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    Entries in Mary Helen Stefaniak (1)


    Fresh from the trenches of the early 8th century, we have this update

    Yes, the novel is still plugging along. A few updated statistics on my progress:

    • Current version of the manuscript: 48,000 words (about 130 paperback-formatted pages)
    • Total written thus far, including partial scenes and rough-rough-rough drafts: 135,000 words (about 490 pages)
    • Bibliography: more than 100 primary and secondary sources researched (no this does not count Wikipedia)
    • Dents in desk from banging of forehead: too many to count

    The work has benefited enormously from both of the advisors under whom I've studied thus far in Pacific University's Master of Fine Arts program, Mary Helen Stefaniak and Frank X. Gaspar. I can't say enough about how incredible these two people are, as mentors, writers, and unbelievably generous, patient human beings. When you add in the other talented writers who have touched this manuscript in various ways, large and small - Mike Magnuson, Elizabeth Kostova, James Hynes, Pete Fromm, and Bonnie Jo Campbell among them - I've been extraordinarily blessed. I can only hope I don't embarrass any of them in the end, though I strongly suspect Mags will moan over every split infinitive and dangling participle no matter what I do.

    Over the past two weeks I've been working primarily on structure and pacing. My method: roll out an 8-foot length of plotter paper, jot down each plot point for each major character (point-of-view and otherwise) on a color-coded sticky note, and lay them out in time sequence. This has helped me sort out who was where when between the beginning of the story (October 714) and the end (late 718). It also works well as a visual tool to identify clusters of action and conflict, weaknesses in the pacing, and the major milestones in each character's story arc. 

    The only issue: even rolled up, this beast is kind of hard to carry around to the various coffee shops that serve as roving offices when the kids are besieging the house. That, and I've discovered that 3-year-olds love re-organizing Post-Its, when left unsupervised for more than 45 seconds. 

    Note that I've added a new page, listing the most useful reference sources I've located thus far. It's a fairly extensive list - so much so that I suddenly figured out where all my time has gone over the past two or three years - but I make no claims about its completeness. It is, after all, as idiosyncratic as my book (or, indeed, as I am myself). Still, someone out there might find it useful. 

    Note also that I've finally, officially become a Twit. (My sister will claim that this is not news.) You can sign up for my Twitter feeds by looking up @KDavidSmithAuth, or by subscribing via the widget on the sidebar. I'll do my best to tweet updates and interesting tidbits about Byzantium, early Islam, writing, and/or General Life Stuff as I stumble upon them. Joy!

    And that, folks, is all the news that's fit to print. For now.