Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Wild Summer Days

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

lake

My summer has been a wild one and I’ve been having trouble getting my feet under me. It has literally involved a birth, a death, visiting family, unpredictable illnesses, and the slow climb back to health. Despite how much I enjoy the summer months and hot weather, I’ve spent most of my time indoors. I haven’t done much writing this summer (I hadn’t planned to) with the exception of a poem for my sister. I’ve managed to read half a dozen books, including Max Gladstone’s Two Serpent’s Rise and Angélica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was (as translated by Ursula Le Guin). My garden is a wild place full of bolted lettuces, overgrown rhubarb, weeds, and herbs run rampant. My preschooler is the only one who’s been harvesting anything: handfuls of fresh mint and sage that she eats on the back steps. I have drunk gallons of iced tea and am not ashamed in the least.

I’m a new parent for the second time. There’s a fullness and an emptiness to the early days of parenting. The days are long and full of needs – hunger, discomfort, boredom, exhaustion – but it feels impossible to meet them all, for yourself or your child. There is so much to do coupled with vast swaths of time just… waiting: for the baby to wake up or fall asleep or finish eating. You need space and you need support. This time around I pressed down my misplaced pride and accepted as much help as possible with an open heart. I’m grateful for all the extra hands and frozen dinners and chances to nap. I’m grateful that the pieces of our life that have slowly been taken apart this summer are finally coming together again in a new shape.

20160816_021856453_iOS

Now I look down the long lane of the autumn months and the spice of anticipation is mixed with the dread of not knowing how to get back into the rhythm of the work. I’ll be meeting with my beta readers at the beginning of September to get feedback on The Ghost Story project and then will tackle Draft 3. I’ll be teaching a workshop on author events at the Writer’s Loft in October. I want to reconnect with the world of books and writers. I want to write book reviews and blog posts. But after a summer that has fluctuated so wildly between overwhelming and tedious and with an autumn where I’ve committed to caring for my newborn along side my third draft, I feel as if I’m starting from scratch. How can I ensure we’re all getting enough sleep and sunshine and creative time?

It comes down to re-aligning expectations. Taking care of a baby while trying to edit a novel is going to change the way I need to structure my days, both as a writer and a parent. I won’t have the luxury of dawdling on social media or watching TV during naps – I’ll need to be working. If I want to have this project polished enough to submit to agents by the end of the spring, I’ll need to find the time to write — and if I can’t find the time, I’ll need to make it. And I’ll also need to forgive myself over and over again for missteps as I rediscover balance.

0

Achievement Unlocked: Draft #2

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Attention, attention, Draft #2 is complete! *horns blare*

Draft2Stats

I was struggling viciously with the final chapter, which so disappointed me the first time around, but I finally found the right angle at which to approach it. It’s still flawed and has way too much talking and I’m not quite sure I tied up all the questions properly but it’s DONE (caveat: FOR NOW).

The Numbers for DRAFT #2:

Date Started: January 12, 2016
Date Finished: May 19, 2016
# of Writing Days to Completion:  60
# of Chapters:  21 (divided into three Parts) + epilogue
Final Word Count: 92, 038
Difference from 1st draft: -4051
Number of printed pages: 295
Difference from 1st draft: -34
Number of paperback pages: ~234
# of Words I wrote but then cut or didn’t make the cut: 68,328

I tried my best to track my writing/revision word counts and progress but it’s challenging. Revision makes it hard to sort out how much is new and how much isn’t. According to the numbers as I tracked them, I averaged ~927 words/writing day. Again, this is deceptive because there were days when I would work for three hours and technically only add 80 words because I deleted three times as many.

My most successful writing day was April 27th when I spent 6 hours writing and added 3806 words. Some of that included scenes I had removed and reinserted, which is why it is such a particularly high number. See? Like I said, confusing.

If you count all the words that currently reside in this project and are retained in my Scriveners folders (the full draft, notes, outlines, deleted scenes, character sketches, research, etc.)  we’re looking at 275, 612 words . That’s a lot of creative brain juice right there.

So what’s next?

Sleep. And chocolate.

No, in all seriousness, there probably will be some sleep. There will definitely be chocolate. And the reading of books and enjoying of summer. But the next step for this manuscript is to put it in front of a few key sets of eyes: my beta readers.

Is that some kind of fish?

