Tag Archives: Meet the Larssons

This Is The End.

No, not a post about the Incredible Shrinking Global Economy (please, I just had dinner!).  I just finished the first draft of Meet the Larssons.  Here’s how it ends:


Sorry, I should have posted a spoiler alert.  It’s been 10 months, 104,258 words, and a whole lot of unattractive whining, but I made it.  Now all I have to do is restructure the plot, rewrite most of it, and edit out the stupid parts.  Can o’ corn.

I finished a novel.  Heh.

According to Scrivener, it will be 462 pages when I print it out; it would be 277 pages if printed as a paperback.

Hey, I said if.

Sorry, I’m a little giddy, and mind-boggingly tired.  In a few weeks, I’ll come back to it, and realize that of the 104,258 words, about 85,000 of them will be full of suck, but for now, I’m going to pretend that it’s all brilliant.  Brilliant!

Now I’m going to have a glass of wine with Mrs. Unfocused in celebration of, well, me.

In case you’re interested, here’s what I was listening to when I wrote the final chapter:  Up From the Ground Below, by M Shanghai String Band, the best original bluegrass music being performed today (as far as I know, anyway), and excellent music to finish a novel by.

It has been a busy week and a half, which is why I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed the break.  I’ll try to catch up over the weekend.  Meanwhile, have you been keeping up with the Absolute Write October Blog Chain?


Summer Sunday Stats #5: Marathon or NaNo?

Summer Sunday Stats for today — only one more weekend to go before I’m doing Fall Sunday Stats.  Depressing thought.

Miles run:  12.19 in 1:37:11.  It was the same run as last weekend, but oh, so much better.  The training is starting to pay off, I got more sleep on Saturday night, and I had time to eat breakfast before my run.  My left hamstring started to ache at about mile 8, and my right hip bothered me a bit starting around mile 9, but they slowed me down much less than I would have expected, and the ice bath I take after these long runs goes a long way to dealing with the little aches and pains.  Yes, I said ice bath.  Try it, you’ll stop screaming eventually.

Only one more week until the Chicago Half Marathon, and I’m feeling like maybe it won’t be a complete disaster.  Even if I don’t finish with a better time than I did last year, if it feels less like a death march, I’ll be happy.

Weather:  beautiful, sunny, not too warm.  Can’t beat Chicago in September.

What I was listening to on my iPod:  Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing #59 (Clarion Graudates), and Phedippidations #151 (Starting a Beatless Heart).  I only started listening to AISFP in the last few weeks, and so far, I like what I hear.  Shawn and Sam get some great interviews with well-known writers as well as up-and-comers, like the graduates of this summer’s Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.  I always wanted to do Clarion when I was writing science fiction in high school and college.  Obviously, I’m not in a position now to drop everything and go to San Diego for six weeks; I’d do better to find a local critique group of people I enjoy working with.  I attended one meeting of a crit group a few months ago, but I’ve been traveling so much I haven’t been able to go back.  I’m not sure that group is for me, anyway; it just didn’t click.  I should probably look for another one.  I might do better with an online crit group, too; I’m not really excited about another thing that gets me home late and causes me to miss the kids’ bedtime.

Happily, Steve Runner, the host of Phedippidations, has decided to go back to a weekly schedule after several months of only podcasting once every three weeks or so.  Fdip was the first podcast I ever subscribed to, and Steve has been a great running buddy, even though we’ve never met.  I’m glad he’s back at it on a regular schedule.

Words written of Meet the Larssons:  1402.  Certainly an improvement over last week, but here’s the problem:  while I wrote 1402 words of MTL, I wrote 3902 words of “Secretary-General,” the short story I started 10 days ago.  I need to be better disciplined about this.  I’ve decided I have to — have to — finish the first draft of the novel by Halloween, for any number of reasons, from needing to end it so I can put it down for a while and come back to the revision process fresh, to the fact that I’m starting to lose track of the plot because I’ve been working on it for so long, to wanting to possibly do NaNo this year (more on that in a moment).  If I’m going to get MTL put to bed in seven weeks, I need to put other writing projects away and not create any new ones.  Any bright, shiny ideas that come to me in the next seven weeks will get put into a box labeled “Do Not Open Until November 1.”  They can come out to play then.  SG is temptingly close to finished, but it isn’t coming out the way I wanted it, anyway, so I’m going to put it aside until after Nov. 1 (after Nov. 30, if I end up doing NaNo).  A few days ago, my daughter and I realized that she was reading five books at the same time (four novels, one math book); I told her she could do what she liked, but she might get more out of them if she finished a couple before she added any new ones to the mix.  She finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this afternoon, and has been making good progress on a couple of the others without starting anything new, so I guess she took my advice.  I should do the same with what I’m writing.

