James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire

Draft 2 – Chapter 7 – Meeting the Big Bad Guy

Got to work early today on Ch7 – it was a short one, only 7 pages, but it’s a key chapter because it introduces the Big Bad Guy and provides a name… the hero will need this information shortly when he gets back in contact with the good guys… once he finds out who he’s dealing with, things will change a bit.

One of today’s goals is to also sit down and outline the chapters for my second young adult novel – totally different setting/characters.  I’m trying something new with this one – I’ll likely return to the Scene Cards I used for the current fiction book but before I do that, I want to have a good idea of the story structure… one suggestion was to sit down and write a single sentence for each chapter.  Each sentence will basically explain what happens in that chapter… a key plot point or maybe a character introduction.  I’ll give it a shot… I already know the basics of the story, but it’s obviously not planned out as far as Draft 1 for the Jinx fiction story I’ve just completed.

I’ve also got to get some work done today and tomorrow on a new non-fiction book proposal that I’m fairly certain will get approved soon.  I’ve been asked for very specific information on the structure of the book and the publisher has expressed interest in doing the book… but then again… they expressed interest in my iPad book.  So who knows?

If I can get one non-fiction book contracted soon, I’ll be very happy).  Ideally I’d like to do 5 non-fiction books a year (did 4 in 2008 and 5 in 2009), I’m up to 3 non-fiction books for the year so far, so I need to do 2 more and July is already gone.  It’ll be more likely that I’ll do 4 this year and have one roll over to 2011.  Oh, well.

Today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:


Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War

Draft 2

Chapter 7 Revision – 100%
Chapter Pages: 7
Chapter Wordcount: 1896

Book Pages: 54
Book Wordcount: 13909

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July 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Draft 2 – Chapter 6 – Where am I?

Got Chapter 6 revised today – increased its page count from 6 to 8.  The dialogue and scene descriptions are much better now, and the hero is now in unfamiliar territory and trying to figure out where he is.  He’s got to try to get his location and get in touch with his support team… all while escaping from the bad guys who he’s going to surprise in Chapter 7.

My editor should be back from vacation on Monday and I’ve done nothing to get the book proposals in order… I’ll try and tackle that tomorrow.  Just not feeling it today.  I do need a book contract in place soon… just to have some money coming in and to keep from going crazy.  I like the fiction writing, but in the back of my head is the knowledge that it’s an unsold story and I have no guarantees it’ll ever sell… so it’s just “free” writing right now.  That said, since I don’t have a contract, I’m free to spend my days trying to get the fiction book in shape and ready for sharing with some friends for feedback.

Here’s today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:

Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War

Draft 2

Chapter 6 Revision – 100%
Chapter Pages: 8
Chapter Wordcount: 1944

Book Pages: 47
Book Wordcount: 12013

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Draft 2 – Restructuring the Story

I got back to the story yesterday – after taking my friend’s suggestions and modifying Chapter 1 (and parts of Chapter 2) I realized the entire book needed a slight restructuring.  At first, I was hoping to get Draft 2 to move faster… get the hero into the main plot quicker.  But that’s almost impossible with the amount of setup that’s required.  Whereas I was hoping to shave 2 or 3 chapters worth of content, I’m finding that it’s really only about 1 chapter that will be shaved.  This means that instead of Chapter 7 (Draft 1) having the hero dropped into the fight, it’s now Chapter 6.  Not much of a change, but I really don’t have a choice.  To keep the chapters at the 8 page length (on average)  and to keep the chapter endings as mini-cliffhangers, I’m forced to keep the story structured almost identically for Draft 2 as it was in Draft 1…

Again, not a big deal… the story has changed some in Draft 2, but the chapter structures really haven’t.  Additional dialogue has been added in key areas, a few minor characters added, and one major character has been better defined and given more of a key role than in Draft 1.  Scene descriptions have been cut where it didn’t forward the story and other descriptions have been increased where I felt the Draft 1 text didn’t do it justice.

What does this mean for wordcount?  My Progress Bar below will decrease just a bit because of a key bit of text that was deleted in Chapters 4 and 5…  but the step back is necessary.  The scorecard and progress bar below are accurate as of today’s revision of Chapter 5.

I’m also developing my two non-fiction book proposals per a request from my publisher.  I’m not sure which book they’ll want me to tackle first – the LEGO book or the non-LEGO book?  Doesn’t matter to me, but I think the LEGO book is more likely.  I’ll probably find something more concrete next week when my editor returns from vacation.