No, beta readers are actual people.  I’ve picked a couple writer friends who have experience reviewing Works-in-Progress (WIPs) and am sending off the manuscript to them as we speak for review sometime this summer (I hope they will forgive the fact that I constantly confuse “its” and “it’s” and use commas far too liberally). Yes, someone is going to finally get to look at this raw honeycomb of a novel. Then in the fall, once I’ve gotten their feedback and taken some space from it all, I’ll start trying to figure out what still needs to be fixed and how best to do that. Aka, DRAFT #3.

Then… I don’t know! More beta reading? More revising? Or finally on to querying? I would love to start querying sometime next year, but we’ll have to see how it all goes down.

But how do you FEEL about it?

Good, actually, thanks for asking! I feel much better about this draft than the first. It’s so much less of a rambling mess. Interestingly enough, in the first draft I felt as if the beginning was strongest, as it’s where I did the most writing/development and the ending was bare bones. With the revision I had to slash and rearrange so much of the beginning that now I have no idea if it’s any good. But the ending feels much more earned and secure.

When can I read it?

Eventually? But because you asked so nicely, here’s a little excerpt from Chapter 1:

I leave the shelter of the woods and head up the long, steep hill in front of me to the overlook. The grass is tall and golden and dampens the legs of my pants as I climb through it. On this side, the hill is pockmarked by mounds, some fresher towards the bottom and older as I reach the top.

The hill rolls down to a fog-laced field of flowers, pale as moths. The daffodils grow all the way up to the rocky edge of the mountainous cliffs surrounding the Mouth of the Valley. The mountains are massive; they glint grey, silver, and gold in the morning sun and they break in two places: to my right, past town, where they hit the ocean and bend away from sight, curving out to the sea; and straight ahead where the deep v-cut cut of the Mouth yawns before us. To the left the cliffs ripple and spike their way into the haze of distance.

In daytime it’s hard to see the lit torches, but they’re there: small licks of flame casting molten shadows on the rust-colored earth at the base of the Mouth, no matter the time of day or night. On the other side bleeds the field of poppies like a red lake, the flowers turning their ruddy faces to the sun. And beyond that, strangely normal pastures and houses of the Valley. A funnel of birds wends it’s way out, rippling against the pale blue sky above the cliffs, before passing over my head.

Looking out over the landscape, the muscles in my shoulders begin to relax. The sun is finally warm against my back. I imagine I can feel the thrumming of the ghost roads around me, pouring down into the Valley, pointing spirits toward the next plane. I don’t let my eyes settle long on the Mouth itself, but instead wrap myself in the heady scent of daffodils, the fresh green of their unfurling leaves. The beginning of daffodil season always feels like some kind of dangerous invitation to closed spaces.

0

Draft #2 or Revising the Ghost, Take 1

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
InstagramCapture_b32b8455-541e-4cd6-b7dc-034f6af3cfea

That’s iced tea not beer. Though if I drank beer, I totally could have used one.

It has been moons, fair readers. Like, a ridiculously long time. But I am sure you are all dying to know how The Ghost Story novel is coming along. Good news: IT’S COMING ALONG.

In November I took a class on revision at The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, hosted by the delightful and talented Erin Dionne. I had grand plans to dive right into the revision process but that didn’t really work out. In all honesty, I barely did any real writing at all at the end of 2015… I read through my draft, made notes, did research, twiddled with outlines, notecards, and all the various tools Erin walked us through. I was scared, intimidated, and frankly, tired. A lot. And so, I didn’t get cracking on actual revision until January 2016.

The first week was wonderful and terrible. It felt good to be writing but I kept having existential moments of GAH WHAT IS THIS and HOW DO I FIX and OH THE FUTILITY. It took me two weeks to get through most of Chapter 1 and I thought: This will take forever. I have at least twenty-two chapters to go through. And this is just draft two. But I realized I just had to sharpen my scalpel. I have to be unforgiving and relentless with the writing, but forgiving and patient with myself. And that revising can contain just as much writing as it does cutting.

