It’s 2:30 of the p.m. in Colorado and while I have opened my Scrivener document, I haven’t done any writing. But hey, I didn’t even get that far yesterday. I’ve been in recovery and thinking mode as I sort through the wreckage of my incomplete first draft, and guilt-feelings sent me to BrainyQuote in search of insights regarding procrastination. I thought I’d find some tsk-tsk kind of quote that would be like a slap upside the head, something to “shame” me into getting back to work.
Instead, I found these two quotes from psychologist and author, Adam Grant:
Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity.
Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.
And while this may sound self-serving, I have experienced a couple out-of-left-field realizations about my story. Which is all to say, I’m gonna let go of the guilt and shame, post this, and then explore those realizations more thoroughly.
I’d written just under 40,000 words of my latest middle-grade novel when it hit me: it’s not working. As in, not working as written. The story’s premise is solid (I believe), but the way I was telling the story was not working.
Yesterday I went all the way back to chapter two and tried again. The good news is that approach feels stronger. More sustainable. The bad news? Adopting that approach will mean scrapping a whole lot of those 40k words. Yikes. How could I get it so wrong?
Welp, as author Thomas Mann noted: A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
I’m feeling a bit discouraged. But like this House Finch outside my window today, I need to accept that I bobbled the initial landing.
And just keep on writing so that
I regain my footing in the story. It’s all I can do.
I’m adhering to the 1,000-words/day schedule I began on November 1st as I write the first draft of a new middle-grade novel. That’s the very good news. One other piece of good news is that as I draft, I’m learning more about my characters. Hooray for more well-rounded characters, right?
Yes, except for the fact that those character revelations frequently punch holes in how the story’s written thus far. Holes that slightly alter the plot. Holes that put the entire timeline in question. Holes that shake my confidence about how to best proceed. Forge ahead? Or, cut and paste so the entire draft reflects what I now know about how the story plays out?
I’m 29,000 words in and some of what I wrote/figured out yesterday should come much earlier in the story. Go back? Move forward? Insert notes in earlier chapters that will (hopefully) help me sort it all out after I’ve completed a 45,000-word draft?
One thing I know for sure is that it’s important for me to maintain momentum on first drafts. So, I guess that means forge ahead. Apologies in advance to me when I frantically work to shape this tangled mess into a semi-cohesive manuscript for my critique group to read in January.
Yikes, I missed one day of writing and am now suffering an acute case of Lost Momentum. Per my NaNoWriMo goals (45,000 words in 45 days), I need to get a minimum of 1,700 words down today if I’m to remain on schedule.
*sob* That feels like SO. MANY. WORDS.
*deep breath* Here I go, getting started. This is me, starting. One-two-three, write! Come on, Tracy, you can do it!
Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.
*exhale* Even though completing my words feels less likely than the magpie pushing that wheelbarrow, I’m going to write those 1,700 words. Right now. Truly.
As I walked into my writing room this afternoon, determined to add 1,000 words to my new project, I felt pretty good about facing another day’s word count. Because not only am I keeping pace with my NaNoWriMo goals, I’m a wee bit ahead of schedule. But when I saw the prism-created light display around my computer, my confidence evaporated. Instant pressure!
November 15, 2020
What if my words didn’t shine? What if they landed on the page, cold and lifeless? How would I possibly produce anything approaching this level of magical? Waaaah.
Fast forward to a couple minutes ago when I closed my Scrivener file after adding 1,000 words to the story. Are those words cold and lifeless? Absolutely not. Are they shiny? Some of them, yes. Magical? Only time will tell. The only things I know for sure are that I met my goal, the pretty lights have vanished along with the sun behind the foothills, and I’m grateful I didn’t cave to the pressure.
Last Sunday was Day One of my modified NaNoWriMo efforts. For a very short time, I was ahead of my goals. Hooray, I thought, I have a little padding for those inevitable days when the words don’t come so easily!
In one week, I’ve changed a major premise of the story. All the original elements remain, but the plot line has shifted. What does this mean for my goals? Well, I dumped much of what was written and now have a grand total of 4,430 words when I should have 8,000.
Guess I’d best get to it.
Black-billed Magpie in open space. March 31, 2020.
This morning, for the second day in a row, I got up and ran on the trails.
Black-billed Magpies perched on yucca alongside the trail and flew ahead of me as I chugged along, bringing smiles and lifting my spirits.
I’m excited to regain the strength and endurance I’ll need for the many fights ahead on behalf of the people and planet.
Day by day, I’m inching closer to FINALLY understanding my protagonist in my new novel project. That’s the good news. The bad is there’s a very good chance the 4k words I’ve written thus far will end up in the trash and I’ll be back to 0 words. However, I’m feeling more solid and at peace with this newer understanding.
While knotty writing problems sometimes amp up my frustration, they also take my focus and provide a refuge from our current (and future) reality. Hooray for an inner creative life!
Having trouble focusing today. Still haven’t started my NaNoWriMo writing and just had a mini-meltdown. However, the universe then gifted me this robin in our birdbath and for several minutes, I aimed my camera and forgot everything else.
