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Ghost Novel: The Day After

30 April 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I just finished close to a 70,000 words on a novel I was hired to do by a New York publisher.  Did it in ten days here and blogged about my days and how I did the words. The editor on the book reported that it arrived just fine.

. . . .

And numbers of people seemed stunned that I could go to work for ten days, then go to work on day #11. So for one more day, I’ll do my day here. Just to try to put one more nail in the attempt at killing a few ugly myths about how writers work.

. . . .

8:30 PM… Horrid start to the day, but alas I’m back here. A couple of the days in the novel writing I didn’t get into the office until late to write, so back at this like normal.

The day started early for me as well, getting up around 12:00, getting my three breakfast bars eaten while doing some e-mail and then heading to the WMG offices by 1:30 PM. Meetings on all sorts of business stuff, then Kris and I had lunch and I went back for more meeting from 4 until 6:00PM.

Then I went down to a local restaurant to enjoy part of a birthday celebration for a friend, then to the grocery store and back home to cook Kris dinner. We watched the news, I came up here to my office, worked on e-mail and did this. I will now work on the homework for the online workshop I am teaching called Pitches and Blurbs, then head back to the WMG Offices for a time.

I expect to be back here in my office at home by around 11:00 PM and headed for the computer. Up at WMG Publishing tonight I’ll work on putting together Fiction River: Time Streams that I am editing so I can get that turned in on time. When I get back here I’ll tell you what I end up writing on and give page counts.

(more entries coming through the evening and night…remember, I don’t go to bed until around 5 AM)

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

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15 Comments to “Ghost Novel: The Day After”

  1. I followed this and never commented, just stayed in the background. It was interesting. Never would have pictured him a night owl. That was when he did most of his writing.
    I know I couldn’t pull off a 70,000 word novel in ten days nor would I want to. I don’t want to leave my characters that fast. I’m attached to them. Mind you I write stuff that is in series so I get to hang on to them a bit longer. I’m not afraid to move on to the next project as I work on more than one project at a time. We all have our different ways.

    • Agreed. I think Dean’s posts are not intended as a prescription for how every author should write, but to share writing options that many authors have not considered, Vera.

    • 7,000-8,000 words is a typical weekend day for me in NaNoWriMo, so if I didn’t have a day job I could do that quite comfortably. However, I’m not at the point where I can just write ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ and start a novel with no idea of where the story is going to go, so I spend a lot more time thinking about characters and plots than I do putting words on the page.

      But one of Dean’s points is not to get attached to a novel; if you’re going to write a hundred or more in a long career, then you shouldn’t treat any of them as a special event. That makes a lot of sense to me.

  2. I followed Dean’s discussion about his ghost novel and posted on his blog a few times. One post I made, however, never made it through the moderator screen. Dean seems to make a point about editing not being necessary. He even gave the title of one Star Trek novel that he ghosted, which he wrote in a few days and it went straight to print. I went to Amazon and looked at the reviews. One complaint was that in a scene where soldiers were issued AK47s on the next page they were shooting M16s. In my post that never made it to Dean’s blog, I pointed out that mistakes like this are why some minimal level of editing is required. (Of course, this assumes you’ve got an editor/fact checker who knows the difference between an AK47 and a M16.)

    • Geez, I’ve seen movies where a character is carrying an AK47 in one shot and an M16 two seconds later…

      I’d presume that would come more under copy editing, which Dean does say every novel should go through (and I agree).

    • I’m hoping that if I write enough the day will come when I can produce a first draft that isn’t at least 60% incoherent rambling. (I’ve been writing for over 20 years and I have gotten better; give me another 20 years and maybe I’ll have it figured out by then.) Until then, I have to revise if I’m going to inflict my writing on the world. The lessons that I have taken from Dean, have taken very much to heart, are 1) don’t revise the work to death, and 2) don’t revise according to someone else’s rules and ideas of what the work should be.

  3. I don’t think I could achieve this level of productivity–at least not yet. Maybe after I’ve been writing for another 10 or 20 years? But the detail I found interesting was that he has an “internet computer” and a “writing computer.” That sounds like a good way to avoid being distracted by the internet when you’re writing.

  4. Mrs. PG commented yesterday that, after 20 years as a published writer, her recent novels have required very little editing after she finished them.

    Earlier, she often had 1-2 major rewrites before a book was ready.

    • I’m the same way, in that I can effectively self-edit as I write. Some authors, no matter how prolific, can never step back from their work enough to be able to do that. But you have to be willing to do the necessary research to get your details accurate. Example: I edited Dar Tomlinson’s award winning novel Broken after it had won the Hemingway First Novel Award and had to point out to her in one scene where the shrimper is working on the engine in his boat that diesel engines don’t have spark plugs. J.A. Konrath made the same sort of mistake in one of his short stories where he refers to the “carburetor” on a diesel big rig truck.

  5. In the comments, one writer referred to working within your creative voice as doing a trust fall. Dive into your writing and write the next line, then the next. Trust your creative voice to catch you.

    That’s tangential to a lot of what was discussed in the comments, but it really caught my attention. Probably because trust is a huge issue for me right now. When I trust the process, my writing flows more quickly and with better story telling within it than when I get tense and caught by my critical voice.

    I feel pretty comfortable with word choice and sentence structure. I’ve got 2 million+ words of expository prose behind me, and that removes a lot of the anxiety about such things. (I do still care about word choice and sentence structure. I use care in those choices. But I don’t stress about it.) Where I stress is: Is this the right scene to have next? Would she say this? Or that? Would he really do that next? Or this other thing? Should I start the scene here? Or there? Probably because I’m barely approaching half a million words of fiction. I do trust I’ll get less anxious as my experience grows. But in the meantime…

    The worrying doesn’t do much for me. Trusting the process and simply writing does! And I always like reminders of this fact!

    • I so agree and found the emphasis on trusting of the process to be very inspiring for me as well. I like the idea of being able to write an idea again if somehow the way you first wrote it didn’t work the way you wanted. Just take another run at it, and another, as many times as you need. Who knows how many different stories I can end up with just starting with the same idea?

      I love the freedom of that. And the freedom from making a book an event. It’s another project done. Move on to the next.

      Trusting and going with the process. Just makes me feel so much more relaxed. 🙂

  6. I think it is time for writers to question the legacy writing process in the same way that they are questioning the legacy publishing process. Because the two are tightly bound together.

    The legacy writing process is a waterfall process[1] designed to fit the schedule of publishing companies, not to benefit the writer. In a waterfall process, you have a series of stages with the input of each stage (after the first) being the output of the previous stage. Most importantly, the entire work goes through each stage as a whole.

    The biggest problem with waterfall is that interferes with your ability to achieve mastery. I’ll define mastery as the capability to deliver publication-ready writing as a flow. That just means you sit down, you write, and your output at the end of the session is done.

    No one starts out with mastery. You need help to get there. But conceptualizing editing as a separate step that always follows writing is a horrible mistake. Editing should be part of the feedback loop that makes you a better writer. The goal of an editor should be to “graduate” their writers.

    The one thing I see wrong with Dean’s process (and I’m sure this due to the publisher) is that he’s delivering the whole thing at once, instead of delivering every day. I’m not arguing that writers get to the point that they don’t need quality control, but that the quality control needs to be applied to the smallest chunk possible. Look at the mistakes that G. M. Frazier points out up thread. Those things needed to be corrected as soon as possible.

    I think the ideal working model would be for the words to show up on the editor’s screen as the writer types them. The editor’s corrections would accumulate until the end of the writing session. The writer would address the corrections before starting the next writing session.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model

    • William – Mrs. PG has a good friend who wants to receive her books one chapter at a time as she writes them. This friend is superb at catching plot and continuity errors so those get fixed very quickly.

    • I post a chapter at a time to my beta-readers, which can certainly help — though I’m not churning out a chapter every 1-3 days, so the beta-readers can lose track, too.

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