Authors have consistently said at events I’ve run/attended: “Oh yes, I had to cut the first 100 pages of my first draft” and it always made me blanch. How? Really? Impossible! Well…

For the numbers people, as of 2/18/16:
Number of writing days since revision began: 20
Chapters Revised: 6.5 (mostly)
Word Count (New Material): ~16,000 words (50 pg)
Word Count (Revised + new material): ~25,700 words (85 pg)
Word Count (Cut from 1st Draft): ~24,500 words (80 pg)
Current goal for 2nd Draft Completion: April 30, 2016 (then a month of “polishing” before off to beta readers)
Cups of tea consumed: Countless

Want to know what has needed the most revising? (more…)

0

Finished First Draft

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

WP_20150922_16_51_17_Pro

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, I completed the first draft of The Ghost Story novel. I COMPLETED THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL YOU GUYS!

Also, I turn 31 today. Happy birthday to me!

**fireworks to the tune of the 1812 Overture**

So how does it feel? Exciting + anti-climactic. I’m not super pleased with the ending, not to mention the last, oh, third of the book (Ch. 19 excepted). When I got to the last lines my first thought was “Really? This is it? This is how you end it?” But heck, I WROTE A NOVEL. It’s 120k words closer to something I can be really proud of. That much closer to sharing a remarkable with you: a story, a vision taken out of my brain and put into yours.

For those following along at home:

  • According to Scrivener, I wrote a 123, 670 word manuscript, which comes to 383 printed pages, or ~313 pages in a paperback book.
  • I began the draft in earnest on Sept. 1, 2014, so it took me 386 days to complete.
  • That means I averaged something like 380 words a day for a little over a year. More accurately, since I mostly just write three days a week the averages comes out to ~750 words/writing day.
  • If you just include the chronological chapters and not the folder of documents I’ve entitled “Scenes That Need Chapter Homes” etc. the actually manuscript comes is closer to 97k words and around 300 pages
  • If you count all the words I’ve written in Scrivener, including: brainstorming documents, outlines, research, character sketches, freewrites, notes, and the occasional old draft, the total word count comes to 182, 603
  • The book has a prologue, epilogue, three Parts, twenty-one chapters, and about a dozen “interludes” or mini-chapter/flashbacks.
  • The most I ever wrote on a given day (since Jan. 1) was on Sept. 2nd when I plowed through to the end of Chapter 19 with 2143 words in about 3 hours (that chapter’s a doozy, let me tell you)

WP_20150922_16_47_42_Pro

Most of you are asking: What’s next? When will I see it on the shelf? while I appreciate your enthusiasm and faith in my abilities, the truth of the matter is this is Step 1, Phase 1. First step: writing a novel! CHECK! Now I need to make it the best possible novel it can be. And let me tell you, iy will need to go through several rounds of revision before it even makes it in front of beta readers, then another round or two before it gets to the point where I can start querying Literary Agents (as I plan to go the traditional publishing route to start).

Let’s put it this way: If I managed to revise everything perfectly on the first go, then queried agents and got the very first one I queried, then they pitched the book to editors and the first one of THOSE bit, and they put it on a rush schedule to publication with no edits… it would still be at least two years from now before I’d be announcing a publication date. That’s just how the industry rolls.

For now I have two major plans:

  1. Begin a 6-week class on Revision this evening at The Writer’s Loft
  2. Read & Research: issues of gender and race, the transmigration of technology and ideas, PTSD, the psychological implications of grief, river ways, how dams work, ley lines, mourning practices, political history, and all KINDS of other things.

So while I’m classing it up, I’ll be reading it up too and spending lots of time in the library and on the internet diving down the rabbit holes of these topics. So come November I can really jump into MASSIVE REVISING TIME and have a bunch of fresh ideas and strategies to tackle it. Hi-yah!

3

Workshop, Readercon, Updates, oh my!