American Robin. November 3, 2020.
This attitude? It me.
My strategy to escape reality by burying myself in fiction-writing has already hit a bump. I wrote my 1000+ words today for my NaNoWriMo project, but I don’t like those words or where they’re taking the story. It doesn’t feel as if I’m capturing this character’s voice or have a particularly strong grasp of her arc. I know it’s early days and that these things change and change again along the way. But still. Not a great feeling.
My one consolation is that because there are BIG SCARY things looming in the very, very near future, maybe, just maybe, I can chalk today’s icky writing session up to all that?
Either way, I really hope to find my fictional refuge soon.
Today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which people set out to write a 50,000-word manuscript in the month of November. Last year I did a modified NaNo and wrote a draft in about 45 days, and I’d like to try that again. And to hold myself accountable, I reached out to my critique group to ask for the January meeting slot. It’s mine! Hooray! Except, oops. That’s NOT what I did last year.
Last year, I requested the February slot which gave me more time to tidy before asking my critique partners to wade into my messy first draft. I won’t have the luxury of those extra weeks to clean up the worst of the mess. I could email them all now and ask for the February slot instead. But where’s the fun in that?!
Wish me well . . .
I’m tidying up the first draft of the middle grade I wrote in a modified NaNoWriMo last November and December. I’m trying something new by asking my critique group to read it for our February meeting. I’m not used to showing my work at such an early stage, but my group excels at identifying plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc., so my thinking is that if I take advantage of their insights earlier in the process, I’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary revision.
This requires me putting on my big girl pants and trying not to let the terror take over.
Photo by Leon Macapagal from Pexels
I’m trying to focus on little bits at a time. Sometimes that means a chapter, or plot point, or character arc, or just a page. A sentence. Whatever it takes to keep me going. The anxiety is real, though. I have only a few more days to smooth out the roughest edges and then hit SEND.
Step by step, I’ll get it done.
I got some bad writing news this afternoon that wasn’t unexpected, but was still difficult to hear. I had tears in my eyes. But because my agent is so kind and supportive, within minutes of our conversation I felt okay. (The two slices of butter-and- strawberry-jam toast definitely helped). And not only did I feel better post-toast, I felt a renewed resolve.
A few minutes ago I finished drafting 1,062 words of my new project. How do I feel? Pretty damned good.
Knock down this clown and I’ll just bounce back for more!
Last year I officially signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and so am getting emails from the Colorado NaNo people. As noted earlier, I’m taking a modified approach** this year, so when I received an email about a write-in happening at a coffee shop near me I decided to attend. Big deal, right? Wrong.
I do about 99% of my writing at home and wasn’t sure it’d be a good fit. But I liked the idea of all that collective energy, so packed up and went. I arrived two hours into the session today and people were busily writing away. I found a seat in back, put in my ear plugs to muffle the loud music, and got to work.
Wow. I wrote 2500 words (many of which were keepers) in about three hours. Part of my success was because I didn’t ask for the wifi password which meant I couldn’t procrastinate online. When I’m at home, closed off in my writing room, I find all sorts of ways to waste time. Despite all the sounds and movement taking place around me, something about writing in public kept me more focused. It felt all official-like or something.
I thought I’d be writing this novel at my standing desk, but will most definitely be going back to that coffee shop for more writing sessions!
** My goal is to finish a draft by the end of December.
The conference stuff continues to marinate in my back-office brain and this afternoon I had a breakthrough on a book idea I’ve been playing with. For a variety of reasons, I haven’t much felt like committing to writing another middle-grade novel. But today’s epiphany gave me a jolt of excitement that I haven’t felt in months. And now I’m seriously contemplating doing NaNoWriMo again this year.
Image from Pexels.com
What?! Last year’s experience nearly broke my body from all that sitting and writing, and I wasn’t sure I’d try writing 50,000 words in one month ever again. Which is why I’m thinking a modified version might be better. Something like working at my standing desk to write 1,000 words per day for 50 days. From my perspective, that’s still fast-drafting (and I hope the NaNo police don’t show up at my door to issue me a citation).
I need to ponder this idea, but no matter what I decide I’m grateful to feel excitement again.
For the past twelve days I read a whole bunch (The Hazel Wood; The Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Storyworthy; The Truth About Twinkie Pie; Boys and Girls Together; The Infinite Pieces of Us;), did some de-cluttering, scrapbooked photos, watched college basketball and Netflix, exercised, and did ZERO writing.
The no-writing started out easy because I was pretty worn out from my NaNoWriMo draft and in serious need of a break from that kind of thinking. Then I began to notice an increase in grumpy feelings and overall anxiety, and realized it was probably writing withdrawal. But I still wasn’t ready to get back to it. I had a gut feeling I’d view any new writing as crap and any older project as crap, and sure enough, I read 20 pages of a YA I’d set aside in June and thought “This is irredeemable garbage.” So I went back to reading other people’s words and cleaning out drawers.
