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 16, 2019

Only 450 words this week.

Instead of working on the novel, I’ve spent my time revising a flash fiction story, the one I wrote at WonderCon back in March.

The first two markets I submitted it to rejected it. I was about to submit it to a third, when I re-read it and saw some things that just…weren’t right.

So I printed it out and took it with me to this week’s Write In. I thought I’d be done with it in the first sprint, but I ended up working on it all night, trimming words here and there, rephrasing dialog, and dropping entire paragraphs.

I think the resulting story is shorter and stronger. The one thing I’m unsure of is it introduces a bit of jargon, a word that the two main characters (who are non-human) use to refer to humanity. I think it fits the world they’re in perfectly, and ties into the story’s ending, but then again, maybe it’s too subtle? Or jarring?

It’s hard to judge. I’ll probably send it out for one more read-through by some friends before submitting it again.

What do you do, when writing other worlds that might have different vocabulary from our own? Do you explain them bit by bit? Minimize it as much as possible? Or embrace the jargon, and count on the story to carry the reader along?

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?

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?

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.