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Allison PH flyer final

  1. What are you up to? First off, I want to let you all know that I am giving a presentation. on marketing books to bookstores. Yes! Me! Being knowledgable on a topic in front of a large group of people! It’s on July 22nd at The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, MA. There will be snacks, a powerpoint, and yours truly. I know I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are too. Apologies if you feel bombarded about this through my social media but I know there are many things that vie for our attention these days.
  2. I haven’t used Powerpoint to make a presentation in over a decade. So this should be interesting.
  3. NicolaThis past weekend I attended my first ever fan convention in the form of Readercon. It was fascinating. I have things to say but that is another post entirely. In summary: books are wonderful. So is writing inclusive + informed narratives and Nicola Griffith (who is even more wonderful in person than on the page, if that’s possible).
  4. How’s the writing going? You may recall that I had given myself the arbitrary deadline of May 31st to be done with Draft #1 of The Ghost Story. Alas, while I am only 3,800 words away from my 100k word count goal, I am about seven chapters, or approximately 30 – 35k words away from the actual end of the book. I know this because last week I had a “hot coal” moment and outlined the last third of the book. This is fairly remarkable because I’ve considered myself what is known as a “pantser” or a writer who “flies by the seat of her pants” but it seems my pants have flown away and left me with some semblance of a plot so there you go. My new goal is to be done with draft one by the end of the summer.
  5. How does that feel? I’m okay with the continued work and with the first draft wrapping up at 135,000 words. There are chapters-worth of words I already know will be cut. My writing/logic process re: plotting (with or without pants): “How can I make xyz happen here? Oh well, it’d be so much easier if Character already knew about abc. OH OH OH, if I just re-write chapters 4 and 5 then chapter 14 will work!” No idea if this proper form or if it will come back to bite me in subsequent drafts, but it’s sort of working so damn it, someone hand me a chocolate bar.
  6. What’s taking you so long? Well, well, impatient aren’t we! I’ve been somewhat stymied in my fervent attempts to write because an old RSI (repetitive stress injury) in my wrist has flared up again making extended time at the keyboard incredibly frustrating and painful. There’s also been Family and Travel and whatnot so summertime has been a slow time for writing.
  7. What have you been reading? Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble; Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy; Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist; Mary Roach’s Spook (which I am totally counting as research)
4

Mile Marker 80K + writer’s conference

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Yesterday I hit 80,000 words in The Ghost Story project! **fireworks**

So I thought I would update you on my “process”:

  1. Next time I write a novel I want to have more of a plan. Maybe that’s not my true process but being 80,000 words in, a plan would feel really good right about now. This last week has mostly been hyper-productive because I know I have to get my characters from point A to point B and I’ve just been bullheadedly pushing them there.
  2. Revision will either be the life or death of me. There is so much that needs to be fixed, dear readers, and I’m not just talking about the errant cliché (I actually used the phrase “every fiber of my being” and thought I might keel over right then).  I’m talking about referencing stuff in later chapters that never even happened in earlier chapters. I’ve changed people’s personalities and abandoned secondary plots. I don’t know if that means they are better off abandoned or if I’ve shed all extra weight just to get the buoyancy to finish. But I have a document called “Weak Spots” that I’m filling with notes like: Make sure lead up info/backstory is given BEFORE critical scene, not after and Establish conflict and Why would he even DO this?
  3. I’ve upped my daily word count goals. I boosted it from 850 to 1300 last month because needs must. But I’ve found that I can hit that now. If I focus, if I have some specific scenes to work on during a writing session, then I can get there.
  4. Reading backwards. I have to go back and read the last chapter or two before I continue. I usually do some tightening and tidying as a I go, but try not to wallow there too long. Sometimes I go back and read Chapter 1 because that’s where the tone I want lives, in those early pages.
  5. Still aiming for May 31st but… in all honesty, even if I make it to 100,000 words (which would be more like 1,500 words/writing day), I don’t think the story will be finished. It feels like I’m 50 – 60% complete, not 80%. This is where the plan would be really useful. Based on my sort-of plan, there’s a whole additional country to visit (possibly two) and another antagonist to encounter. I think. It feels kind of ridiculous.
  6. I’m still figuring out the shape of this project. What’s the real mystery/mission at the heart of this story? When I go back to revise, I think the focus will be the world, the characters and the questions: What is grief and how do we grieve? How do we live in the face of death? If death and the afterlife were a known quantity, would that make life easier or harder and how? If reincarnation were the cycle of the world, how would that impact the choices people make? What would that kind of world look like? Oh, and making sure it all makes sense.

This weekend is Grub Street’s The Muse & The Marketplace. This is my first writer’s conference and my writing buddy and I are attending all day tomorrow. The workshops I plan to attend include ones on writing through time, handling large casts of characters, writing gender, and creativity exercises. I’m also going to “Star Literary Idol” where there’s a chance that Steve Almond (!) may read the first 250 words of my manuscript to a panel of authors to be Judged. I’ll do an extensive write-up once I’ve processed everything and let you know what I’ve learned. I’m hoping it’ll make this crazy “I don’t know what I’m doing!” feeling a little less “ahhhhh!” and a little more “ahhhh…” or even, possibly “ah HA!”

