floor, so to speak, cuz right now it’s just all bare plaster and concrete.

September 9: Aha, I took Sep 8 off totally. Read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed instead. It’s my favorite kind of nonfiction, informative AND entertaining, with a strong narrative. (And besides, disaster stories have a certain fascination of their own.) Will have to read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies next.

Yesterday sort of got back into the groove. Progress: 700. Total: 34,400. I can truly say even when I’m working, I’m not blowing anyone away. 🙂

September 10: Progress, 1,200; total, 35,600. It is the kind of day where I actually ran out of hours in the day, what with running errands and kids homework and what not. I stopped at a very easy point. So should resume tomorrow without much problem.

September 11: Very decent day of writing. Progress, 1,600; total, 37,200. And I got to chat with Janine. And I surf around a bit. And I did homework with the junior kidlet. And I went to sleep at 10:30. Tomorrow might be less productive with Ike breathing down our Texas. Would be cooking most of the perishables we have in the freezer in case electricity went out. Was in Baton Rouge when Andrew landed in Louisiana and we were without electricity for three days.

September 12: 600 words; 37,800 total. Spent a lot of time looking at Ike stuff–like I need to feed my already chronic case of blog-titis. Then cooked a few things to last us the weekend should power go out. Chances are nothing much would come to Austin, Hurricanes tend to turn east when they hit land, and Austin is way west of the Galveston-Houston area.

Had a thought today. The kind of historical romance I like to read and write is sort of analogous to old-fashioned painting, sometimes even like miniature portraits that require a lot of precision and very fine brush strokes. But when I try to go really fast, as I do right now, it feels like I’m pouring buckets of paint on canvas. Or rather, to borrow another analogy, the story as it currently stands is like an impressionist painting: okay when you look at it from a distance, a mess up close!

September 13-14: Progress, 2,200; total, 40,000. Yay, finally moved into a new 10k band. And I did something I rarely do. I jumped forward a couple of scenes to write a crucial turning point scene–again, thanks to that scaffolding of external plot.

As for Ike, it didn’t even touch Austin. A bit of breeze and no rain at all–we put out our wash in the backyard as we usually do. But it looks like the situation on some part of the TX gulf coast might be dire. Best hopes to minimal damages and the swift return to normalcy.

September 15: Progress, 900; total, 40,900. Good review day. Bad review day. The Chicago Tribune liked DELICIOUS. Mrs. Giggles did not like PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. I am relieved she didn’t review PA when it first came out. I used to get much more affected by a negative review than I do now–if I came across a bad review then I’d spend the rest of the day googling anxiously. Yesterday I said “Oh well, maybe next time,”–cuz you gotta give Mrs. Giggles credit, she does give authors second and third chances, unlike moi–cooked dinner, and then went back to writing.

September 24: I had a blast on tour. Account coming soon. Now must stop most other kinds of voluntary online activities. Not Quite a Husband has just been given a June 2009 pub date. And it’s only half-done. So I’m freaking out and will be going underground any minute now. (Don’t worry, freaking out does good things for me.) 🙂

11 thoughts on “The September Offensive

  1. How’s it going? Of course, if you took time out to let us know you wouldn’t be working on writing. Since it’s been a few days since your last update, we can hope that you are in a writing cave and pounding out those words at an amazingly fast rate.

    Good Luck!


  2. good luck with the deadline.

    I have been meaning to come by and post this comment: I read Private Arrangements a few months ago and it was truly fabulous. I am off to get Delicious right now (hadn’t realized it was out). I read a huge amount of British/Regency romance novels throughout my teens and twenties, even when they weren’t very good. So I feel I can tell you with some authority that PA is at the very top. Congrats, and thank you!

  3. Sherry, I will be monitoring your progress with keen interest 🙂

    The writing process is absolutely fascinating to me. Are you plotting as you write, or do you have all of that sorted? Do you polish as you go along, or are you throwing it onto the screen, to come back to later?

    Are you still with the late Victorians, or have you shifted time and space?

    Sorry for the bombardment, feel free to ignore. Good luck!

  4. Renee,

    You comment puzzled me a bit, since the updates are there everyday, until I realized you must be on google reader. But I have been updating like a good girl. 🙂


    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And you are most welcome!

    ::runs off to giggle somewhere::


    Ignore you? No way. But the answers will be brief since I just spent 3.5 solid hours talking about myself over at the PHADE. Am completely fed up of me and my process just now. 🙂

    I sort it out as I go, usually seeing no more than 3 scenes ahead. I used to polish as I go, but have temporarily given it up for speed, cuz there is no end to polishing. But should I ever get stuck, back I go, polishing. Because if I can’t go further, it means something I’ve already done isn’t right. Either I need to polish hard and dig really deep into the scenes and the characters, or I need to throw out stuff in a hurry.

    Still with the late Victorians, nutty bunch, but eminently suitable as a setting. 🙂

    There, I wasn’t so brief after all. Guess writing is just too interesting to talk about for me to ever shut up completely!

  5. Eek — just reading how much you need to write in a few weeks’ time makes me nervous. (Uh, not to make YOU nervous or anything!) Good luck on your progress.

    And I blogged about Delicious today, kind of a funny story… You should check it out! 🙂

  6. Sounds like you are on the right track. Remember, you will have three months to revise, so this draft doesn’t need to be perfect.

  7. Catherine,

    Thanks. That was a fun story. 🙂


    Hugs. Yes, I do think I’m on the right track. This story isn’t Private Arrangements II. It isn’t Delicious II, either. So it will have to find its own niche. 🙂

  8. Sherry,

    It did my heart good to hear that Delicious needed some “fine tuning”. Not that I take pleasure in your struggles…

    I love your writing and hope to be published myself one day. It gave me hope (as I sit staring at the seventh round of edits on my WIP)- knowing the writing doesn’t always flow perfectly out of your fingers to the keyboard! :0)

    Love watching your progress on NQaH. Best of luck!


  9. Tiffany,

    I do love how you call it ‘fine tuning!’ I would have been dearly grateful had Delicious needed only fine tuning. As it was, I tossed out the equivalent of two full drafts, as in not revised, but tossed out entirely.

    So you should definitely take heart. Delicious was a mighty struggle. That it ended up being actually a story I’m proud of speaks to the magic of the creative process. Breakthroughs happen!

    And best of luck with your writing.

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