Marathon or NaNoWriMo?  That is the question.  I had no plans to run a marathon this year; instead, I started the New Year planning to enter NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — in November, after having worked on my writing chops by starting this blog and writing a couple of short stories.  Instead,  I’ve written two short stories and gotten nearly 90,000 words into a novel, which I will finish before NaNo starts on November 1.

At the same time, I’ve been running better than I expected this year.  I managed to keep my long runs going — not perfectly consistently, but well enough — through the spring and summer, and now I’m heading into the fall with a pretty good base.  I would still just be thinking about the Chicago Half Marathon next weekend and the World Wide Half Marathon in October, since there’s no way I’d be ready for an October marathon (Chicago or Milwaukee), but then I found out about the new marathon in the beach town where we spend our summer vacation.  It isn’t until the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and instead of the craziness of the Chicago Marathon, this would be a small, friendly race; Mrs. Unfocused and the kids would be able to see me at different points of the race without having to wonder if they missed me in the crowd, and I’d be able to see them.  I’ve never traveled for a race before, but the whole family could go, and we’d have a place to stay.

But, but, but.  It would mean missing several days of work just for travel, and having to decide whether to rush home to be in the office for Thanksgiving week or just blowing it off and staying at the beach for some or all of the week.  Even if I could swing it, I’m just not sure I should.

And finally, I think the two things are mutually exclusive.  If I decide to do the marathon, November will be almost all taper, so it isn’t that the running would interfere so much with the writing.  Instead, it would be the travel and the associated stress. I don’t think I could possibly crank out 1700 words a day for the month if I’ve got an out-of-town marathon scheduled.

Plus, I know what I’m like in the weeks before a marathon — I’m a paranoid, hypochondriacal wreck, obsessing about every bruise, bump, sniffle, or twinge.  The weeks before a marathon are not a fun time to be Mrs. Unfocused.  From what I’ve read about other people’s experiences with NaNo, there are certain similarities — the NaNo participant becomes obsessive about the writing, muttering about the novel, failing to provide any domestic assistance, sleeping only fitfully, etc., etc.  Again, not a fun time to be Mrs. Unfocused.  I have no desire to be kicked out of the house and forced to move into the YMCA for being a self-absorbed, germophobic, hypochondriac chained to my laptop who never sleeps and constantly talks about people who don’t exist; that’s not a bad description of me now, and if it got worse, she’d be well within her rights to change the locks.

I’ve finished four Chicago Marathons (started a fifth, but had to drop out due to injury).  I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but the point of NaNo is to get you off your butt and make you write; I’m writing now.

So, marathon or NaNo?  I haven’t decided yet; I think I still have a few weeks.  But it isn’t going to be easy.

1,423 Words Written, of the Wrong Thing.

I wrote 503 words of Meet the Larssons today, again all on the train to and from the office. I still haven’t gotten through the dreaded scene, although I just learned something interesting connecting one character to another, so that’s fun.

After I put the kids to bed (the Mrs. was out at the house of one of the neighbors for one of those parties where women try to sell each other things; I don’t begin to understand those parties, but that’s off topic; for tonight, I’ll just say that I’m glad the Mrs. got out with some friends, which doesn’t happen much), I sat down to write. Did I open up MTL and start work again, under calmer circumstances than the Metra allows?

I did not. Instead, I started frantically typing up a short horror story I thought of at lunch. I wrote 1,423 words of that story tonight, which is at least half of the entire first draft (I estimate the final story will be 2500-3000 words). It’s sort of a Lovecraftian pastiche.

Yeah, I know: distracted by another shiny object. Sometimes, though, you just have to get the ideas out of your head.

Back to the Larssons.

June, quite simply, kicked my ass. Between May 28 and July 3, I spent 16 days on the road, and generally worked my keister off the rest of the time. It annoyed the kids, (Unfocused Girl, in particular), messed up my running schedule, cut my week at the beach into a weekend, and dumped extra work on the already-overburdened Mrs. Unfocused.

It also, unsurprisingly, took whatever discipline I had about my writing and put a bullet through its kneecap. How bad did it get, you ask? I scrolled back through the archives to find the post announcing I had hit 75,000 words. Here it is: Spring Sunday Stats #2, my post from May 18. That day, I added 2,200 words to my word count, and finished at 75,945.

Where am I now? This evening I wrote just over 1,000 words, and finished at 80,718. In the last eight weeks, I have managed to write a little less than 4,800 words. Before 6pm this evening, that number would have been 3,800, mostly consisting of two or three hundred word bursts typed on the train during my commute.

The travel did most of the damage. I’ve had very little downtime on these trips — there’s been a lot of sitting around in conference rooms, but very little time when I’ve been off the clock — and even on the plane traveling to and from my meetings, I’ve either been working or catching up on my sleep.

Even when I’ve been home, though, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting back into Meet the Larssons. I think writing on the train, which I’ve been doing for months, has been part of the problem. Instead of using the train time to supplement my writing at home in the evenings and on the weekends, it became my primary writing time. The problem is that my commute is too short to give me time to think about what I’m writing, or to get my head back into the characters and storyline. Without the longer blocks of time at home, my writing on the train gradually decoupled from the broader arc of the novel, and it got harder and harder to keep going.

I finally figured this out over the Fourth of July weekend. When I realized what the problem was, I started rereading the early chapters of MTL, to try and get back into the book. It worked beautifully. I have a page of notes after reading the first four chapters, knocked out 1,000 words tonight that start bringing back ideas I had for the book back when I started writing it, and have half a page of notes for the next chapter. I may keep rereading, but these early chapters may have been enough. Now I just need to recapture the discipline I had developed back in March and April, and I may yet have this first draft finished by Labor Day.

Also, you may notice that I have revised my word count goal in the meter in the sidebar from 100,000 to 125,000. I think that’s more realistic for this draft than the 100,000 I’ve been working with; there are close to 20,000 words in the first eight chapters that I expect to cut in the first revision; they contain important backstory, but I don’t think they work as part of the narrative, and clearly I’m not 80 percent finished telling the story. 125K is a good enough estimate for the first draft, and I’ll try to take it closer to 100K in the next draft.

Finally, not that my comments on your blogs are anything special, but if you’ve noticed I haven’t been commenting on your blog posts, it’s because I haven’t been commenting on (hardly) anything. I just haven’t had the time or the energy. I have been reading your blogs, though, and will try to stop lurking and start participating a little more now that my travel schedule has slowed down a bit.

Gotta Speed It Up.

I ran a nice little four-mile race last Saturday at the beach – under 300 finishers, which is a big change from just about any race in or near Chicago. I came in sixth for my age group, at what was for me a respectable but not great pace.

The guy who came in third, though, was only 43 seconds faster than me — less than 11 seconds per mile.

I’m registered for two more races in the same series in August, and I am virtually certain I can knock 11 seconds per mile off my pace by August. I want an age-group medal, damn it, even if it’s for third place.

Except for one year warming the bench on my seventh grade soccer team, I never participated in organized sports as a kid, so I admit to some unfulfilled trophy lust. I have some hope of improving my chances for age group medals as I get older; I didn’t start running until my mid-twenties, so my knees should stay functional longer than some of these fast guys who’ve been running since their days on the high school track team.

That’s probably just a fantasy, though. I spent several years running — including training for and completing three Chicago Marathons — while 50 pounds heavier than I am now, which may have caused a little extra wear and tear on the joints. My knees certainly don’t feel particularly fresh, that’s for sure.

On another topic, I did not, in fact, get any writing done while traveling last week. The work part of the trip sucked up most of my time, leaving me essentially the weekend to spend time on the beach with the Mrs. and kids and visit with our friends. Tuesday and Wednesday were simply crazy at work — Wednesday featured an especially delightful 350-mile round trip drive to a 30-minute hearing. But today I grabbed my MacBook as I ran out the door and wrote about 400 words on the train to and from work. More this weekend, for sure.

It’s time to admit that I will not be finished with the first draft by June 30. I need to think hard about what a realistic revised deadline would be. An easy choice would be October 31, so that I’m finished in time to start something new for NaNoWriMo, but I think that gives me too much time. I’m inclined to try to finish it by the end of Labor Day weekend, which would give me the whole summer (including some real vacation time in August). At my original pace of 5,000 words per week, that would take me to 125,000-130,000 words total, which is probably where Meet the Larssons is headed (for the first draft, anyway), although I haven’t kept that pace for the last couple of months. I’ll give it a week to see how I’m doing before I set another firm (or firm-ish) deadline, but I have to get my pace up or MTL will end up gathering dust unfinished.

Dear God, Has It Been 10 Days Since I Posted?

Apparently, it has. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve been working on something really special for my 100th post, which is what my next post will be. I’d like to tell you that, but it would be a big, fat lie. In truth, I’ve just been working. Not on my novel, not on a short story, just on the stuff that pays the bills: representing clients (99% of my work time) and trying to bring in new ones (1% — anybody see a flaw in the way that breaks down?). I’ve been very, very busy, with a fair amount of traveling, and more to come next week.

Tomorrow is Unfocused Girl’s very, very belated birthday party. How belated, you ask? Here’s a hint: she’s seven, and this will be her first birthday party without snow on the ground.

This year, her party’s theme will be Warriors, and it will be her first slumber party, so I expect that by this time tomorrow night, our backyard will be taken over by a pack of girls ages 7 to 10 in their pajamas, running around in the dark and pretending to be a tribe of feral cats. And one four year old boy pretending to be Superman. This is going to be interesting.

Meet the Larssons has ground to a halt these last couple of weeks. The few people I’ve told I’m working on a novel have all asked me “Where do you find the time?” For the last couple of months, it’s gotten much harder, and the last couple of weeks, it’s been impossible.


Sorry about that – the kids were in the tub, and it was time to get them out. For the last half hour, Unfocused Girl has been singing “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” from Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Sound, and now my head needs to explode. The Potter Puppet Pals are funny, funny stuff, but I’m tired enough that my tolerance for infinite replay is something less than what it should be.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get back to the novel. What I need are a few days when I can spend an hour or more a day working on it in isolation. I had six days off planned starting next Tuesday, but an unavoidable business trip has popped up at the beginning of it, so instead I’ll get Mrs. Unfocused and the kids most of the way to my mother’s, then go on to my meetings; when they’re over, I’ll catch up with the wife and kids and we’ll head to the beach for a couple of days. Maybe I can get some writing in then.

It’s a Biglaw career I’ve got here, and sometimes (much of the time) it can be really hard to hang onto any semblance of a personal life. I know that’s true of other jobs, but this is the one I’ve got and the one I know best. I know I just need to get my butt in my seat in front of the MacBook on a regular basis, but sometimes the writing has to get back burnered. I’ve been beating myself up for not writing when what I really need to do is stop kvetching and find 15 minutes even on a bad day and just write.

Finally, I want to mention the passing today of a great American journalist, Tim Russert. Since we’ve had kids, Meet the Press has been a rare treat, but we used to watch it every Sunday morning, and we still enjoyed his commentary during MSNBC’s election coverage. Probably my most vivid memory of the 2000 election is of finally dropping off at 1 or 2 in the morning with the TV on, and waking up at 6 to find Russert still on air, in need of a shave and a clean shirt, with his white board and his red and blue markers trying to make sense of what the hell had just happened. He knew what he was talking about, he wasn’t one of the shouters, and I’ll miss his even-tempered commentary on this election.

Up next: Post #100! I can just smell the excitement. Or my shoes.

Update on the To Do List.

Last night, as part of responding to a meme-tag from Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown, I posted five things from my to do list for today and promised to report on how I did. Here’s the report

1. Go for a run in the morning.

It wasn’t pretty, but I did go for a run this morning. I was slow as molasses, even slower than I was on Sunday. Despite the day off yesterday, my legs — my quads, mostly — ached and had nothing to give me. On Sunday, I ran 9.57 in 1:22:37 (an average pace of 8:38 minutes/mile); this morning, I ran 3.64 miles in 35:21, an average pace of 9:42. I’m not entirely sure what happened, excepted that I lifted at the gym on Saturday (including squats) for the first time in three weeks, and may have taken too much out of my leg muscles.

2. Submit TTB to another magazine (snail mail again).

I took care of this on my way to the office. It cost $2.53 for first class mail (no surprise there — it’s a 63-page manuscript).

3. Take my glasses to the optometrist to have new lenses installed.

Yup, got this done at lunch, dropped off my regular glasses and my sunglasses just before the deluge started. I’m hoping they’ll be done by Friday; I’m traveling next week, and I’m stuck wearing my spare glasses until then, and I hate hate hate traveling with only one pair of glasses.

4. Make significant progress on a couple of briefs I need to get through by the end of the week.

I did all right on this one. I got a first draft finished this afternoon on the easier one, and spent most of the evening (when I wasn’t watching Barack’s victory speech or Hillary’s “victory” speech) working on the hard one. Lots more to do, but I got them off the ground, which was what I needed to do today.

