Books by Tom Reeve


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The Gray Shift: First Draft in Progress!

I made a few changes to my outline and got the ok to proceed on the actual text for The Gray Shift from my editor at the end of last year. The current outline (v4 to my editor, Rev 08 by my internal “story iteration” numbering scheme) is 21,695 words long and covers 40 chapters.

I am in the midst of writing the first draft of the full book now. Right now I’ve got 7 chapters out of 40 written (~17.5% complete) and I’m aiming for 2 chapters per day when I focus on writing. At this rate it should take me about 3-4 more weeks to finish this first draft.

One issue that came up when I started calculating how many words I actually need to write is that this book may turn out to be a bit longer than I was aiming for. A typical chapter has between 3,000-5,000 words per chapter. Full Coverage has 47,720 words spread over 17 chapters, an average of 2,807 words per chapter. If I kept that same average for this book I’d wind up with a 112,280 word book that would be around 470 pages long. That’s a bit longer than I want, which is to be in the 80k-100k word range for a 350-400 page book. To try and keep the overall length down each individual chapter will probably be closer to 2,000 words each. That should hopefully keep the pace fast even though there are more than twice as many chapters in The Gray Shift as were in my first book.

Right now the seven chapters in this first draft average out to 1,331 words each. I’m keeping it pretty thin on detailed descriptions for this first time around just to get the entire thing down and then I’ll flesh it out with more details and better descriptions of the smells/sights/sounds/sensations as I go back through and edit it. I tend to add stuff each time I go back and edit something so hitting ~2,000 words per chapter in the next two passes shouldn’t be a problem.

So far I’m averaging a speed of 1,119.05 words per hour, so I can get a decent chunk of text done in a full day. If I stay at my current 1,331 words/chapter average that comes out to 43,923 words left to write for my crappy first draft, which is about 39.25 hours of actual dedicated writing time to finish this first draft.

Once that first draft is done, I’ll go back through it twice to edit it. I usually edit faster than I write but since I’ll be filling in placeholders and descriptions these first two times I’ll assume I stick to the same speed. If the target length is between 80k-100k words long, that should take between 71.5-89.4hrs each. That gives me around 218 hours of work to do before I’m ready to send a draft out to my editor and my beta readers. It’s not a short amount of time, but it’s a finite one and I have an auto-updating Excel sheet to track all this so my estimates will get better and the time to edit should get shorter with each pass.

In Summary, here are the next steps:

  1. First Draft: ~39.25 hours to go
  2. Second Draft: ~89.4 hours to go
  3. Third Draft: ~89.4 hours to go
  4. Send Out Third Draft to Editor and to Beta Readers!
  5. While Editor and Beta Readers are Reading:
    • Make Cover Art
    • First Draft of Outline for The Unsettled Compromise (the sequel to The Gray Shift)

My best guess right now is that I’ll have a third draft edit ready for my editor an beta readers sometime in April. It’s not very soon, but it’s not super far away either. 😱 I’m slowly getting there!


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The Gray Shift (v3) Outline Edits Are Back

I got the edits for the v3 draft of my outline for The Gray Shift back last week and it’s definite improvement over the previous draft. The breakdown of the 41 chapters is:

  • 13 chapters ok as is! (31.7%)
  • 15 chapters need minor edits. (36.6%) These were things like adding/removing characters or moving the “cymbal crash” moment a line or two around.
  • 11 chapters need major changes. (26.8%) These are mainly in the chapters in between the pivotal moments in the middle.
  • 2 chapters need to be deleted (4.9%)
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The Gray Shift Outline (v3) is Out for Editing!

I completed the third draft of the outline for The Gray Shift last week and it is now out for editing. This is the third version I’ve sent to my awesome editor and this has some pretty major changes to the characters and tone that I think make it work a lot better. I should get the edits back in a few weeks and if everything looks good to go then I’ll start on writing the first draft of the full book after that.

This version of the outline is 41 chapters and 21,802 words, an average of 531 words per chapter, which is pretty close to my target of 500 words per chapter for the outline.

Now that this outline is out for editing I’m resuming work on outlining the sequel, which will be called The Unsettled Compromise since I want to launch these next two a month apart. Current status on all books is below:

The Gray Shift: 3rd draft of the outline out for editing
The Unsettled Compromise: (This is the sequel to The Gray Shift) 1st draft of the outline in progress
Full Coverage 2: Fuller Coverage: (This is not the real title, the real title involves 🥓 😉) Occasionally brainstorming and adding notes/ideas to OneNote but not actively working on it yet.