Last night I realized I was ready to write again. Somehow, I knew it was safe to go back to the pages and I’m pleased to report I was absolutely correct. I just finished reading the entirety of the aforementioned YA. I took copious notes and am excited about the project that is NOT irredeemable garbage. It’s a manuscript in need of revision and I just happen to love me some revision.
Back in the saddle again, baby.
The top left photo shows Doug Chase (and the program director) at the soup kitchen in 1999, our first year volunteering with Grant Avenue StreetReach.
I’m taking a break from writing after writing 50,000 words last month. I intended to do nothing but read and then remembered the enormous stash of photos I swore I’d organize so my sons wouldn’t have to deal with them.
So I started scrapbooking and quickly felt a sense of overwhelm. My family has SO many photos. Then I asked for/demanded help. As a result, Zippy and Zebu have stepped up and helped round photo corners and put sticky tape on their backs while I crop and organize the next pages. It feels a lot better to share the load. And it’s good for me to let go of my perfectionist tendencies.
The page I’ve highlighted here shows Wildebeest playing chess with a man named Steve who taught both sons to play. This page is also bittersweet because it contains the only photo I have of our friend Doug who died in 2009. He was a lovely man and today I miss him all over again.
I frequently curse the number of photos needing our attention, but finding Doug in the stacks was like striking gold.
Yesterday I made the decision to crash-land my manuscript rather than agonize over the ending. As a result, I wrote 3700+ words in order to achieve 50k words and be free of the NaNoWriMo intensity that felt as if it was destroying my body and melting my brain. Kidding. Except, not really.
Here’s the certificate that landed in my inbox after I validated my novel:
And here’s my Project Target counter at the end of that writing session:
I plan to celebrate in the coming week or so by doing two things:
- NOT writing
- Reading, reading, reading
I’m exhausted. I’ve got mud in my eyes and aches in my bones from sitting so much this past month. Worst of all, my ending isn’t coming together as envisioned. Time to create a new vision in preparation for next month’s revision.
There are seven writing days left in November and I’m confident I will have 50,000 words by the end of this month. That is not to say it’s been easy. I’ve written every single day — many more words than usual — and fatigue is starting to set in. I’ve never done rock-climbing or even climbed a wall, but this image sums up how I’m feeling today.
While the end is in sight, I’m still smack-dab in the middle of things. Reaching for toe and hand holds as I navigate this first draft. Novel-writing is an endurance activity and my brain and sitting muscles are feeling the strain. Good thing I’ve got the reserves to get me over the top because quitting is not an option.
I will prevail.
Parts of this photo are in focus, but much of it is not. And that sums up where I’m at with this first draft of my new manuscript. Several key elements are firmly in place while other elements were either abandoned along the way or inserted later in the narrative. In a few places the draft reads like a jumble of characters and motivations.
But the moments of insight counteract that blurriness, giving me faith it’s all gonna be okay. I will prevail.
Today I’m thankful for critique partner and friend, Laura Perdew, who encouraged me to try NaNoWriMo this year. I’m positive I wouldn’t even have considered fast-drafting if she hadn’t suggested NaNo as the cure for my exceedingly slooow outlining and drafting of this new project.
Today is the halfway point for NaNo and here’s what I’ve accomplished thus far:
I’m more than halfway to my target of 52,169 words for November (I’d already written 2,169 words and didn’t want to “cheat” on achieving 50,000 words in 30 days so included them in my final draft target). I am thrilled. Absolutely over the moon with my progress. Hooray! Etc. 🙂
It’s amazing what I can accomplish once I banish my internal editor to a corner with tape over her mouth.
GET FUZZY by Darby Conley
Today I’m grateful to Bucky Katt for lowering the bar. This first draft of my middle grade novel is at least a couple rungs above a list of the stuff I’ve eaten today.
That’s not to say I want anyone reading what I’ve written so far . . .
It’s Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and while I’ve managed to achieve my word count each day (a minimum of 1700 words), I’m still susceptible to panic and overwhelm. For example, yesterday as I drove home from my solo writing retreat in Estes Park I wasn’t congratulating myself on the progress I’d made. Instead, I worried that I hadn’t yet found my narrator’s true voice. Then I switched to agonizing over my “too many plot lines” I’d never be able to connect, followed by the certainty that my first draft was such an irredeemable mess it would take years to revise the manuscript into anything coherent.
I felt like a poser. I wanted to run away from the whole thing.
Those feelings mirror what it’s like when I stand in the ocean and watch a huge wave come my way. I experience a slew of emotions. Panic. Exhilaration. Awe. Fear. An urge to run for shore.
While I frequently do run from big waves, I don’t like to run from my writing commitments. So this morning when I woke with those same angsty feelings, I looked for some online support and wisdom to help me reel in negative thoughts about my first draft. I found this: 7 Things NOT to Worry About During Your First Draft
All my worries are addressed in that article which makes me think I’m not the first writer in history to freak out about her shitty first draft. Newsflash, huh?
Today I continue working on my NaNo project. And as the words add up I have those same big-wave feelings I experience when I choose to dive into the wave and then come out the other side. Exhilaration. Pride. Awe.
The desire to do it again.