James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire

Just one writing assignment now…

I’ve got some serious downtime right now – my NXT-G book is done and I have no contracts in place for any new books.  I do have an iPad proposal out there, as well as a few other tech book proposals on various subjects, but nothing firm yet.  So, I figure I’ll take advantage of that and try to get this fiction story moving along again.

Today I managed to finish chapter 6.  After writing it, I realized (not for the first time) that this book is really going to require some major rewrites and reworking… that’s okay – I knew it would happen.  But as I write the first draft, I’m just getting down the dialogue and scenes that are required to give the story structure.  When Draft 1 is done, I’ll go back, along with my Fix Sheet, and start cleaning up the dialogue… fill in the missing details… cut out the extraneous stuff… and get Draft 2 finished.  Draft 2?  Not Final?  Not a chance… I’m quickly realizing that Draft 2 will probably be the version where I’m not embarassed to let a few folks take a complete read and give me feedback.  It’s quite possible there could be a draft 3 or even a draft 4… and I’m okay with that.  (One of my writer friends who actually writes fiction tells me that draft 8 or 9 isn’t a surprise to him anymore… I don’t know if I want to go that far, but we’ll see.)

Given that many of the writers who I know publish fiction tell me that it takes a year for a book to go from Draft 1 to published book, I realize that the first 3 months or so are just about finishing Draft 1.   Everything after that will go faster… hopefully.

And, of course, it’s likely that I’ll get a contract here and there for a non-fiction book which will take my time away from the fiction story.  And that’s okay, too.  Right now, non-fiction is my job… so the fiction story is just my test to even see if I’m capable of producing a story in a reasonable time frame that also meets the standards of an agent and/or publisher out there… I may very well find that non-fiction is my strong suit and that I shouldn’t ever stray again into the fiction world.  Hope that’s not the case, but… you never know.

Here’s the fiction story scoreboard:

Word’s today: 1108
Words total: 10908
Current Chapter: finished 6
Pages written today: 5
Pages total: 46
Chapters completed: 6

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to the novel…

Finally got back to the fiction writing yesterday – started on Chapter 6 and got about halfway through it… maybe not halfway but close.  It’s definitely a habit thing, because missing those 2 weeks of writing made it hard to sit down and get the story back in my head… so I went back, re-read the first 5 chapters, and then got to writing.  I’ve also realized I’m going to have to start taking better notes of the little details (a minor character’s full name or hair color, for example) that are hidden in earlier chapters.

Chapter 6 starts the main plot of the story – the main character is now placed in harms way and the main action of the entire book will start and won’t end until the last chapter… my goal is still to create a book that doesn’t let up – the story and action will keep building.  Not sure if I’ll give the main character a break or not… without giving away details, the action of the story is a chase and there will be very little time for the hero to rest or ponder his situation.

I may have to pack up and head to the coffee shop a bit later to keep writing – my neighbor’s are having a new roof installed (damaged by a storm a month ago) and the noise level is distracting… VERY distracting.

Anyway, here’s the fiction book summary so far:

Word’s today: 708
Words total: 9800
Current Chapter: working on 6
Pages written today: 3
Pages total: 41
Chapters completed: 5

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s not procrastination! Honest!

Okay, so I basically took another week off from writing on my fiction story, but I have a really really good excuse, okay?

Okay, there’s no real good excuse but I had a deadline hanging over my head all week to finish all the chapters and appendices for my revision of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming Guide – I typically finish books earlier than the actual deadline but this one came down to the line… April 23rd was my line in the sand.  Now, my editors certainly wouldn’t punish me for any delays, but I hate missing deadlines… and I have a good reputation with Apress for turning in my stuff on time or early… and I’d like to keep that reputation intact.

So, I took the time I needed this week to get it all done – I turned in Chapter 26 (last chapter) and Appendix B today… (A and C were already submitted.)  And it’s like a 100lb weight off my shoulders.  I enjoyed this book, but revisions are mind-numbing in the sense that I’d already read this book six or more times for the first edition (you end up reading chapters over and over – after a copyeditor has returned notes, after your project editor returns it with notes… after the PDF review… get the picture?)  So this book was difficult only in the sense that it was sometimes hard to get motivated to revise a chapter.

But it’s done.  Over.  Outta here.  (A few PDF reviews to complete but those are simple and fast.)

Now I have a break – no book contracts right now but I’ve got a few proposals floating out there and I’m hoping to get a response soon.  I don’t want to be down for too long… but it will give me time next week to get back to my fiction story… maybe even get a little ahead.  But I’m going to take this weekend and enjoy it with no writing and no editing work.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The “Fix Sheet”

One of my fiction writing books recommended a Fix Sheet… the goal right now is to plow through the story and just get the first draft done.  It’ll stink.  Bad dialogue.  Plot errors.  Wordy descriptions.  It doesn’t matter – it’s all about just getting the first draft completed.  The Fix Sheet is where you write down your fixes to the plot, points you wish to return to and either repair, replace, or reject.

