Keeping Score: October 18, 2019

2,477 words written this week.

I’m going full-steam-ahead on the novel, closing in on the last dozen scenes or so I need to write to finish it out.

Each new scene, I still think to myself “I don’t know if I can do this.” But if I just sit there long enough, staring at the screen, and refuse to budge, or to look away, the words will come.

They may not be the right words, or good ones. But they’re progress, the raw material I can use later to shape the story.

Pushing ahead on the novel means I’m not going back and revising the short stories I wrote over the Writers Conference weekend. That bothers me, but I’m honestly not sure how to do both. Perhaps once I finish this novel draft, I can pause and revise the short stories before plunging back into the book for another editing pass?

What about you? How do you balance multiple projects? Or, like me, do you find it hard to switch between different works?

Keeping Score: October 11, 2019

Thank goodness for the Writers Coffeehouse.

Went this Sunday, after skipping for a few months. Jonathan Maberry again led a fantastic discussion, plus Q&A. He gave us a rundown on options vs production deals, persistence in the face of discouragement, and told us some new markets opening up that we might not have considered before.

And he also gave me great advice about my nervousness with the magazine that I hadn’t heard from since acceptance: Send them an email.

Yeah, it seems simple in hindsight. But what would I say? How would I ask the question on my mind?

He gave me a few examples of things to say, and insisted it was not too early (or too late!) to want to hear from them.

So I followed his advice. Sent the email, after rewriting it three different times, trying to avoid coming off too flippant or too formal or too needy.

And I got a response within an hour that cleared everything up.

I feel silly for not writing earlier. It was such a non-deal, and I felt so much better afterwards.

So much so, that I’ve already written 2,208 words this week, and I’ve still got the weekend 🙂

What about you? Has there been something you’ve been nervous about doing as part of your writing — whether sending it off for review, or reading it to a critique group, or emailing an agent — that turned out to be nowhere near as big a deal as you thought it’d be?

Keeping Score: October 4, 2019

I’d heard that the bubble of elation you feel when you first have something accepted for publication doesn’t last long.

I only half-believed it, of course. Surely I would be different, my expectations set better, my heart both more and less trusting.

Because if one acceptance happened, couldn’t another? And another? And even if rejection came, wouldn’t that one acceptance be enough to keep me going?

Turns out the answer is no, no, and nope.

I’d had a story out to one magazine for a good while — close to three months — and as the time stretched out without getting a rejection notice, I began to hope. The acceptance of another story just made that hope bigger, and my dreams with it: What if all the stories I had out currently got accepted? What if I was able to join SFWA this year, all in a rush, with three stories that I’ve spent years working on all getting accepted in a short window of time?

But the rejection came yesterday, and my little bubble of hope popped with it.

Now I feel like half a success, half a failure. It doesn’t help that I’ve heard nothing from the magazine that’s accepted a story since that acceptance; no signed contract, no payment, nothing. So even that success feels ghostly, as if one strong wind could blow it away, and I’d be back where I started. Unpublished. Always-rejected.

I’m telling myself to be patient. That the only thing I can control is the writing, so I’d better damn well do that part.

And it does comfort me, a little, that I wrote 2,223 words this week. I’m back to making good progress on the novel, and I’ve got two stories to edit into shape before sending them out into the world.

Chances are they’ll probably be rejected, too. But I can’t control that. What I can do is write another story, then another, and keep writing. Keep improving. And keep submitting.

One story got through. I can keep writing until another one does, too.

Keeping Score: September 27, 2019

Wrote 2,559 words this week!

I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing daily, or nearly-daily, and it’s paying off. Even though I only wrote 1,400 words at the Tuesday write-in, I put in some time after work Monday and Thursday to push over the 2,500 mark.

Most of that work’s been on the short story I started last Friday, at the Writers Conference. It was supposed to be a flash piece, in and out quick, but it’s turned into a full 3,000-word story.

And it might get longer. I compressed a lot of time towards the end, fitting years of change into a few paragraphs. Those might have to be uncompressed in order to feel like a more natural ending. So it might grow another one- to two-thousand words.

But that’s a problem for later, after I’ve let the story sit for a week or two. Then I can be a bit more objective.

For now, it’s back to the novel. I’m in the middle third of the book, when characters start colliding against each other on their way to the blowout before the third act.

And I’m still getting ideas for things that might need to change. Not minor things, like how a character speaks. Major things, like entire plot points and character motivations.

I’m unsure whether they’re good ideas, though, so I’m just taking notes on them for now. Once this draft is done, I’ll have another look at them and pick and choose which changes to make.

Until then, it’s forward. Ever forward.

Keeping Score: September 20, 2019

Only 750 words written this week.

But they’re good words, because I got ’em rewriting the scene from last week.

The first draft of that scene turned out to be closer to what I needed than I thought. I was worried I’d have to throw the whole thing away and start over, but just changing the timing of some of the events, and adding in a hazard here and there, was enough to up the tension.

Now instead of being a step-by-step account of someone looking around in the aftermath of a disaster, it’s a POV character dodging debris as they try to figure out just what kind of disaster they find themselves a part of.

