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Whoops. I was so excited I forgot to post an update :).

When She Calls is now complete at 100094 words. Yeah, I did indeed express concerns about length in the beginning, but in this case I was not wrong. To get to that length, I added a major subplot. The advantage of this thread is that it allowed the ending to be even more well rounded and gave good reason for how and why the MC of book 2 in the two book series could find Andon and not know he was a priest...umm, cause he isn't? *grin* Anyway, for now my focus has to be on editing. I gave it short shrift and I'm paying for it with little to no progress. I don't know if I'm doing NaNo, but if I am, I'll possibly post that one. The pace, though, will be a lot less leisurely, I promise you :).

And stats:
72 scenes
72 complete - 100% of the novel
0 Scenes remain
0 Remaining word count
100094 Estimated length - with an average of 1390 words per scene.
100094 Current Total
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Okay, I know I'm not the only author who struggles with the myriad of names required for a book, especially when you can't go with Tom, Dick, and Harry but rather must come up with Garum, Therandon, Catterum, etc. Since I'm making the wild guess that those who follow my LJ are mostly if not all writers (I don't even think my parents come here ;)), I thought you'd find this amusing.

Part of When She Calls is the main character's rejection of his father's legacy. He never meant it to be permanent, but put off learning the trade until it was too late. Ultimately, fate had a different role in store for him, but it's a part of him throughout the novel that he's rejected this connection to his family.

What does this have to do with names you ask? Well, I'm nearing the end and things are happening that are turning him back toward, not his family tradition, but a more normal life. As a sign of this, I have another character call him by his full name...umm, what was his father's name again? Because of the period, his full name is: Therandon, son of *insert father's name here*.

No problem says I. I'll just wander back to the other reference and snag it from there since mysteriously it does not show on my character name list.

This is what I found:

Old habits had Andon executing a short bow to acknowledge the introductions. "I am Therandon, son of--" He stopped, knowing he'd lost the right to that title, to the industry it implied.


And just in case you're curious:

72 scenes
68 complete - 94% of the novel
4 Scenes remain
5519 Remaining word count
99341 Estimated length - with an average of 1380 words per scene.
93822 Current Total
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I am an outliner. I didn't believe it was true and I even fought the label for a while, but then I realized I always had a mental outline. Having a paper one increased my speed and allowed me to conceive of projects, put them aside, then pick them up again without much lag time.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I've reached the point in my outline of When She Calls that I always reach and yet it always surprises me. This outline was written way back in the beginning (June 2006 I believe) when I had the story in my head but nothing on paper. Since then, if you've been following this tale ;), I've found significant flaws (things where scenes never made it to the outline or where the outline was too short for the book). However, as I've been writing, I've been correcting the outlines flaws, tweaking it, reshaping it, but always guided by the outline itself so my progress never stalled.

This is my normal process. The completed first draft almost never resembles the original outline completely. And I'm okay with this process because the outline keeps me moving but does not in any way restrict what is necessary for the story.

Until I reach this point. The point that comes as a surprise every single time, not because I don't know its coming, but because I don't know where it will fall and I shove it to the back of my mind as much as possible.

Due to the accumulation of small changes, little nudges, tiny revisions, Neither of the last three scenes I've written resembled the outlined scene at all. Well, the first two had the same characters, even the same locations, but what happened there could not happen any longer in the way it occurred. It just wasn't possible.

So, I've lost my trusty safety net. I have less than 15k still to write (assuming the number of scenes stays remotely accurate) and no clear guiding light. Sure, I know what's going to happen. I might even know some of the details of what is going to happen, but I don't have the reminders, the little hints that allow me to slap out 1k an hour when I'm doing a push. Instead, I need to be thinking and rethinking each step. I've raised a character in importance, I've added an almost conversation about Father Pelet (almost because neither really wanted to dwell on it). Next I have to pad out a wondrous scene note that says essentially: Andon gets bored with temple life and craves the outside world. Thanks, Margaret. Very helpful.

This complicates my current word count challenge a bit, but I'm not declaring failure just yet. My characters are living and breathing. They know what they want and are willing both to compromise (Garum) and twist the world (Andon) to get there. I just have to make it plausible, interesting, and succinct ;).

And stats:
69 scenes
59 complete - 86% of the novel
10 Scenes remain
14002 Remaining word count
96611 Estimated length - with an average of 1400 words per scene.
82609 Current Total
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Yippee! Hurray! I'm saved!

And who would have thought I could find such joy in the end of a novel stretching further away from me. Today I wrote the re-introduction of Kareleen and a scene that was supposed to be one required two. It has class conflict, the return of Andon's despair over losing his family, and his recognition that he'll never have a chance at renewal, at starting again. Some of that beauteous help humanity feeling is fading in favor of a selfish "why me?" and I love it.

Detail that this also gives me extra word count and now fixes the novel firmly within publishable length. No, that couldn't have anything to do with my happiness, eh?