And while I’m at it – I did some thinking for my second young adult fiction book this past weekend.  It’s a return to a storyline that I started early for this blog and then shelved.  It wasn’t as developed as the Draft 1 story I just completed, but it’s fast approaching that point.  I”ve got the opening, the end, and much of the middle plotted… all that’s left is to sit down and either plot the rest of it out with a spreadsheet or with the scene cards I used for my finished story.  I have quite a few friends/acquaintances who are published fiction writers and they’re all telling me not to stop but to start work on Draft 1 of story #2 while I’m doing revisions of Draft 2 on story #1.  Just what I need… more complications with balancing fiction and non-fiction projects… but I’d rather be writing than not… so I’m going to take their advice and start spending a little time this week (and maybe next) plotting out story #2 (which has nothing to do with story #1 – totally different characters other than the story is modern day).

Today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:

Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War

Draft 2

Chapter 5 Revision – 100%
Chapter Pages: 8
Chapter Wordcount: 2032

Book Pages: 39
Book Wordcount: 10069

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

Draft 2 – Revisiting Chapter 1

I had lunch with a friend on Tuesday who is a published author of a Young Adult novel… (his second novel is with the editor now and I got a summary of it and it sounds awesome).  He offered to take my first Draft 2 chapter (5000 words) and give it a read and provide some feedback.

His feedback was outstanding!  He didn’t have a lot of criticism of the dialogue and overall story – I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead, he had some great suggestions on improving the flow of the story, including removing a couple of dialogue areas that, after listening to his explanation, made sense.  He also recommended that I break the chapter into two pieces, shortening the chapters (again).  Where he chose to break Draft 2 Chapter 1 was so obvious… and after following his recommendations and making a few changes here and there as well as breaking the chapter into two parts… the new Chapters 1 and 2 are so much better.

He’s offered to look at later chapters, and I may take him up on that here and there, but I’m definitely not going to flood him with every chapter revision… he’s busy writing, too.  But his suggestions were great and they’ll certainly carry over to later chapters in my Draft 2 rewrite.

He also gave me some suggestions on getting the book looked at when I’m ready – fiction is so much different than non-fiction.  With non-fiction, I just call up my editor, we chat, and I submit proposals based on what they like or on what ideas are floating around my head… they pick from the group and I get a contract.  Not with fiction, obviously… half the battle is either finding an agent OR getting the name of an editor.  I’m lucky in that I have a few insider-friends who can provide that info when I reach that point… but it was a bit surprising to hear how resistant fiction publishers are to communicating with writers… tech non-fiction publishers are almost begging for writers to contact them.  (Of course, this is the nature of the beast – tech changes fast and publishers have to get books written fast and on the shelves before Software 2.0 comes out and replaces the Software 1.0 book… crazy).

So… I’ll be getting back to work next week on revisions (visitors in town today through Sunday, so I’m not expecting to get a lot of writing/editing/revising done.)

Another good thing today – had a call from one of my editors who is anxious to push forward on one of the two book proposals I submitted over a week ago.  It’s the proposal that I can’t talk about (argh), but the good news is that the interest is there and I think they’re willing to fast-track the book if I can get the proposal filled in a bit more by next week.  I’m kinda antsy to get writing again (on something that pays, that is) and this is a topic I can enjoy.

We also talked about the LEGO book proposal and have agreed that we’ll open discussions on it again in a few months.  I’m happy about that as I’m a bit burned out on LEGO books right now.

So, no scorecard or Progress Bar today… just need to do some planning so I can get back to the revision work on Monday and tackle the next few chapters.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Draft 2 – Chapter 3 – Hello, Frying Pan

I finished the revision work on Chapter 3 – took bits and pieces from Chapter 6 but 70% or so of the Ch3 is now new material, rewritten to reflect the changes made in chapters 1 and 2 and the modifications to the main plot.  Almost hit 4000 words, which is great for a day’s wordcount.

As it stands now, the hero is now being dropped into the thick of things… this didn’t happen until Chapter 7 in Draft 1, so I’ve managed to speed up the story a bit and get the hero into the action faster.  The first three chapters of Draft 2 are longer than the first 3 in Draft 1, but that’s okay – the new dialogue and scene descriptions are necessary and help move the story forward… I hope.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the first half of Chapter 4 – it’s a major rewrite of the opening of the main plot and will differ from Draft 1 quite a bit… I have a much more fun and exciting way for the hero to hit the ground running that won’t affect later Draft 1 chapters and should give the hero more reasons/justification for later actions in the book.  Also, the Big Bad Guy will get a healthier description and a bit more action in Chapter 4 than in Draft 1… he needs to be fleshed out a bit more and ch4 will be a good place to do that.

Here’s today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:

Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War

Draft 2

Chapter 3 Revision – 100% complete
Chapter Pages: 15
Chapter Wordcount: 3921

Book Pages: 48
Book Wordcount: 12991

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Draft 2 – Chapter 2 – Crash and ????