1

Pushing past half-way…

Monday, February 23rd, 2015
emotional stages of writing a novel

From terribleminds.com.
Yup, I’m somewhere between “Old man lost at the mall” and “Destroy Boredom with a Hammer”…

So right around Valentine’s Day, I hit 50,000 words on The Ghost Story! **confetti cannon**

This is a big deal to me because:

  1. It means that in theory I am half-way through the novel, according to my word count goal. 
  2. 50,000 words is also the word count goal for National Novel Writing Month, something I’ve attempted several times and never completed. So even though this was more like National Four-and-a-Half-Months-Of-Writing-Half-a-Novel, I still won.
  3. It means I’m in it to win it. In other words, I can’t back out now.

And ooooh boy do I sometimes want to back out. Like, right now.

As I mentioned in my last post, plotting is not my strong suit. The thing about getting to the middle when I don’t know how the story ends is that I feel like I’m trying to push through one of these six foot snow banks in my front yard. Nothing but cold, cold resistance. I have a vague, half-formed plan. And I feel like every scene I write that moves the story forward, requires all manner of revisions to things I’ve already written. Sometimes I go back and make those revisions. But generally I try to just keep writing and tell myself “No! MUST PLOW ONWARD!” And grind my way through another chapter.

What I’m finding is that I can’t wait to be finished. Not just so I can say “I wrote a novel!” but also so I can go back and fix the damn thing. I need the whole picture and I’m just not there yet. There’s at least another 50,000 words to go. I want to finish so that I can go back and fix it so it’s less of a hot mess. Then I can give it to a few beta readers who can ask me pointed questions so I can fix it again.

Case in point: The first line of my novel (as it stands) is “The trucks arrived at dusk, as usual, bearing the Dead.” Just last week someone in my Novel in Progress class asked “What do the trucks run on?” and I thought Yes! That is a hugely important question. It seems so simple because readers bring to it so many assumptions that you wouldn’t think it needed explaining, but when you’re building an alternate world something like a truck can either feel natural or anachronistic. It’s really easy to drill down into the details too much but it’s right there in the first line. The trucks better be friggin’ important and I need to know everything about them if they’re going to be there right out of the gate. There are tons of basic things like this that need fixing, I know this already, even as I write something and think huh, that sounds good, I better figure out what it means. But I need to be done to ask those questions effectively. So that in answering them I can make sure all the puzzle-box pieces of story slide seamlessly together.

I’ve been asked how I can write a story not knowing how it ends and honestly, I don’t know. So far I’ve been muddling my way through with a scrappy, unconvincing list of plot points. Mostly, I just try to muster confidence in my storytelling abilities, that enough reading + thinking = writing. That something alchemical occurs between the ideas and thoughts combining and recombining in my imagination and the words I put to paper.

I did put together my W-plot, for anyone who’s reading along. It was mostly “I know all these things happen… (downward slope, beginning of first upward slope) and then here are a series of other things that will happen, maybe in this order.” Mostly I got a sense of the emotional trajectory of the novel, which is helpful. Now I just need to figure out what my characters do to get there.

0

Looking backwards and forwards

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Image Source

Image Source

I realized I never got around to updating you on how my November challenges went, in honor of NaNoWriMo. Friends, it was a bit of a mixed bag, but nothing terrible and I learned a few things.

Challenge #1: Hit 45,000 words by November 30th
I did not hit this stretch goal. I use the term stretch goal because almost from the first day of aiming for this number, I was struggling. It required me to double my daily output (which I had mostly been hitting comfortably) and every day I missed the accelerated word count, the next day’s challenge was higher.

That isn’t to say I didn’t get some mean writing done in November. But realistically I hit more like 35,000 words which included freewrites.

Challenge #2: Write three freewrites about the journey of the story
This was a mixed. I succeeded in doing several freewrites, but I’m not sure how successful they were for me. I did a lot of research; looking up different climate patterns and ecosystems, photos of countries I’ve never been to, trying to develop what sort of lands my characters would travel through physically. I’ve come to the conclusion that I may just need to put my characters on a mode of transportation and see where it goes.