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The Gray Shift Outline Edits Are Back

I got the edits back on the outline for The Gray Shift last week. Things are improved over the first draft but there’s still a lot of work to do. About 1/3rd of the story is good to go but I need to re-think the beginning and how things interconnect a bit. Progress is slowly inching forward but that’s what drafts are for and it gets better each time!

Part of the problem seems to be that I put too much into the outline so I’m going to try and limit myself to around 10,000 words on the next outline to make sure I get the core correct faster and move the details to a separate notes file on the side. That should help me tweak things faster.

I’m also about 2/3rd of the way through the first draft outline of The Unsettled Compromise. That’s on hold now but I’ll come back to it after finishing the rework on The Gray Shift so I can apply those learnings to this outline too!


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NaNoWriMo 2020 Results: The Gray Shift Outline is out for editing!

NaNoWriMo 2020 is over and I was very productive this past month. I completed the first draft and two edit passes of the new detailed outline for The Gray Shift and I sent it out to my amazing editor on Friday 12/4 for editing! I did take two days off from writing but the amount I got done on the other days made up for it. The totals are below:

  • Total Words Written from Scratch in November: 10,889
  • Total Words Edited in November: 82,210
  • Days Writing: 28/30 (93.3%)
  • Average Words Per Day: 3,325

Now, I edit a lot faster than I write. Looking at the whole outlining process, which started back on 9/13, here is how long everything took. You can see how my words per hour jumps up with every revision as the amount of changes gets smaller and smaller each time I go through it.

RevisionTime (Hours)Word CountAverage Words per Hour
6 (new revision from scratch)25.9234,7581,341
6.1 (editing pass 1)8.638,4334,469
6.2 (editing pass 2)4.0238,9789,696
Total38.5439,4551,024
My Nanowrimo 2020 Results

After editing pass 2 there were still 6 chapters that needed special attention so I just lumped in those final edits as part of the total since it wasn’t really a full pass. The revised outline wound up being 39,455 words and 48 chapters long. An average of 822 words per chapter, which is about what I was aiming for. It’s a bit long for an outline considering that I’m aiming for the final book to be around 80-90,000 words, but I added in a lot of detail and dialogue where I already had ideas for them. If anything, this should help me get better feedback from my editor and make writing the full book faster.

Next up, writing the outline for the sequel The Unsettled Compromise! I’m aiming to get that ready for editing by the end of the year.


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NaNoWriMo 2020: It doesn’t have to be good yet, you just have to do it so you can make it good.

It’s November so once again I’m doing my informal NaNoWriMo month. I started things off today with 1,063 words and I might do some more after writing this post. Right now I’m 69% done with the next revision of my detailed outline for my next book, with 32 out of 45 chapters and 24,932 words out of my target of 36,000 words done. I estimate it takes about 800 words per chapter to make my detailed outline and so far I’m holding pretty close to that with an average of 779 words per chapter. I’m aiming for about 80,000 words for the completed book so all major actions, discussions and actions scenes are covered by this outline.

I’ve got about 9 hours of writing time left to finish this revision so I should be able to finish that by the end of this week. Once the first pass is done I’ll revise it at least two times with a heavy emphasis on getting continuity and characters straightened out and choreographing all of the action scenes. Both of those should make for fun blog posts. Once that’s done, I’ll send it back to my awesome editor for her to read over.

While she’s reading it over, I’ll get to outlining the sequel. That’s right! This will be a two part series and my first time writing a sequel! I have a pretty good idea of what I want to have happen but I haven’t completely laid it all out yet.

And we’re off!


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Sometimes You Have to Burn it All Down, Again: My In Process Outlining Process

A lot of people view outlines as rigid, immovable objects that restrict their creative freedom or something to be afraid of. I take a much more fluid view of them. In my mind an outline is how things fit together, at the moment. They can and do change constantly whenever they need to, and that’s ok. Making changes to an existing outline has its limits though. Sometimes you need to just start a fresh outline from scratch so you can focus on picking out the good pieces from the previous version and adding in the new stuff without all the old stuff cluttering the space around it. That’s ok too. You know more now about your story now than you did when you started your previous outline. As you find out more about your story, your outline should change to reflect that new knowledge. This can be anything from adding or changing characters and events to a reordering of chapters. Each time you get closer to the final version.

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