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mary AT

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Progress on The Dog of Pel

I'm writing steadily on The Dog of Pel. Current word count, as of today, is 75,000. I've accepted this one isn't going to move quickly but it IS moving. My best guess for the final total—and this is a total guess—is between 100,000 and 110,000.

I've outlined to the end of the story at least three times and no sooner do I get my head into the writing than the story takes off in another direction. So the outlines are more like vague guidelines. Another image that reoccurs: I'm crossing a very rapid stream, jumping from stone to stone. I can only see one or at the most two stones ahead at any time.

I can tell the end of the first draft is coming because I'm making a list of all the revisions I have to encorporate in the second draft. But 'first draft' is a little misleading since I've been revising all along and parts of the story have a polished feel.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing. As I said, progress.


Why I Self-Publish

Because I'm old.

Okay, I'm not exactly being followed around by some jerk in a long black robe waving a scythe, or not more than any of us are. But I'm not young. I read a woman's obituary in a local paper a few years ago. I can't remember many details but one thing stuck with me: she'd written 13 books, all of them unpublished. I don't want to be that woman.

Everything came together after my layoff. At that time I had completed one book and had another about halfway finished. I had submitting manuscripts to agents and publishers and had collected many rejections. I understood this was the way of the aspiring writer. I accepted that. But another comment on some writer's blog also stuck with me: it takes 20 years to break into print.

I didn't think I had 20 years. I still don't. And posthumous recognition doesn't have anything to recommend it. If I'm doing all this work I want to be around to collect the rewards, dodge the abuse, have the experience. So I self-published my first book, learned a great deal, finished and published the second. I learned more from that experience and, even better, had a really good time doing it. After years of corporate life where consensus had to be mimicked to get anything done it was liberating to do everything myself. I loved it. I still love it.

I've submitted a story to a commercial anthology. I hope it gets accepted. But if it doesn't I can publish it on Amazon or submit it somewhere else. I can put it on this blog and let people download it for free.  I can do exactly the same with The Dog of Pel when it is ready to go. Being an indie author is all about choices.

So would I like being published by a commerical publisher? Of course. It would be interesting, exciting, and validating. It would be a new experience and I hope I have that experience while I'm still competent to enjoy it. But if it never happens at least the work is out there. That's what my obituary will say.



Getting Stuck/Getting Unstuck

About two months ago I got stuck. The Dog of Pel was over half done but I could not see my way forward. Or rather I had so many possibilities and permutations I was writing scenes, changing my mind, rewriting scenes, and ripping them out.

I have three fallback techniques, which aren't really techniques but tricks to fool myself and force my brain to solve the problem. I tried two and invented a third, which seems to be working.

The first: print out the entire manuscript and re-read from the beginning. Mark it up. Go back to the computer and do all the revisions, hoping for inspiration to move forward. (This techique is very good for wasting time; I highly recommend it if you want the illusion of progress.) It didn't work.

The second: Outlining. I hate outlining. I have six or seven outlines of possible plot permutations and kept tripping over the alternative possibilities and unanswered questions, see first paragraph.

The third: I wrote down all the questions. I stared at the list for three days. Make that a week. Not writing for so long made me nervous I would drop the manuscript entirely, but I was reassured by my obsession with the questions. If I was that worried, the story was still alive.

This worked. Or it has worked short term, because I ignored all the outlines and notes and started a new story line for the last third of the book. Now I'm moving forward, like Jamie in the Scour, one step at time and testing my footing very carefully.

I remind myself over and over: I got stuck with The Bone Road. For a very long time. Years. I planned and wrote my way out of that, and (I tell myself) I can do it with The Dog of Pel. Never Give Up. Never Never Never.