I had a LOT of time last week to ponder my story.  My goal was to create a fast-paced story that would qualify as a Young Adult fiction story.  Although I’m not going to go back and fix Chapters 1 to 4 that are completed, certain plot points hit me as incorrect.  There was one major plot point in Chapter 4 that I realized just wouldn’t work later in the book.

So, I’ve created my Fix Sheet.  It’s already about half a page in length of items that I want to change about the story.  None of them change the overall ending of the story or remove any major characters, but the changes I came up with will make the story move faster… get the main character involved sooner rather than later.  I told myself I wouldn’t go back, and I intend to stay true to that decision – so I’m going to finish up Chapter 5 under the assumption that I’ve made the changes on the Fix Sheet in the early chapters.  This would cause some major confusion to anyone reading the chapters now, so I’ve decided to finish the story, go through one round of rewrites, and then share it with a few key invidivuals for feedback.

This morning I was able to get Appendix C written for the NXT-G book.  I finished ch25 yesterday so all that’s left is chapter 26 and Appendix B and D.  Appendix B is CAD building instructions for a test robot and these CAD images are being created by a friend of mine… so AppB is really not going to be much work.  Appendix D will likely be about 2 or 3 pages and easy to write.  It’s Chapter 26 that stinks – since the book covers version 2.0 of the NXT-G software, a key tool got changed and that means a likely rewrite of the entire chapter versus an update/revision of the existing material.  Still, I’m on schedule to have the book done by Friday as I promised my editor.

Right now I’m having to put the finishing touches on a Table of Contents proposal for the iPad book.  My publisher/editor keeps asking for updates/changes and the book’s focus may likely change… this means the final book probably won’t look a thing like the original TOC.  No problem.  But I sure would like to get the TOC locked down so a contract can be issued… I like contracts.  They help me sleep at night.

Chapter 5 of the fiction story needs finishing… need to get to it.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to work…

I spent most of last week at the WorldFest International Robotics Competition (here in Atlanta) sponsored by FIRST.  I’m typically invited each year by LEGO to help staff their booth and meet kids and adults in attendance and answer questions about LEGO robotics, my books, and whatever else they can come up with it.  It’s fun, but very tiring.

Yesterday I spent most of the day catching up on priority work that needed to get turned in quickly and answering about two dozen emails that required thought – no quick responses.  Thus, no writing got done except for the revision of NXT-G Chapter 24.

Today, I’ve got to revise Chapter 25 and I’m also going to try and revise Appendix A.  Appendix B and C are totally new, so I’ll get to those tomorrow hopefully.  Chapter 26 is the last chapter and it and these last two appendices are due on or before Friday.  So it’s gonna be a crazy week.

That said, I’m still planning on getting back to my fiction story today.  I’m halfway through chapter 5 so I’m hoping to get it done today… we’ll see.  I can’t predict what phone calls and emails I’ll get today that might slow me down.  I always dread the week after a vacation or week away at an event like this one… it’s hard to get back in the habit, editors start hitting me with urgent requests, and I have my standard deadlines to meet.  Add in a 3 year old son who requires attention in the morning and after I pick him up from daycare, and I have a very limited time range to get anything done.

On a different note, I did finish Experiments 23 in the Make: Electronics book.  I skipped Exp24 because it was adding some new updates to an older experiment that I didn’t feel necessary to perform.  So I’m jumping to Experiment 25 and am a bit closer to the final Experiment 36 where I can end this project.  (I won’t really end it, but I won’t have the pressure of blog readers who are waiting for me to finish it – they’ve been very patient with me, but I know a lot of them are anxious for me to complete all the experiments.)

Now… time to take the boy to daycare… back in a bit to get started.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week Off

This week is the WorldFest International Robotics Competition in Atlanta… sponsored by FIRST.  One part of the competition involves LEGO robotics, so the LEGO company always comes and sets up a booth for the 100,000+ estimated visitors that swing by… and they always invite me to work the booth, talk about my LEGO books, answer questions, etc… it’s a fun and crazy week.

I really did have high hopes that I’d get some work done this week, but rather than stress over the fact that I’m not getting any work done, I’m going to give myself permission to NOT work and have fun.  If some slow time comes around and I can get in a PDF edit or work on a fiction chapter, I’ll certainly do so… but I’m not going to sweat it if I get little done this week…

So… I’ll pick up next Monday where I left off.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Need a break…

Revised chapter 23 this morning for the NXT-G book and got a PDF review of Ch15 completed as well… also wrote up the proposal for the iPad book (well, the TOC mainly – 2 versions for my publisher to choose one from hopefully).