Challenge #3: Social media addiction control
Mostly good, with some slippage. I find that if I’m out somewhere, say at a library or coffee shop, it’s much easier to tame the social media temptation. If I’m at home at the writing isn’t going well, my will power erodes.

Challenge #4: Read 1 – 2 books on thematically-appropriate topics
This was fun and I want to do more. I went to the Boston Public Library and checked a few books out of their permanent collection, books about grief practices in different cultures and something enticingly called Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma (which was quite a long academic encyclopedia). I didn’t get to delve into them as deeply as I would like, but it’s really helpful to know those kind of resources are out there.

Challenge #5: Daily check-in
This was great. My writing buddy and I texted or emailed once or twice a day just to say what we had worked on, if we felt like we’d made progress, and asked each other supportive questions/gave encouragement. I would definitely recommend this to anyone trying to set some kind of a stretch goal for him or herself. It really helps to be held accountable and to take a few moments each day to reflect on one’s progress.

 

Ultimately, I made a decent amount of progress in the beginning of the month but then I hit a wall. That wall is still this journey/quest that my characters are embarking upon. The sense of the world beyond the area in which they live is slowly taking shape for me, but it’s just that: slow. So I keep circling on what I know and adding and tweaking a story that isn’t moving forward. That’s my next challenge.

So far in December, I haven’t done much writing. Visits with family plus the stalled story haven’t proved very conducive to storytelling. The rest of the month doesn’t look too good either, what with the holidays. I think I need to figure out how to make forward progress with smaller chunks of time available to me, so that I can write a little every day or so, even with childcare and family responsibilities. Anyone with advice, please let me know. Writing at night rarely works for me, but writing “first thing in the morning” would require me getting up at, er, 4:30 or 5am.

I do feel like I’m laying some mental brickwork at the moment; I came to some conclusions this weekend about character motivations, unlocking several new avenues of thought. And I’ve been filling out this plot sheet and this character questionnaire about my protagonist. The former has caused me to ask some tough questions about where my story is going and the latter is helping me get a clearer picture of who my narrator is. It feels very elementary, but she is the voice of my story and asking these questions and answering in her voice has been a useful tool.

 

And now we’re on to 2015! I don’t know what 2015 is going to look like. What I do know is two things: 1) I have set myself that arbitrary May 31st deadline which I have every intention of keeping and 2) I have signed up for a class with Grub Street that focuses on novel writing. I’m hoping the course will propel me through the cold, winter months and get me past this stalled place.

This experience has been really fascinating. I’ve been writing for years (most of my life really) but these past few months have made me feel like a novice. I’ve been reading up on story structure and character arcs and how to make a believable world. Things I thought I knew how to do already. But putting all of these tools in the context of 300 pages versus 13 pages is a complete game changer for me. It’s not a slice of the pie, it’s the whole damn pie. Mmm, pie.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions for myself, because a) I have a terrible time keeping them and b) why limit your resolutions to January 1st? But I do like the idea of a fresh year, a fresh start. I want to get the first draft done by the end of the spring because I know that the first draft is, in reality, only the first chapter in the story of the life of a book. The first page, if I’m honest. I’m excited to see where this story takes me. 

1

Challenges for November

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
  • Shoot for 45,000 words (~1,700 words/per writing day) by the end of the month. This should roughly double the length of my current story.
  • Write three “freewrites” that explore where my characters might go on their journey. Because they go on a journey. It’s very daunting to me because I have to build not just the small world of the first 20,000 words of my story, but the ENTIRE world beyond that. Or significant pieces of it.
  • Control my social media addiction by not accessing social media in a significant way between the hours of 9am and 12pm on work days. These are my most productive writing hours but not when I am also checking Twitter, GChat, Facebook, WordPress, email, The Internet etc.
  • Read 1 – 2 books on ghosts/funereal practices/death mythology for inspiration. Wow, I’m making this project sound morbid.
  • Daily check-in with my writing buddy for accountability and affirmations.
0

Noveling into November

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
My new office set-up

My new office set-up

Though I haven’t written anything here in a long while, that thankfully does not mean I haven’t been writing. In fact, just the opposite. After several busy weeks with family and events in late September/early October, I was itching to get back to writing fiction. And blogging, well, it seemed distracting and less fun. So I didn’t do it. I apologize to those who have been waiting impatiently for my lustrous words to grace your screen again. In the words of my daughter, “WALA!” I have returned.