And stats:
New Words: 1850 words
67 scenes
45 complete - 67% of the novel
22 Scenes remain
30155 Remaining word count
91835 Estimated length - with an average of 1371 words per scene.
61680 Current Total
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Well, it's been an interesting couple of days. This was a marathon weekend and because of how the timing worked out I realized a 15k 48hrs was within reach for the first time this year. Yep. I went for it. Finished with 9 minutes to spare and 15654.

What does this mean for the story? A lot. I've passed through the tragedy and am in to the next phase which should be full of frustration but no more grand losses...well, unless you consider personal freedom sacrificed to a greater ideal a loss (as Andon does :)).

Another big change that anyone actually watching the stats might have noticed. The novel length is no longer at question. It's is well within the limits of editing into the 90k-120k range. If you're curious about how this came about, let me just say I'm falling on bad habits. Way back in the beginning, I believed myself to be an organic writer. It wasn't true, but that's what I believed.

The truth was that I worked on one project at a time with complete focus. This allowed me to maintain the outline in my head with very little loss. I still maintain most of my world building in my head...that's how I work and otherwise I believe things are written down which haven't been. However, I do keep outlines because they serve to remind me of which collection of world building I need to use for that particular story or scene. What had happened here was that I added a character thread (or rather one grew organically from a simple scene to show that Andon had no sense of propriety). All this time, I thought at least sketches of those added scenes existed in the outline and had expected them to get me clearly into the 90k range. So here I am with less than 25k to go on the novel according to my outline and it just didn't make sense. Scanned ahead and oops! Those scenes just weren't there. The scene count went up by quite a few and now the outline better reflects the story...again. Could it be I'm too distracted to write this novel? Nah :D.

And stats:
New Words: 6036 words
66 scenes
40 complete - 61% of the novel
26 Scenes remain
35049 Remaining word count
88970 Estimated length - with an average of 1348 words per scene.
53921 Current Total
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Wow, some run and all in one day :). This story is quite traumatic and very few moments of happiness with even those tinted with pain and upset. Why is it that this story demands to be told? Well, for me, it's very compelling. It's about belief and disbelief, about the lies we tell ourselves when it gets too much to bear, about the truths we refuse to face. Have I succeeded in putting all this in? Who knows. We'll have to see when the editing comes about. Will the story succeed on its own even if people don't want to look beyond the tale to what people are doing and why? That I think is a yes. There will be people who are unwilling to face the darkness, but they are not my market (sorry, Mom ;)). This novel is what this novel is and I think it's turning out gut-wrenching, traumatic, and powerful. At least that's the way it is for me.

Oh, and to give some sense of timing, I'm just over half way through the outline and just finished the second critical turning point. This was the moment where the two threads collide, that of the boy/man trying to deal with the absolute disaster that has become his life and the priest who needs the boy to hear the goddess. Though the priest himself is now dead (sorry folks), his need has not changed and another will pick up the burden and the POV in his place.

I just hope it's as wonderful a read as a write :D.

Oh, and on the mechanical side, it's still running low on the word count. I don't know whether to worry about that or not. The estimate (based on average scene length) still runs between the high and low 70k range (changing with each new scene). That's too low for the SF/Fantasy market I'm aiming at. However, I think Kareleen's role in the book will grow, probably not to the point of a POV, but maybe, and I usually increase my word count when I edit (though only by between 5k and 10k. If I can get it up to 90k though, it'll be within the realms of possibility. This is definitely not part one of a book. There's too much going on for it to conclude and then have the story continue. This is shaping up to be the type of book where you sit in the dark after reading the last page and just absorb and accept what you've experienced...and thank God that it wasn't really you.

And stats:
New Words: 5686 words
58 scenes
33 complete - 57% of the novel
25 Scenes remain
33298 Remaining word count
77251 Estimated length - with an average of 1332 words per scene.
43953 Current Total
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My new words only reflect for today, but I've been doing quite a bit of work on When She Calls as you can tell by comparing to my previous total. I'm afraid this story may be more depressing even than Bring Out Your Dead, if in a completely different way. However, Andon continues to learn not only that he should have taken responsibility for what he was supposed to be doing, but that he cannot change the future or the past even if he does take responsibility. The gods and the dead care little that he's recognized his poor decisions as the reason for his family's horrible death nor will his careful attention change the fact that his sister is dying as well. Still, at this point he's almost too responsible and good. No problem. He just needs to remember that the last time he went to the goddess for help, she turned him away at the door. That'll properly realign his focus in the wrong direction :). Isn't being the architect of the universe grand? And to think, all his suffering, all his pain, is just to make him into the willing victim of an assassin in book two. Writing is very weird :).

Can you tell I'm just glad the words are coming when I want them to? This might not be the end of today's words, but I have some edits to do and some time to spend with my family so thought I'd drop this in now and let later take care of itself.