I tried to get moving on Chapter 6 for the fiction story but the creativity just isn’t flowing today.  I took a try at it, but was disappointed after half a page… so I’m going to put it aside for today and take satisfaction that I’ve almost reached 10,000 words in 5 chapters.  At this rate, a 70,000 page book will be about 35 pages, but I know a few 15-20 page chapters are coming, so it’ll likely kick back down to the 30 chapter range… who knows…

I’ll ponder the direction of chapter 6 over the weekend and get back to writing on Monday.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rain is my caffeine…

It’s raining like crazy here in Atlanta today.  I’ve always heard how rain makes people sleepy, but for me it makes me super productive.  Since I can’t do anything else, I guess my brain just decides to get work done.

I started out today by getting a whole bunch of the NXT-G chapters reviewed… about 3 PDFs and 4 Author Reviews (just before PDF reviews, so I’ll see those again to finalize the layout and look of the chapters).  The book is really getting close to being done.  I also finished revising Chapter 22, so there’s just 4 more chapters left to revise and a couple of appendices.  My deadline is April 23, so I think I’m going to be okay.

And now I just completed Chapter 5 of my fiction story.  I should have known there was no way I was going to be able to do everything I wanted in a single chapter, so I’ll have to use one more chapter for setup… no big deal… I have a feeling that during rewrite some of these chapters will get consolidated and words eliminated as I tighten down the story.  But as always… I just keep writing and trying to get the rough first draft done.  Chapter 5 was 7 pages and almost 2000 words… a LOT of information in there.  But I introduced the key plot of the book as well as two more pivotal characters.  A good chapter.

I’m very happy to report that, other than Easter holiday when I took a few days off, that I’ve been able to consistently sit down and find time to get my writing done… it’s not always been 5 pages every day, but some days (like today) I manage to get more… I really like where my story is going and I’m looking forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel… but that’s quite a few chapters and months away… so I’ll keep plugging along.

Word’s today: 1885
Words total: 9092
Current Chapter: finished 5
Pages written today: 7
Pages total: 38
Chapters completed: 5

April 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Definitely some rewriting to be done…

After revising Chapter 22 (NXT-G book) today, I was able to do a couple of PDF reviews and get the draft Table of Contents for the iPad book completed.  A total of 18 chapters for now… I’m going to submit the TOC tonight or tomorrow and hopefully convince my publisher to let me get to work next month on the book.

As for the fiction story, after finishing chapter 4 today, I realized that there WILL be some serious rewriting after the first draft is done.  It’s not that I’m unhappy with ch4… I managed to get a lot done in that chapter, including closing down the major cliffhanger from chapter 3, but I’m not 100% happy with the chapter.  But, rather than go back and try to rework it, I’m going to keep moving forward and make a note somewhere about the things I don’t like about ch4.  I want it to move faster, but again, that’ll come later during rewrite.

Chapter 5 is my last chapter before the major storyline starts… by that, I mean the major conflict will be encountered.  Up to now, it’s all been character setup, hints of the major storyline, and development of a key location and supporting character… chapter 5 is all I have left to get the setup complete.  Unless I decide I need another chapter… that’s the great thing about fiction.

Word’s today:  1428
Words total:  7207
Current Chapter:  finished 4
Pages written today:  6
Pages total:  31
Chapters completed:  4

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When we last left our hero…

Took a break from writing over the long Easter weekend… went home Friday to Monday and got a little behind on work.  So, first thing this morning, I got Chapter 21 revised for the NXT-G book so I could get to work on two things – Chapter 4 of my fiction book and a draft Table of Contents for a possible new book on the iPad.

The iPad book is something I’m hoping for… I bought mine over the weekend (a friend actually picked it up so I didn’t get it until Monday night) and have been playing… I mean working… with it as much as possible to figure out what it can and cannot do… my publisher asked for a draft TOC by mid week so I spent some time today getting that together… right now, it’s a 19 chapter book and I’m sure I’ll find some more material that needs to be squeezed in.

So… with that done, I had to go back and re-read Chapter 3… just to get in the mindset.  At the end of Chapter 3, the protagonist just happens to be in a helicopter that is being fired on by an unknown enemy… how’s that for a cliffhanger for chapter 3!?

Chapter 4 looks like it’s going to be another 5+ page chapter, so I was only able to get about half done with it today… I need to think about how I’m going to wrap it up and provide some more critical info… although the story is cruising along, the real action won’t start until chapter 6… I think. Chapter 5 is the last “setup” chapter that will have all the characters in place, the major plot line, and the overall goals for the story.  So, with only Chapters 4 and 5 left to do setup, I’ve got a few things to figure out.  I’ll ponder it tonight and it should all be sorted out by tomorrow.

Word’s today: 695
Words total: 5779
Current Chapter: 4
Pages written today: 4
Pages total: 25
Chapters completed: 3

April 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment