Sunday, January 11, 2009
How Long To Write A Book by C.L. Wilson
One of the most important (yet under-appreciated) bits of knowledge any author (published or unpublished) should know is how long it takes them to write a book. How much time does it take you to plot a book? How many words per day / month do you regularly produce? How long does it take you to revise/edit a completed manuscript?
Why is this information important to know? Because when you sell a book on proposal (i.e., you sell a book you haven’t written yet) your editor is going to ask you if you can write that 100,000 word book in the five months they have on their schedule. And if you say yes, you’d better hope you’re not a 9-month per book writer like me!
So, how do you go about finding how long it takes you to write a book? Well, as with most metrics, it requires trial and error—and copious documentation!
The first item on the agenda is to figure out how many words per day you write on average—and figure out how many words per month you write on average. The best way to do that is to keep a writing log to track your daily (and hourly) progress.
I use an excel spreadsheet. (I’m great at creating spreadsheets to avoid doing math on my own!) My spreadsheet tracks the number of hours I write per day, the number of pages I produce per day, and the estimated and actual words per day I write. (I started to program the spreadsheet to even determine most productive day of the week, but the formula was too complex and I gave it up.)
I average 1000-1500 words per day. The most I've ever written since beginning to track it was 3500 (which I managed once and only once). I've hit 2000-2500 several times, but most days, I just try to hit the NaNoWriMo 1600 wpd. Most days, I don't make it either. And so long as I know that – and factor that in to my “writing time” equation, that’s okay.
When I first start a book, I open a new spreadsheet. I enter the anticipated word count into a cell on the spreadsheet and the due date. The spreadsheet then calculates what my average word count per day should be and I write to meet that word count (and keep checking the cell that tells me if I’m ahead or behind schedule).
The pieces I haven’t factored in yet are the planning and revising days…but again, after trial and error, I discovered I need to set aside a couple of months for revision. I constantly revise. and even when I think I’m done, I need to build in time to set the book aside (because by the end of my book , I’m too far into the forest to see anything but trees), and time to revise before I send to my editor. On my “writers schedule” I also need to plan for about a month of revisions after the editor gets out her pen.
Another useful bit of knowledge to possess is what your most creative time is. If you don’t already know this, start thinking about it. How to figure out when you're most creative? The best way (the only way) is to try writing at various times and in various places and see what seems to work best for you.
I know 3am-6am is my best writing time because as I'm logging, I see how many words per hour I produce before 6am. I can usually double that wordcount, but it takes me until 8pm at night to do it. On occasion, I will hit my stride in a scene - and then I have the 2000-3000 word days, but those are rare. And I've discovered the last two years that BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) doesn't make those "all day" numbers go up at a faster rate. My goal this year is to get into an exercise routine - so I do my morning hours, take the kids to school, do a morning exercise routine, then go back to writing. I'm hoping the exercise will help boost the creativity centers in my brain! :)
King of Sword and Sky
Leisure Books ~ Sept 30, 2008
By C.L. Wilson
Eld ~ Boura Fell
"Two Primages and sixty of my Black Guard slaughtered, and yet somehow the pair of you survived. While my prize escaped."
In the lowest levels of Boura Fell, the subterranean fortress buried deep beneath the dark-forested heart of Eld, High Mage Vadim Maur paced the sel’dor-veined floor of a small, sconce-lit cell. Before him, two battered and bruised men sat chained to a pair of black metal chairs. One wore the blood-and-filth grimed remnants of an exorcist‟s scarlet robes. The other wore shredded and stained crimson rags that had once been the silken garb of a Sulimage, a journeyman practitioner of the vast and ancient arts of Magecraft.
Vadim Maur‟s pacing came to an abrupt halt. Luxuriant purple robes swirled about his spare form. Long, bone-white hair slid across his shoulders, accentuating the pallor of a face that had not seen sunlight in a thousand years. One beringed hand shot out. Thin, cadaverous fingers closed around the swollen jaw of Kolis Manza, Eld‟s most famous and esteemed Sulimage, who had until only a few days ago served his master Vadim Maur‟s bidding in Celieria City.
Now, the Sulimage‟s sash had been stripped of its jewels of achievement, and the shredded, honor-bare swath of cloth had been tied around the man‟s throat to mock his once-proud status as the High Mage‟s most accomplished and magically gifted apprentice.
"Capture her," Vadim hissed. "Bring her to me. That was my command." Long, ridged nails dug deep into the Sulimage‟s skin. "Yet you returned empty handed."