Finished the rewrite of Chapter 2 – I’m continually amazed at how utterly WRONG and BAD the original Draft 1 Chapter 2 was… but that’s hindsight, of course.  Now that I know better how the story resolves, I’m able to go back and cut out the stuff that should never have been written in the first place.  The writing is tighter, the dialogue is more “real” and moves the story forward without getting “explain-y” – does that make sense?

Chapter 1 ended with the hero picked up in a chopper… Chapter 2 ends with that helicopter crash landing.  In between, portions of the major plot were provided during discussions and flashbacks.  All in all, I’m very happy with the speed at which the book is now moving forward… getting the hero into the thick of things.

I’ve got a busy weekend planned with my 3 year old and newborn and wife… so no writing this weekend.  But that’s okay – I’m quite happy with the way my writing has been going, with me not working on the weekend.  If I can continue to revise a new chapter every 2 days, I should be able to rewrite this story in maybe a month… or just a bit longer.  The book should move from 30 chapters to maybe 15-20… with each chapter being a bit longer as I’m combining much more from the Draft 1 chapters into longer chapters for Draft 2.

Today’s scorecard and Progress Bar – it’s awesome how fast that bar is growing now compared to Draft 1… already hit 12% with just the first 2 chapters.

Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War

Draft 2

Chapter 2 Revision – 100%
Chapter Pages: 8
Chapter Wordcount: 2192

Book Pages: 33
Book Wordcount: 9070

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Draft 2 – Chapter 2- cuts and more cuts

Started on the revision of Chapter 2 today – it takes a lot of material from Draft 1 chapters 4 and 5… and left a lot behind.  I cut quite a bit of content that didn’t move the story forward OR just felt flat after the few changes I’ve made to the major plot.  For example, in Draft 1 I talked about 3 devices the hero needed to be aware of… I cut that back to one device… the other two were written later in Draft 1 as surprises… so the reader doesn’t need to be aware of them in Chapter 2 either.

I only got about 8 pages written today – just a hair over 2100 words.  I’m hoping to finish up Chapter 2 tomorrow… it will end with the Hero in Locale 1 – a key location to the story – in Draft 1, he didn’t make it to Locale 1 until Chapter 5… so you can see that the story is developing faster in Draft 2… with no real loss of information.  Cutting so much from Draft 1 chapters 1, 2, and 3 really helped get the book moving faster.  At least I hope so.

Here’s today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:


Jinx: Trial by Fire
Book 1 of The Prototype War
Draft 2

Chapter 2 Revision – 40%
Chapter Pages: 8
Chapter Wordcount: 2104

Book Pages: 25
Book Wordcount: 6878

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter 1 – Hero almost ready to be dropped into frying pan

I finished the revision of Chapter 1 today – 4774 words and 18 pages.  Combined the best parts of Chapters 1, 2, and 3 and added some original material to smooth out the story and provide better dialogue.  Rather than introduce the main plot point at the end of Chapter 5, I was able to move it all the way into Chapter 1 and provide just a hint of it with more details to follow in Chapter 2.  This allows me to speed up the action of the book and jump in faster to the main storyline.

You can see a picture here of my printed Draft 1 – 270+ pages.  I’m going back and re-reading chapters in small batches of 4 or 5… a big X across text that will be cut… slow stuff that doesn’t really help the story move forward and just feels like filler… I circle stuff that I want to keep – bits of dialogue that I feel give a character more personality or at least help define that personality.  Scene descriptions have been beefed up, too… I’m noticing skimpy description of locales, so I’m paying careful attention at making sure I’ve sufficiently described a location without going into HUGE amounts of detail (such as temperature, direction of wind, that kind of thing – all things I’ve read in other books and not cared on whit about).

I also punched up the ending of Chapter 1, hopefully making the reader want to turn the page and continue with Chapter 2.  Not a cliffhanger ending, but like I said… introducing the main plot point but saying nothing more and leaving it to the reader’s imagination if they don’t turn the page.

Tomorrow – Chapter 2- more details on the major plot point, a few minor characters introduced as well as one of the major scene locations that required me to draw a few sketches so I really understand the layout and can write proper scene descriptions.  My goal by the end of Chapter 2 is to have the hero ready to be dropped into the frying pan… straight into the action.  In Draft 1, this didn’t happen until Chapter 6.  Now it will be Chapter 3.

Today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:

Jinx: Trial by Fire – Book 1 of The Prototype War
Draft 2
Chapter 1 Revision – Completed
Total Pages: 18
Wordcount: 4774

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

Revisions… fun fun fun

So I got started today on Draft 2 – I took a read of the first 5 chapters.  Two of them were slow and didn’t really keep the pace of the story moving forward, so I took bits and pieces from Chapters 2 and 3 and rewrote Chapter 1… it went from a 5 page chapter to a 20 page chapter which is great… I filled in some dialogue and cut some… filled in some background on the hero, and restructured the opening of the story so it had a higher level of excitement.  It starts fast, with an immediate mystery and bit of danger.  Very happy with the rewrite of Chapter 1… took the best parts of chapters 2 and 3, cut them and edited a bit to fit into Chapter 1.