And stats:
New Words: 655 words
58 scenes
27 complete - 47% of the novel
31 Scenes remain
42421 Remaining word count
79368 Estimated length - with an average of 1368 words per scene.
36947 Current Total
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I'm trying for one thousand words a week minimum, which should be nothing but is turning out to be a bit of a trial with the other pieces I have going. Still, this weekend is the first word count marathon for July and so far it's going well. I have a new laptop that does not make a *zing* sound whenever it starts and a comfy sofa to brace myself on (I've thrown out my back and am slowly recovering) so it looks good for getting some movement this weekend.

What? You expect me to talk about the story? Actually, that's moving pretty well. I like the yin/yang developing between the priest and his successor. The priest believes his goddess will make everything turn out all right even if he has to suffer in the meantime while his successor believes that no one will help, not human nor god, and he has to make things go right with his own labor. They're both right to a degree :).

And on length, it's still running short but not terminally so, which means I have some room while editing (a luxury I usually don't get).

And stats:
New Words: 2316 words
57 scenes
19 complete - 33% of the novel
38 Scenes remain
55518 Remaining word count
83277 Estimated length - with an average of 1461 words per scene.
27759 Current Total
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Catchup -
In the last few posts for Bring Out Your Dead, I mentioned March Madness and a new novel. That novel turned out to be When She Calls. This novel has an interesting history, or at least I think so. You'll have to tell me in the comments if you agree :).

Carnifex Press ( put out a call for short stories about assassins for Clash of Steel: Book Two - Assassin. Assassins have always held an odd fascination for me; a childhood spent creeping about getting into trouble and not getting caught probably had something to do with it ;). At the same time, I was running a 5th Wheel marathon at Forward Motion on character building (a request that had me a little lost seeing as I didn't work that way). I decided to try an flesh out the characters for my germ of an idea because it hadn't quite solidified into a viable story.

Now this was a complete disaster. I realized early on that all the fleshing out had expanded the scope of my story well beyond short story length and into novel territory. Thankfully, a bit of the backstory turned out to be a standalone that I could submit. It wasn't accepted and hasn't found a home yet, but I still think it's a strong story.

Anyway, so I ignored the novel in the making and went off onto other tasks. However, the story just wouldn't leave me alone and I thought it might make for a good marathon novel. Then I started outlining it and came to the shocking conclusion it wasn't one novel, but two. Okay, I thought I could survive this, but I was not going to be ready for NaNo, a realization that proved true. However, on the March Madness challenge (Day 2, I believe), I started to write Assassins, Book 1 or When She Calls.

Then life interfered and the story has been going in trickles ever since. I've set a goal of 1k a week in the hopes of continuing forward motion. We'll see how that works, though the fact that I'm writing this after 11pm on Saturday, having just finished my 1k (1200 actually) does not bode well.

So, on to present day and When She Calls:
This entry was written 6-15-06:

Well, I'm not making much progress on When She Calls because I've been pulled in other directions. I'm in the middle of selling my house and moving to another state, as well as the Forward Motion short story challenge that I treat myself to every year. Still, I started back this week and slipped into their world easily, something that gives me hope for finishing before the end of the year.

There's one thing that has worried me, though. I don't remember if I mentioned it before (I hadn't cause I wasn't blogging this :p), but my one concern was that this book was coming in short. It was a complicated plot with many layers and multiple POV, so I'd thought it would resolve on its own, but as I've been writing, the scenes have stayed mostly short and very little growth in the expected word count has occurred. Now, I'd prefer about 100k for this book rather than my usual 120k, but 70k made me nervous.

So here I am, scanning the outline to figure out what I'm writing and I discover a line that has absolutely no foundation in the book. "Grief, anger and hatred fought for dominance of his heart and hatred won. He knew who to blame. The goddess of life, of healing, hadn't saved his family. Though he could not touch a goddess, he could make her suffer. He raced through the streets that he knew as well as any who haunted them, heading for Noonrani's temple." Okay, all very good and necessary for the plot and everything so this should make me happy, right?

Sure. But there's one wee little difficulty. His family isn't dead! I have no idea how this happened, but somehow when I was putting together the outline, I knew that bit so well that I never bothered to put it in :p.

For the moment, my writing has stopped so I can clean up the outline and make this HUGE continuity flaw go away. I usually don't have this problem because of the outline, but in this case I had a mental hiccup. The good news is that I don't have to go back. I've decided that the loss of his family happens after his friend dies and even happens BECAUSE his friend dies. Look at that! New tension and threads tying together and all. It's grand, it's great, and it's one of the reasons I outline: to see how all these threads tie together. Only it's bizarre to trip over this at the writing stage.

Don't worry, I'll get over it now that I'm back on track ;).

Current stats:
56 scenes
17 complete - 30% of the novel
39 remain
83786 Estimated length - with an average of 1496 words per scene.
25435 Current Total


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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

April 2017

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