Have you ever had an editing task turn out to be easier than you thought? Where a small change to a scene makes a huge difference in how it reads?

Keeping Score: September 13, 2019

Have you ever written a scene, and almost as soon as it’s done, you realize you have to rewrite it?

That happened to me this week, while getting my 1,133 words in.

The scene I plotted out last week started well, but about a third of the way through I started hitting writer’s block. Like I was bored with the scene already, and wanted to move on.

I pushed myself to finish the draft out, just to have the scene done. So I could say I accomplished something that night.

But as soon as I woke up the next morning, I knew I needed to start over from scratch.

If writing the scene was boring for me, it’s going to be boring to read, too. And I could see exactly where I went wrong: I had the scene start after most of the danger was over, and the scene was the character piecing together what had happened after the fact.

Better to start with the character in danger, and worried for their safety. So they have to scramble to keep themselves alive, and figure out what’s going on.

It’ll have higher tension, be easier to write, and be a lot more fun to read.

I don’t want to rewrite the scene. But I’ll need to, if I’m going to keep some narrative momentum going.

What about you? Do problems with your scenes ever manifest as writer’s block?

Keeping Score: September 6, 2019

Only 156 words written this week.

I skipped out on the weekly Write In, and it shows. While I did get a few extra scenes plotted out, and connected some dangling plot threads while I was at it, I only started one scene.

I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. The pups have been sick, the heat wave means that even with the a/c going I still feel lethargic in the afternoon, and there’s been some ripples in our finances.

But I can’t help but think I should have gone to the Write In anyway, and that if I did, I’d have made more progress this week.

So I’m definitely going next week. And maybe I need to start writing more on a daily basis, even if it’s just a hundred words, rather than cramming everything into one night?

Keeping Score: August 30, 2019

1,679 words written this week, all on the novel. That means two more scenes done — well, drafts of the new scenes done — and I’m two steps closer to being finished with this draft.

I missed last week’s entry, because I was at a work-related conference, but I did write that week, somewhere north of 1,400 words, again all in a single night at the Write In.

I’m tempted to add a second Write In night, just to see if I can do it. If I can write as much the second night as the first, I’ll basically double my output in a few hours. I’d get through this draft a lot faster.

And since just yesterday I noticed I had a reminder to send out this draft to beta readers by October 31, I’m thinking I can use the extra speed.

What do you do, when you need to write a little faster? Do you add extra writing sessions, or lengthen the ones you have? Or maybe you drop everything else for a while, and sprint towards the finish?

Keeping Score: August 9, 2019

Only wrote 1,263 words this week (so far). But I feel like I accomplished a lot.

I went back to the write-in event this week, and again, having two hours of unbroken writing time is simply fantastic. I finished an editing pass on a short story, helped one of the other writers brainstorm ideas for her story, and wrote two pages on a new scene in the novel I’ve been revising.

I’ve also noticed printing out the text I’m editing seems to help. There’s something about being able to cross things out and scribble notes in the margins that lets me treat what I’ve written as more of a work-in-progress, instead of a delicate glass bird I might shatter if I alter it too much. It’s liberating, and I think I’m going to do that with all my work from now on.

Who knew that buying a home printer (for a totally different purpose) would have such an impact on my writing process?

What about you? What helps you get into editing mode? Is it just time away from the work, or do you do something to force you to see it differently?

Keeping Score: August 2, 2019

(aka Getting Back in the Saddle)

So it turns out what I thought would just be a small writing break while we were on vacation in early July turned into me taking the whole of July off. I wrote a few hundred words here and there, but didn’t make any real progress on the novel.

Which felt great, on the one hand. I got back into learning French, I had a lot more time to read, and my mornings had less time pressure (because I wasn’t trying to squeeze in my writing time on top of everything else). Very relaxing.

But as two weeks became three, then four, I started to worry. Was I ever going to go back to the book? Was I really going to leave it unfinished?

Or worse: was I done writing prose at all? Was four weeks going to become four months, or four years?

I’ve taken a years-long break from writing before. I worried it was happening again.

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case: I wrote 1,833 words this week. All in one night.

I went to a Write In event for the first time this week, joining a group that meets at a coffee shop nearby every Tuesday and Thursday. Over two hours, they use the Pomodoro method: write sprint for 25 minutes, then break for 5, then write for 25, rinse, repeat.

I was skeptical going in, but it really worked for me. Being there with other writers, knowing the clock was ticking, forced me to push through the resistance I always feel when starting to write. And even though by the fourth sprint I was tired, and wanted to quit, I didn’t. I pushed through, and as a result I finished two scenes and added 1,800+ words to the book.

I’ve also started working on a comic book pitch, using an online class to get some guidance on what a comic pitch needs to include. I’m using the idea I had for my next novel; I think it’ll make a better comic than a book, since it’s set in the ancient Mediterranean. Showing the world via comic will be a lot more powerful than just me describing it, I think.

Working on both at once makes me feel like I’m making progress again. Like I’m not going to be stuck editing the novel forever. It’s allowed me to relax a bit, and that coupled with the (good) pressure of the Write In makes me feel like I can still do this, even after a break.

Have any of you ever tried a Write In? Did it work for you?