State of the Savage: September 2012

by Keith Savage · 17 comments

Snack on the Edge of the World, Orkney Islands, Scotland

36,768. There’s bad news and good news.

That’s the current number of words, after about seven chapters, in the book I’m writing. On spec. That’s two months’ work, about 18,500 words/month. Back in August I made a rough calculation that the book would probably be in the 200,000-word ballpark at the end of the rough draft. I want to finish the rough draft by the end of the year, but at this rate I need nearly nine more months to finish. I have three.

That’s the bad news. I need to be writing three times faster. More, maybe, since the early days yielded a bounty of words.

The good news is that with every completed chapter the world and the characters of Dym 260, my working title for the project, become more real and full of life. This makes writing a lot easier because I have a starting point or stepping stone from which to begin.

And it’s exciting.

I’m the type of person to make snap judgements on the merit of projects. As much as it pains me to say, I’m a hole-poker that looks for every reason not to throw myself into something. If I can’t see the path to success at the start, I won’t “waste” any time on it. This is certainly a handicap – who knows how many good ideas I’ve discarded because I didn’t allow myself to run with them and figure out problems along the way.

And this is precisely why Dym 260 is so exciting to me. The concept checks out. All systems go. Love the idea.

Of course writing a book is new territory. Perhaps these first couple of months have been slowish from a word output standpoint because I’m learning how to do the job. There’s some added difficulty since, in addition to being the author, I’m also the editor, publisher, and cheerleader. Nobody is there to keep me on track, tell me I need to hit certain deadlines, or read my output. In fact, I haven’t shown a single word to anyone yet. I need to be a better boss.

It’s been a great swim through the black. But I gotta say, I’m enjoying it. I can feel the world coming to life. I don’t know if the writing is any good – I’ve never been a good judge of my own creativity – but I can’t let such musings preoccupy me. I simply have to believe it’s entertaining and worthy, that it will all be worth it.

Maybe, in the end, Dym 260 will never flicker through the eager fingers of readers. But if I allow that sentiment to penetrate me, I’ll never finish. I never would have started, just like all those other discarded proto-ideas.

I can’t unthrow myself now. Thank goodness.

Plans & Happenings

I will be taking a break from the book at the end of October to hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for several days of in-depth Bourbon immersion. For too long I’ve looked with ignorant scorn (and some revulsion leftover from my college days) on American whiskey. The aim for this trip is to learn about the history of Bourbon, see how it differs from Scotch whisky, and take a close look at where the two worlds intersect: American oak Bourbon barrels. Most Scotch whisky is aged in these babies. I also hope to gain an appreciation for Bourbon, or, failing that, at least to scorn it knowingly.

At the moment I’m refraining from planning new trips to Scotland so I can focus on drafting my novel.

Parting Blow

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Bourbon Trail or about writing a book. Slap ’em in the comments!

JoAnnaNo Gravatar October 2, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Keep trucking away at that book! It’s a challenge, but so, so worth it. I’m taking up NaNoWriMo in November and writing an entire YA novel that’s been simmering. I’m pretty much not going to be able to do anything else, but I have to write this book, so we can cheer each other on!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 2, 2012 at 2:33 PM

That would be awesome! One of my friends just mentioned NaNoWriMo to me this past weekend and I remember several travel writers participating in it last year.

KenNo Gravatar September 28, 2012 at 7:52 AM

I’m eagerly awaiting your book, Keith. As someone already observed, if it’s the quality of your writing on Traveling Savage it will be a great read.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 28, 2012 at 10:56 AM

It’s hard to compare the two types of writing. It’s nothing like the Picture This posts at this point, which I think makes sense given that it’s a long-form narrative. I may try to work in Picture This-esque interludes. We’ll see.

NickNo Gravatar September 27, 2012 at 7:39 PM

You’ll find me on the pre-order list as soon as it’s available. 🙂

I was a bourbon fan before I switched to single malt scotch whiskys. I haven’t done the entire bourbon trail, just the Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark tours. Neither was quite as good as the private Glenfiddich tour I took, but Woodford was nice.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 27, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Thanks, Nick.

We’ll see how my tastes react to so much Bourbon. I was seemingly built to ingest large quantities of Scotch…

JamesNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 11:58 AM

Better chop that rough draft down to 100,000 in the next go around. I used to read for a literary agency. Publishing houses generally don’t even look at manuscripts longer than that from first time writers. Unless you plan to self-publish…

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Interesting comment. Which genres did you read for? Seems like most fantasy novels, even those by new authors, are very large (often in the 400+ page range).

jamesNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Keith — I used to read unsolicited submissions in every genre. Maybe I do recall the agents telling me that fantasy gets a bit more latitude, but I’m fairly certain most agents would not represent a 200,000 word manuscript. It’s just as competitive for agents as it is for us authors out there. To survive in their business, they need to know which editors are looking for what kind of material, and then pinpoint their submissions according to those preferences and constraints. My recommendation: if you doubt this advice I’m giving you (and very well you should, given the pages and pages of dubious content on the internet), you might reach out to an agent in your network and ask about the acceptable length of manuscripts in your genre before investing the time into such an epic-scale page count, no matter how masterfully you write it. PS: Besides SEO strategy, how did you get thousands of followers on your blog? Guest blogging? Luck? Email me.

CHIPNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 10:20 AM


Keep the faith with the book. But you do need to have a life outside the book. Sometimes the characters may seem so real. I like your bourbon side trip. Reading about it I wondered, “What did the Scots do before American bourbon barrels were available?” Port barrels?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 11:29 AM

They used mostly Sherry butts before ex-Bourbon barrels came into vogue. Thanks for the advice.

VanessaNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 5:00 AM

I found your blog a few weeks before taking my first trip to Scotland in August, and have been reading through it ever since (it was a fantastic trip, by the way!). If your book contains writing anything like the prose on this site, it will be a quality product. Keep the faith! It is really cool that you have decided to write a book and are actually following through on it. How many of us have had the same intention but never get around to actually doing it? And while goals are important, don’t let the looming deadline you’ve set for yourself be a brick wall. If you are dedicated to the project, you will finish it. Good luck!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 26, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Thanks Vanessa. Glad you’ve found Traveling Savage useful.

KJNo Gravatar September 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Writing is a process. You can’t hurry it along easily. (Some can and I’ll never understand them, OR their process!)

Have patience, that’s a lot of words you’ve got! Just keep at it!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 25, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Thanks for the encouragement, KJ.

GregNo Gravatar September 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM

I cant wait to read it and will be first to buy it


Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Thanks Greg, I appreciate your support.

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