In the meantime, I have been attempting to stick to the schedule I set for myself (write, lunch, writing-related-activity) which has met with mixed results. I’ve discovered several things:

  1. I generally require a warm-up period to get into a writing zone; this usually consists of an hour (though sometimes two) of re-reading previous sections, brainstorming, thinking, research, and… a lot of checking social media and reading inane internet articles about gluten or Sweet Valley Twins or parenting. Grah.
  2. I am blessed to have friends that I can meet for lunch to get me out of the house. However, if I don’t do a significant portion of my writing before I meet with said friends and/or strictly limit my time with them, little to no writing gets done that day because see point #1. There usually isn’t time for point #1 after lunch because I need to pick up my daughter from daycare.
  3. I need to plan at-home lunches as well as at-home dinners. Otherwise I eat popcorn and applesauce and cheese and crackers. Grrreeat. (Note to self: stock healthy snacks)
  4. I generally haven’t gotten around to writing-related-activities in the afternoon… I’ve found I try to use it for continuing the morning’s writing (or finally getting started). Otherwise it gets eaten up by non-writing related activities (extra long lunches, errands, appointments, internet, prepping dinner).
  5. Word sprints (saying to myself “I will write X number of words in the next 20 minutes. No distractions. Go!”) actually works really well, peppered with other tactics.
  6. Scrivener is a delight and jives well with my haphazard writing style.
  7. Giving myself the time to write is the key to actually writing. So much of the pressure of the past has been removed and it is such a relief. I feel the pressure on days when I let my warm-up period turn into a warm-up morning and barely get anything done. Or just those days everyone has when nothing feels quite good enough. But most days I am excited to sit down and figure out what happens next.

Now for the numbers…

Scrivener has a feature where you can set project goals and session word count targets. Meaning that you can say you want a project to be so many words and it will calculate how many words you need to write per writing day to get there by the deadline you set. So to use this feature I settled on a deadline of May 31, 2015 to have the first draft of the Ghost Story project completed, entertaining the idea, for now, that this will be a novel. I chose May 31st with the thought that it gives me 8 months to write, at which point I can take the summer to not think about it, and then tackle revisions in the fall. Or sooner if I feel inclined, but it seems like a good, symbolic dividing line.

As for total word count, I decided on aiming for 100,000 words, which is something like 250 – 300 paperback pages. According to this website, that’s the high end for literary fiction and young adult, but on the low end of genre fiction. Sweet. I am still discovering where this story will be shelved and marketed as I’m writing it. I try not to think too hard about the marketing side because that’s the cart before the horse but I do want to keep in mind the marketability of what I’m writing. What is the story about? How can I tell you what it’s about in less than three sentences? How would I pitch this to a literary agent/editor/reader? I’m not quite there yet, but it’s taking shape.

When I started this new gig on Sept. 1, my Ghost Story project was sitting at something like 9,100 words. It has now blossomed to 24,000+ words, making it close to a quarter of the way done. Scrivener calculates that, what with three writing days a week, I need to write at least 850 words per writing day to finish by the end of May. I have found that a very reasonable goal to hit, certainly on average (sometimes I double it, other days barely reach half). Heck, this blog post exceeds that word count. I’ve found it doable.

I want to slowly ramp that number up, if I can. This month, the month of November, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Traditionally writers of all stripes will use this month to bang out 50,000 words in 30 days to prove it can be done and allow themselves the freedom of “quantity over quality.” I’ve attempted NaNo in the past, though never completed it. I’m not sure it’s the right fit for me just yet. But I find it inspirational to try to set a high goal for the month. So I am going to try to roughly double my current word count. I want to try to hit 45,000 words by the end of November (bonus points if I hit 50!) This means doubling my daily word count. I think it will be a challenge, but a good one.

I didn’t think word counts would work for me, but it is a good motivator so far and a good benchmark. If I don’t hit my word count but still feel satisfied by the work, it generally doesn’t bother me.

I’ve been reading too, but I haven’t written a single review. I haven’t updated my Goodreads page or pursued any other writing projects/contests/submissions. I’m all in with this one project right now, which is a nice feeling. Now if only I could figure out a strategy to keep me away from the internet wormhole…

Anyone else out there tackling NaNoWriMo or setting yourself a creative challenge this fall? What keeps you motivated?

0