"She was too powerful," Kolis protested weakly. "Not even the Primages could stand against her."
"Powerful?" Silver eyes snapped with fury, and white frost formed on every surface as the room‟s temperature plunged in sharp response. "Of course she was powerful! She is the crowning achievement of my last thousand years of work! The Tairen Soul I created! My greatest triumph—and you let her slip through your fingers!"
"What more could I have done, master? The Fey broke through our defenses." The Sulimage coughed, then groaned as his broken ribs protested. "I tried to hold them off, to give the others time to get her into the Well, but then she… her magic…just exploded. She surprised us all."
"Silence!" Vadim‟s free hand shot out with vicious force. Despite the High Mage‟s great age and increasingly frail appearance, his fist smashed hard against his apprentice‟s face. The heavy rings of power decorating each of his fingers amplified the force of his blow, and the crack of bone and the crunch of breaking cartilage echoed off the stone walls of the chamber. Blood sprayed from Kolis‟s mouth and nose. A groaning breath wheezed out of his lungs, and he slumped senseless in his bonds.
Vadim turned to the man in the ragged exorcist‟s robes and whipped a wavy-edged Mage blade from the sheath strapped to his waist. He snatched a handful of greasy brown hair and yanked hard, pulling back the prisoner‟s head and exposing his throat to the dagger‟s razor-sharp edge.
Pale blue eyes, surrounded by stubby black lashes, looked up at him in mute fear. Fresh blood trickled from both nostrils and the corners of the man‟s mouth, and vicious purpling bruises swelled on skin still mottled from earlier beatings. A pulse beat like a trapped sparrow in the man‟s throat, and his barrel chest rose and fell with short, rapid breaths.
The prisoner swallowed convulsively, and the skin of his neck pressed against the razor-sharp edge of the Mage blade. Even that light touch tore a fresh slice in the captive‟s skin. No blood trickled from the wound. The dagger‟s thirsty black metal drank every drop before it spilled, and the dark cabochon stone in the blade‟s pommel began to flicker with ravenous red lights. The man froze in breathless silence.
Vadim‟s mouth twisted in a snarl. "And you, butcher‟s boy. Did you seriously think for even the tiniest instant that your miserable, insignificant mortal life held any value to me except as a means to capture Ellysetta Baristani?" Vadim leaned forward, letting his silver eyes turn to dark, bottomless wells of blackness sparkling with red lights as Azrahn, the sweet, powerful magic of the Mages, gathered within him.
Den Brodson, son of a Celierian butcher and former betrothed of Ellysetta Baristani, stared up into those twin pits of blackness and knew he was staring death in the face. He‟d seen death before, a few days ago in the Grand Cathedral of Light, when Rain Tairen Soul had pulled a Fey blade from its sheath and smiled into Den‟s eyes.
Then, Den had turned and leaped into the Well of Souls to escape. Now, gods help him, he had nowhere to go.
The white-haired High Mage leaned closer still. "Your only value to me now is what small service the Guardians of the Well will offer in return for the delivery of your rotting corpse as a sacrifice."
A mewling whimper broke from Den‟s bloodied mouth. He‟d seen the Guardian‟s handiwork…seen what they did to the dead and dying. As long as he lived, he‟d never forget the high-pitched, animal screams of Eld soldiers being eaten alive when fresh blood seeped through their bandages and drew the hunger-maddened demons like wounded creatures drew thistlewolves.
Gods, he didn‟t want to die that way. "Please…"
Black eyes sparked with a sudden flare of malevolent red. The High Mage put a hand over Den‟s chest, directly over his heart, the fingers curved like claws so that only the fingertips touched. All five, pointed nails gouged into the skin as if the Mage intended to bore through Den‟s chest bones and rip out his heart. The black eyes whirled. The skin where the pallid hand touched grew cold.
"No, wait! Wait!" Panicked, Den shoved his feet against the cell floor and scooted his chair back, retreating from the icy hand. The leg of his chair caught on an uneven stone and with a choked wail, he toppled over backwards.
Pain exploded in his skull as his head cracked against the stones. His hands, shackled at the wrists, scraped hard against their metal bonds. The sudden jolt shook his entire body, and a long, narrow parcel of wadded cloth fell out of his robe‟s deep pocket to land beside him.
