Keeping Score: November 1, 2019

3,026 words written this week.

Most of those are on the novel, but about a third are edits on the short story I wrote back at the SoCal Writers Conference in September.

Reading the story now, I think I like it more than I did before. Not necessarily the language the story’s told in; I can see plot holes and awkward phrasing. But the story itself: The characters and the setting, how the protagonist’s heart gets broken, and how she pieces herself back together. That’s what I’m in love with.

A good sign, maybe? Certainly it motivates me to finish, to edit and polish the story until it’s the best version I can produce.

But it also means I might miss flaws in the telling. I have to beware of liking my own voice too much, instead of the voices of the characters.

How do you balance being critical of the work versus liking it enough to keep going? Do you tend to err on the side of hatred, or do you fall too much in love with your work?

Keeping Score: October 25, 2019

I think I’ve written myself into a corner this week.

I’m working on a scene where I want to have one character drop a particularly important piece of information. It’s something that changes the dynamic of the scene — from fight to negotiation — and sets the stage for a partnership that runs through the rest of the novel.

The trouble is, I’ve gone out of my way earlier in the book to insist she doesn’t remember anything related to this dramatic, juicy, bit of info.

So I’m in a bit of a bind. Do I try to find some awkward way to shoehorn in why she might remember this bit but not anything else?

Or should I go back and rewrite the parts where she doesn’t remember, and change it so that she does? And deal with the ripple effects that’ll cause?

I’m hoping my subconscious is working on the problem, and will present me with a solution soon. I really don’t want to have to rewrite those other scenes, here when I’m so close to finishing this draft.

What do you do, when you realize the needs of the story — the drama, or the tension — are pushing you to change parts of the plot?

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 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: June 21, 2019

785 words written this week (so far). I’ve got some catch-up work to do over the weekend.

I’m still bouncing around between scenes. If my word count’s lighter than last week, it’s because I’ve been writing more new scenes, and doing less editing of existing ones.

I still feel non-linear is working for me, though. I finally broke through the blockage on the original scene that made me go non-linear, this week, and knocked out a basic version of it. I’m going back now and adding texture, additional insights into the character’s thoughts and motivations.

I had a slight mini-blockage toward the end of the scene when I couldn’t decide how to properly weave in a bunch of backstory and explanation, so the character’s actions would make sense. In re-reading the scene, to get my bearings, I realized a good chunk of that explanation actually belonged earlier in the scene. And in moving it up there, I freed up the narrative load of the scene’s end, so I can say what I need to say without bringing things to a screeching halt.

I also started thinking about changing the gender of one of the antagonists…But I’m holding off an acting on that, just yet. One set of edits at a time.

How are your projects going? Steady progress, or stuck in a plot swamp?

Keeping Score: June 14, 2019

1,285 words written this week.

The new “just get something done every day” rules are really helping me. I’ve actually spent more time outlining and plotting this week than anything else. That’s allowed me to see the shape of the remaining story better, and that has let me take pieces of my previous draft and slot them in, then edit them into shape, letting me make good progress.

I’ve also been able to see which scenes were missing from my previous outline, and start keeping notes on those.

Which means I’ve also abandoned linearity this week. Instead of working through each scene in order, I’m jumping around, adding a few words here, then editing a chapter from a previous draft to fit the new storyline, then jotting down some notes on a post-climax scene.

I didn’t think I could work this way, but the proof is in the word count: I can. It’s gotten me out of the slump I felt I was falling into, staring at the same scene every day, unable to make progress.

There’s a part of me that’s starting to whisper “you could finish by the end of June after all,” but I’m shushing that part as much as possible. I need to make progress, and I’ll not go pell-mell just to hit a self-imposed deadline (and likely make myself sick again in the process).

What about you? When editing, do you find it easier to go scene-by-scene through the book, or do you hop around?