Keeping Score, January 17, 2020

Only 500 words written this week.

The impending move (and sale + purchase) has absorbed most of my available head space. Every day there’s been more paperwork to fill out, more historical information I need to sift through, more obstacles to clear.

I’ve been able to work on a new short story, outlining and sketching out dialog, but that’s all. No progress on the novel, no revisions to other short stories…Nothing.

But today I should, finally, knock out the last few forms until closing day. And for closing, all I have to do is show up 🙂

So I’m hoping to do some catch-up writing this weekend, and have a head clear enough to get back on my regular schedule next week.

What about you? How do you manage to keep your writing going in the middle of a stressful event like a move?

Keeping Score: January 10, 2020

1,774 words written this week. Managed to hit my writing goal most days, and surpass it once or twice.

I’m trying out a new schedule, where I sit down to write for 30 minutes each day, between walking the pups and doing my morning jog. It’s earlier than before, and pre-shower (thinking in the shower being my traditional way of resolving tricky plot problems).

But somehow, doing it before anything else is helping me. Like I can go on my jog and let my mind wander again, instead of trying to force it to think about the novel.

The words come a bit easier too, because I know I’m going to sit for a given block of time, and there’s not going to be any interruptions.

Granted, I’m still using tricks to get things done, like focusing on just one tiny part of the story at a time, or doing scenes piecemeal (first dialog, then blocking and description, then thoughts/reactions). But it seems to be working, for now, at least.

What about you? Have you tried changing when you set aside time to write, to see if different times of the day (or night) make it easier to put words to page?

Keeping Score: January 3, 2020

Happy New Year! I hope you achieved your writing goals in 2019, and work your way to new heights of craft in 2020.

For myself, I feel like there were several highs: getting my first short story accepted for publication, attending my first writers conference, and discovering the score-keeping method I’ve been using to push my writing forward.

But also several lows. In fact, 2019 ended on a low for me, with me dreading each writing session, and my 300-word daily goal frequently out of reach. Writing has felt more like drawing blood, recently, than making art or even normal work. I’ve not been blocked, so much as completely demotivated.

I’m trying to push through, though. Forcing myself to write the 300 words, each day. Even when they feel pointless, when it seems I’ll never finish this novel. I fear I’ll still be working on it next year, grinding away at something that I might not be able to sell, in the end.

Not a heartening way to start the year, maybe. But I wrote 2,148 words this week, step by step. I’m using Anne Lamott’s one-inch-frame technique, to narrow my focus down to the point where I can write something. It’s working, so far. I am, slowly, making progress.

What about you? What are your writing goals for 2020? And when your inspiration is running low, what do you do to fill it back up?

Keeping Score: December 6, 2019

Only a measly 300 words written this week.

I can blame the time change (from East Coast back to West Coast hours). I can blame the stress of getting back into the day job after a week off.

But really, it’s just been hard pushing the words out this week.

Hard even to carve out time in the day to do it. I know, I know, that’s a perennial excuse, but it’s true: some days, it’s damn hard to find even thirty minutes where my brain isn’t mush and I’m not rushing off to do something else.

So I’m hoping to find some time today, and each day this weekend, so I can at least finish out the week with 1,500 words done.

I feel like I’m going to have to reconsider my schedule soon, though, and drop something from it to make room for writing. Only, I don’t what I could possibly let go of.

How about you? What do you do, when you feel your writing time slipping away? How do you claw it back?

Keeping Score: November 29, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re on the East Coast this year, doing what’s become a bit of a tradition for us: Crashing someone else’s Thanksgiving 🙂

We stay with friends of ours in Maryland that we’ve known for the better part of two decades, and spend the week hanging out with them. I usually make a detour up to Boston to see some other good friends of mine, but I make sure I’m back time for turkey.

Thankfully, travel this time doesn’t mean a loss of writing time. Though I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit these past few weeks, this week, at least, I’ve managed to keep up. So: 2,112 words written towards the new novel.

…which is a little less than I’d like, given how much time I’ve spent on trains these past few days, with nothing else to do but type. But I’m finding this last third of the book tricky to navigate. I’m having to pause more and think things through, making notes on different possibilities before picking one and writing it out.

It’s not a bad thing, per se, but it does mean progress feels slow. I’m telling myself that I’ll make up for it later, when I’m able to drop in whole chapters from the first draft, instead of rewriting them from scratch.

If you did NaNoWriMo this month, I hope you’re close to the finish line. If you didn’t, I hope your current work-in-progress is going well.

For everyone, I hope you’re going into the final month of 2019 doing the one thing that is necessary for progress in this craft: writing!

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.