5. Write 500 words — just 500 lousy words! — of Meet the Larssons.

Yeah, well, you can’t do everything. Nobody’s perfect. I wrote 350 words, all of them on the train. I got jammed up with work (see no. 4, above). I’ll try again tomorrow.

So there you have it. I have to say, I almost certainly would have turned off the alarm and gone back to bed this morning if I hadn’t posted about going for a run, so thanks for the social pressure.

Spring Sunday Stats, #2

The kids are in the tub, so I only have a few minutes to post before someone starts crying or splashing (or spitting water onto someone else’s butt — sorry for the interruption).

Weather: Sunny and cool (around 55 at 11am when I went out for a run). Gusts blowing west from the lake down Irving Park Road like a wind tunnel.

Miles run: 9.74, in 1:30:31. That’s slow for me, even these days, and I’m not sure why. I got a lot of sleep, had a decent breakfast, and felt pretty good, but I just didn’t have any speed in me today. The Solider Field 10-Miler is next Saturday, and I am not anticipating a PR. I’m hoping to do better than I did today, though.

What I played on my iPod during my run: I Should Be Writing #90, Geek Fu Action Grip Morning Show Lite After Dark #12, and Phedippidations #140 — yes, it was a Mostly Mur run.

Words written on Meet the Larssons: 2,220! That takes me over 75K, to 75,945 words. For the first weekend in quite a while, I took a significant chuck of time and sat my butt in front of the MacBook and just wrote. For about two hours, I turned off my internet connection, shut down Mail and Firefox and any application other than Scrivener and iTunes, played tunes from a large mixed playlist I have of songs I know well enough that they can serve as background music (mostly 70s and 80s supergroups like Styx and Rush, lots and lots of Zevon, some Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett for variety), and just wrote. I got up once to use the bathroom, and once to put on socks because my feet were cold, but otherwise stayed planted in the chair. It felt damn good. Mrs. Unfocused took the kids out for most of the day, so I had time to get in my run, do some work for my paying job, and still do solid time on the novel. She’s a saint.

All that, and two blog posts. I feel productive as hell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have children to wash.

Spring Sunday Stats.

Weather in Chicago: warm (mid- to upper 60s) and sunny, the first weekend day in God knows how long with decent weather.

Miles run: 7.85 (according to my Polar RS400), in 1:04:13. That’s my longest run in months. I’m still not running regularly enough, either to keep the screaming heebeejeebees out of my brain or to be ready for the Solider Field 10 Miler in three weeks, but I’ll get there.

What I played on my iPod Mini during the run: Seventh Son, Book One – Descent, by J.C. Hutchins, Chapter 16 and part of Chapter 17.

Words written on Meet the Larssons this weekend: As one of the characters in Seventh Son says, “Two words: Jack and shit.” A combination of distractions, nice weather, actual legal work for which I am paid, a sudden realization that I needed to add a scene to Test Tube Beneficiary before it could be called done, and suddenly the weekend is over. I’m traveling to California for business tomorrow, which means I may have time to get a couple of hours of uninterrupted writing, or quite possibly, none at all.

Short stories submitted to professional markets: Umm, none. The edit formerly known as “final” is done, on paper, and just needs to be typed in. The problem is that the new scene has almost certainly generated changes that ripple through the rest of the story, which means that I need to do one more edit. Damn, damn, damn. Damn.

Hours of fun with the kids: Around 7 today. Junior and I were on our own all morning, and then all four of us spent the late afternoon in the backyard, before dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. Unfocused Girl and I worked on the tae kwon do form for our yellow belt test, coming up at the end of this session of classes at the Y, and Mrs. Unfocused joined in, while Junior held up a pad and demanded that we all punch it. All in all, a pretty darn good day. Yesterday was pretty good, too. I love spring.

What To Do, What To Do. I Know! Ask Other Writers on the Internet!

Here’s the issue: I’m at a point in Meet the Larssons where I can see I’ve got a long way to go to get to the end, and I’m not entirely sure which of the many available paths to take to get there. I do know, however, what the final scene will be, and could probably knock it out in close to final form in one evening. I’ve had it in my head since I started working on the thing. (Note to self: in future posts, refer to MTL as “The Thing.” It sounds appropriately tortured and arty.)

Mrs. Unfocused thinks that would be cheating, like eating dessert before dinner, and that I should only get to write the ending as a reward for writing everything that comes before it.

I know at least some of you are struggling with (or breezing through) your own works in progress. Have you written your endings already? Would you ever? Or never never?