RESULTS: The First Annual Great Christmas Write-a-thon

When last you’d heard an update about the progress of the Great Christmas Write-a-thon I was, hmmm, underperforming.

I will confess that the plan (getting three stories done over those two weeks) didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. I ended up getting exactly ONE story completed in that time–SHIPBREAKER. The story ended up being far more difficult to get working than I’d anticipated, so a lot of my time was eaten up trying to work through various character issues, plot problems, etc.

My estimate of its ultimate length was around 7500 words, and that it might need some trimming afterward to get it under that threshold (7500 words seems to be where editors stop seeing ‘short story’ and start seeing ‘novella’, and that can create problems for selling to markets–in this case an anthology whose upper-limit is 10 000 words).

However, SHIPBREAKER ended up being 9562 words long, and by printer’s rule that makes it a whopping 10 000 words long (!) Obviously WAY longer than I expected. Here’s how the per day breakdown went:

Dec 19: 26 (yeah, yeah, I know. Shut up)

Dec 20: 208

Dec 21: 927

Dec 22: 534

Dec 23: 633

Dec 24: 791

Dec 25: 476 (fairly respectable, I think, for it being Christmas Day, and me being all logey with turkey and cabbage rolls)

Dec 26: 466

Dec 27: 183 (hmm…I think the logey caught up with me…)

Dec 28: 1631 (booyah!)

Dec 29: 1431 (booyah, uhh, again! Dammit…)

Total Words Written: 7306

Average Daily Total Word Count: 664

So, I’ve sent it off to some readers and received their comments back. While all have offered very useful suggestions that I’ll use during my revisions, crazily enough a couple want me to make a novel out of the thing. Errp! That’s something to maybe consider down the road (I’d not really imagined writing a fantasy novel–I tend to do mostly SF) but my plan now is to finish another story for another anthology first and then turn to revising SHIPBREAKER by the end of February for submission.

I know I need to cut this one down from 10 000. Part of that will be easy–I suffer from a lot of first-draft-itis, which means that in the rush to get something on paper (err, screen) there are parts which tend to flabbiness, or repetitiveness, or repetitiveness, just as a result of me telling myself the story the first time. Later, I go back and produce what my favorite professor used to call “lean, sinewy prose” (that’s what he asked for in our essays, not what he ever said about my writing. I did five years of university and have two degrees, and can honestly say that while it taught me much about how to think and read critically, construct arguments, muster proofs, etc. I didn’t learn how to express my ideas clearly and/or artfully until I started writing fiction every day. So there you go–want to learn how to write? Then start writing.)

What gives me hope that I can actually wrangle this story–that I can break SHIPBREAKER, if you will–is that with ‘Borrowed Time’ I had to trim from 7500 words to 5000. I managed to do it, the story was stronger as a result (a little more breathless, I think), and the tale sold to the Under Cover of Darkness anthology.

Wish me luck.

– S.