I don’t plan on doing this with every chapter – some of them are already longer and have enough material to stand alone, but there will be a slight restructuring of the entire plot.  I’ve chosen to simplify some of the more complicated, techy parts… some of the complication I created in Draft 1 simply aren’t needed.  I’ve also got a few minor characters that show up later in the book that will need to be introduced earlier… so I’m on the lookout for good times to introduce them, even if it requires breaking away from a location in the middle of a chapter to jump to another location… I’m fine with that.

I’ve also had to do a few hand sketches of certain locations… this has helped me in the scene descriptions.  Not sure if I’ll include them with the final manuscript, but maybe… I always like to have maps and such in a fiction book to look at so I think I’ve got a few that will be helpful to the reader.

I’ve also chosen to include location and time of day at the beginning of each chapter.  The story takes place over roughly 13 hours… 8:30am to around 10pm or so.  Including the time will help me keep the story moving and keep it organized during the rewrite, but I think it will also help the reader as the story often jumps from scene to scene as I switch from good guys to bad guys.

The tentative title of the book is “Jinx: Trial by Fire – Book 1 of The Prototype War” – of course, the title won’t make sense as I’ve given very little information about the story.  I’ve got a story that spans two more books if the first book ever finds a publisher… Book 1 can stand on its own, so sequels aren’t necessary… but they sure would be fun to write.  After Draft 2 is finished, I may release a bit more information about the story, including the title.

I’m giving myself 30 days to finish Draft 2… but I may have to push that to 60 days if I get a contract on one of the non-fiction tech books I’ve got floating around in draft proposal form.  If one of the two book proposals gets a green light, I’ll have to adjust my writing schedule.  Not a problem… it’ll just extend the Draft 2 rewrite time, but it also means I’ll have a paying book contract to work on… had too much downtime recently and ready to get writing again.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writing is fun… I gotta keep telling myself that…

I’ve decided to take a few days off thinking about my young adult fiction book that I just finished writing the draft for… it’s Draft 1… an EARLY draft, and subject to major changes as I get ready to cut, edit, rewrite, add, and modify it so it becomes Draft 2.  Still… I won’t wait too long to get started on that, so most likely I’ll take a first look on Monday and give myself the weekend.

Jumping off of fiction for a bit, I had a nice talk today with one of my non-fiction editors.  As usual, our discussion led to a few ideas, some new and some not, for non-fiction books.  He lit a fire under me, I guess, because I cranked out two rough writeup proposals for two new books – one a LEGO robotics book and the other not (and definitely not ready to talk openly about yet).

The LEGO robotics book – definitely something different than my previous LEGO books.  I kinda like the idea of this one, and, if it gets the green light, I’d like to have it finished by end of year… at least in time for Christmas.  My publisher definitely wants MORE of the LEGO robot books, so I have a feeling this one may get some serious attention… and require some serious development.  The rough draft proposal I sent over is just that… nothing super specific but enough details to get a Yes/No (I hope).  If they say Yes, then I’ll have to really sit down and plan out the full Table of Contents and chapter content in more detail.  I give this book a 70% chance of getting the Yes response at this time.

The other book is much more complicated but also very time sensitive.  A growing interest in this technology has my publisher interested in the topic.  The rough draft proposal is VERY rough… they’ll likely ask for more details which is fine… I give this book a 50% chance of getting a Yes response right now… maybe 60%.

What I’m NOT wanting is to have both books approved at the same time… last year I wrote 3 books at once (King’s Treasure, Build Your Own CNC Machine, and Windows Netbook ) and it just about wiped me out mentally.  It was very confusing trying to deal with 3 editors, 3 copy editors, 3 tech reviewers, and 3 different chapter topics every few days.  Trying to change gears (mentally) is hard when the subjects of the 3 books are so different.  My writing style didn’t really change between books, so I didn’t have to change the voice/style but just flipping back and forth was not fun.  The best scenario I can imagine would be to schedule one book to start after the other is finished… but more likely they’ll just stagger one to start a month or two after the other… that is, if BOTH are approved.  Who knows… they turned down my iPad book proposal which I thought was one of my best proposals ever.  Goes to show that I really don’t know much about how publishers think, I guess…

So, now it’s a waiting game again… answering an occasional email from my publisher about a point or two in a proposal.  Could take a few days… could take weeks.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to crank away on my fiction story and try to get Draft 2 completed so I can share it with a few folks and hopefully get some good feedback.

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