Keeping Score: June 7, 2019

980 words written so far this week. If I can steal an extra hour or so for writing this weekend, I’m on track to hit 1,500 words, which I’ve decided to keep as my weekly goal, for the novel at least.

Why? Two things: First, I’ve been sick for…it feels like a month now. And I’m still not well. Without going into details, I’ve developed this wonderful case of burning, stinging pain everytime I move my head. But I’ve got to keep making progress on this book, or I’ll never finish it. Sick or not.

Second, this piece by Chuck Wendig made me re-think my approach to my writing goal. I recommend reading the whole thing, but for me it boiled down to this passage:

It is a kindness to yourself. Don’t expect to run a mile out of the gate. Don’t demand you write the next bestseller. See the increments. Break it up. Find safe, sane, kind limits for yourself — and then you will find it increasingly easy to exceed them. To embrace a little and relish the success instead of always trying to conquer the whole damn lot — and falling short every damn time.

In other words, it’s ok to set your goal at the bare minimum. When you meet it, you feel good because you made progress. When you exceed it, you feel great.

Given everything else that’s going on, I definitely don’t want to make my writing into a chore. I don’t want to set my word count goal so high that I’m going to feel like a failure every day.

But I do want to make progress. So here’s the deal I’m making with myself: 300 words of progress on the novel, every week-day, adding up to 1,500 words a week total. If I go past that, great! But if I just hit it, that’s ok too.

And once I’ve hit my goal for the day, or the week, I’m free to work on other things: outline a new novel, edit a short story, etc. My thinking is this will make me feel less trapped in the current book, like I can’t work on anything else until it’s done.

We’ll see if that turns out to be the case. Wish me luck.

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Fantastic. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve been a Chuck Wendig fan ever since Blackbirds (you have read Blackbirds, haven’t you?). Nor am I saying that because his blog is a fountain of NSFW writing inspiration (though it is).

I’m saying that because it’s a Star Wars book that tells a great story, fills in some of the time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and manages to feel like a Star Wars movie in novel form. That’s a tough balancing act, and kudos to Wendig for pulling it off.

Here’s what I learned about writing from it:

  • Don’t be afraid to be opinionated in giving description. It can help keep things brief while still being vivid.
  • Part of what makes a hero feel scrappy is not things going right, but things going wrong, all the time. Little blunders and bad luck that they just manage to survive make them feel more real and keep the reader rooting for them.
  • You can frame the start of scenes just like framing a shot in a movie. Think of a character’s head popping through a hatch, or opening on a lightsaber glowing in the darkness. Can be a visual hook into the rest of the chapter.