The pair of pale, hulking guards standing near the door strode forward to grab Den‟s chair and haul it—and him—back upright. One guard kicked the small parcel, and sent it skittering across the floor. The fabric unwrapped as it went, and a handful of long, crystal-topped needles spilled out, chiming an absurdly cheerful series of tinkling notes as they rolled across the stone floor.
The High Mage went still. His eyes narrowed and lightened from nightmarish black to a slightly less terrifying shade of cold, glittering silver. Sheathing his dagger, the Mage pointed to the scattered exorcism needles. "Bring those to me," he commanded.
Both guards rushed to obey, gathering up the fallen needles and bringing them back to their master. The Mage examined them closely. Most of the dark crystals topping the needles were dark, but several sparkled with ruby lights.
His jaw clenched. He spun around, grabbed Den‟s chin in a fierce grip and shook him, making stars whirl across Den‟s vision. "These crystals have tasted blood," the Mage hissed. "Whose flesh did the needles pierce, mortal? Yours? Or someone else‟s?"
Den swallowed the acrid bile rising in his throat. "Ellie Baristani," he groaned. "She pulled them out to stop us from taking her into the Well."
The High Mage released Den and straightened. He lifted the needles to his nose and inhaled deeply. His eyes fluttered closed. When he opened them again, the Mage smiled.
"Well, mortal, it seems you will keep your miserable life another day, after all." He untied the sash from around his waist and wrapped the needles in it carefully, then deposited the small bundle in his own deep pocket. "I do not punish those who please me, and this gift is pleasing indeed."
The shallow, relieved breath had barely left Den‟s lungs before his chest constricted on a new surge of panic when the High Mage lunged and his bony hand closed round Den‟s throat.
"Today is my gift to you," the Mage hissed. "But for life after daybreak tomorrow, there is a price, mortal." He lifted the Mage blade, twisting the black, razored edge so the light of the sconces made shadows dance across the dark metal. "Accept my Mark. Willingly bind your soul to my service. Or when the Great Sun rises, you will die a death more hideous than any you can imagine."
The Mage smiled, pressed the point of his dagger to Den‟s wrist and sliced. Blood welled from the cut and slid down Den‟s arm like scarlet teardrops. The Mage lifted the wrist to his lips. Den flinched as a pale tongue flicked out, tasting his blood. "Answer me, boy. Surrender your soul or die. The choice is yours."
Den‟s hand shook. His entire body trembled. How had this happened? How had his plans gone so awry?
The Mage‟s grip tightened, pointed nails digging into the soft skin of Den‟s inner wrist. "Speak, mortal! Do you accept my Mark? Of your own free will, do you bind your soul to my service?"
Den‟s dreams of living in luxury in some remote part of the world, growing fat on the profits of Ellie Baristani‟s magic, shattered like broken glass. There would be no palatial estate. No soft-skinned, buxom serving wenches to tend his every need. No lords lining up to seek his favor. There would be no Ellie Baristani on her knees before him, kissing his feet and begging for his forgiveness, whoring herself to please him.
His eyes closed. His shoulders heaved with helpless, silent sobs.
"Yes," he whispered.
"Yes, master," the Mage‟s hissing voice corrected.
"Yes, master." Tears gathered in Den‟s throat and burned at the back of his eyes.
"Then say it. „Of my own free will, I accept your Mark and bind my soul to your eternal service.‟"
Den heard himself, weeping brokenly, repeating the damning words. Hot tears ran down his frozen cheeks. The cold press of the Mage‟s mouth clamped against his wrist and pulled sickeningly as the Mage sucked Den‟s blood from the sliced vein. Then came the colder press of that taloned hand gripping the skin above his heart. A sickly sweet aroma filled the air, overpowering, like barrels of rotting fruit. Pure, frigid ice, sharp as a knife, plunged deep into his chest. A will, heavy as stone, pressed down upon his.
He was in a black river, gasping for breath and fighting desperately to stay afloat, while a heavy weight slowly and relentlessly dragged him down. His head bobbed under. The thick, black, oily liquid of the river—so cold, so horribly sweet—enveloped him. His lungs burned as the air in them ran out and the need to breathe became overpowering. He fought, struggled, tried to kick his way to the surface, but the weight anchored him down, dragging him deeper and deeper.
His world was total darkness. No light. No hope. No hint of warmth. His lungs were on fire. If he breathed he would drown. If he didn‟t breathe, he would die.
His mouth opened on a deep, desperate, despairing gasp. Oily blackness flooded in, filling his lungs, filling him.
With one last, choking, weeping cry for his lost life, Den Brodson surrendered.