After a bit of a downer post on Monday, I first want to say that I’m feeling a lot better. I have actually gotten some writing done over the last few days, and even though it’s not exactly a thousand words a day it feels good. Real good.
I had two realizations this week that I think helped. The first one seems really obvious, but it’s surprising how easy it is for the newer writer to forget: write stuff you like to read. They say that you should write what you want to write, rather than writing for a market, which is obvious. “Ha!” I’d say. “Only losers try to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight.” And then… I go out and try to write something that I think could get published in Analog. I mean, I love Analog, but that’s still putting the cart before horse. Or in my case, leaving the horse out entirely, because I psych myself out of actually writing.
Realization two also sounds obvious, but I think it’s something I need to write down and staple to my forehead: just because writing isn’t my most favoritist thing to do evar, just because I like to do other things as well, doesn’t mean I can’t still be professional about my writing. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but that’s the mindset I was in, and it was seriously putting me in this spiral of despair. I’ll feel bad about not writing ten hours a day when (if) I’m writing full-time. For now, I have other things on my plate, and they need to be there.
Don’t worry, this is going to be the last post on this subject for a while; I don’t want to exhaust all of your goodwill.
I’ve made a few site changes, particularly in the sidebar area. As you can see, I now have a blogroll, and it’s looking a little meager right now. If you want your blog or website on it, go ahead and let me know. You can also subscribe to have new posts sent directly to your mailbox, and really, can you bear the thought of missing one of my posts for even a few minutes? Go ahead and admit it to yourself.
I didn’t get much writing done at all this weekend; I spent Saturday and Sunday hiking in the beautiful Tillamook State Forest. It was a nice chance of scenery, and provided a bit of inspiration for my next novel.
I don’t have a lot to say today, so I’ll just give you all a short update on where we stand with Fugitives from Earth. As I mentioned, I pretty much need to rewrite the last half of the novel to give it a solid ending, and according to the modified beat sheet, that comes to about 37 scenes and probably 40,000 words or so. In theory I should be able to get that knocked out in about three weeks, but it’s going to be slower and more careful going that during NaNoWriMo.
In a sense, it will be an interesting experience for me. I’ve mentioned before that I think the “full steam ahead” NaNoWriMo method is more suitable for less experienced authors, but this will really be my first opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. Rather than scrambling to put words on the page, drops of sweat beading on my forehand, my knuckles getting sore as they hammer the keys, I’m going to take it down a notch.
I can’t just “fix it in the rewrite” because this is the rewrite. So anything that I put on the page has a certain air of permanence about it, like I’m writing in clay instead of wax. Obviously it can still be changed, but the idea is that I don’t want to have to change it. It’s a new experience for me, and doubtless in a few weeks I’ll be writing, “Dear blog readers, turns out…”
So, you have that to look forward to.
Today, I finished the first draft of my untitled uplift story. It’s not that remarkable of a story, really. I didn’t pursue any grand ideas and it doesn’t (yet) have any real moments of genius. But, it’s the first story where I’ve finished the rough draft, sat back, and thought, “Yeah, there’s some good stuff here.”
Before I started on Fugitives from Earth, I had spent much of my writing time in the previous months on short stories. Every time, same deal: I’d get really excited, get about three thousand words in, and then the going would get really, really tough. I’d have to remind myself that I didn’t have to write perfectly on the first draft, fix it in the rewrite, blah blah blah.
Not so this time. It’s not outstanding or anything, but this is the first first draft I’ve ever finished, of anything, where I didn’t feel like the story needed major work. It still needs better foreshadowing, better motivations for the characters, and a lot of tuning, but the basics are all firmly in place. And that’s a damned good feeling, especially considering how down I tend to get on myself.
So why is this time different? I can think of a couple of reasons.
- I outlined. Before FfE, I never would’ve considered writing an outline for more than the first couple of scenes at once. I was a discovery writer, so damn the endings, full speed ahead! Turns out, that’s not the best way to write. Knowing what the ending was makes the beginning much smoother, especially for a short story. And having all of the scenes down already meant that I could skip around if I was having trouble. I did that a lot.
- I’m more familiar with what I like to write. I specifically aimed for a low-concept story this time. Nothing ostentatious or groundbreaking, but fun to write and (hopefully) fun to read. May or may not be publishable, but at this point that’s secondary at best.
- I’m much, much more familiar with what makes good conflict. This time, I was conscious from the very beginning that I needed to create characters that clashed. There’s no antagonist in the story (a theme of my works, I’m noticing) but the two main characters spend most of the story in opposition to each other. That’s good times.
So I am learning. They say that you need to write a million unpublishable words before you write your first publishable one. I don’t know if that’s true, but this experience makes me think that I’m at least 10% of the way there. And, frankly, I’m going to enjoy this feeling of self-satisfaction while it lasts.
Actually, getting up early in the morning to write has been a godsend for me. I think that, despite many years vociferous denial, I may have to admit that I am against all odds a morning person. Even in non-writing contexts, if I can motivate myself to get out of bed at all I get way more done between 6:00 AM and noon than between noon and 6:00 PM. That’s why I always try to eat lunch as late as possible at work; I seem to work less after lunch and the day drags on.
As we head into the third week and the second half of NaNoWriMo, I’m going pretty strong. In fact, I’m doing better right now than I have at any of the previous years at this point. Usually I’m floating a day or two at most over part (25,005 words today), but now I’m almost a week ahead (I’m at 36,002 right now). And this is with two zero-word days last week, and one with less than a thousand words. I’m willing to call this a triumph. Continue reading
NaNoWriMo 2010 is officially underway. In the last 30 minutes, I’ve written about 1,110 words, almost 1% of my novel’s total estimated length. I just have to do that 100 more times over the next month, plus a little extra on the weekends, and I’ll be sitting pretty darned pretty.
Oh, and all of my planning didn’t cause me to immediately choke. I had this fear all day that I would sit down at my keyboard, write a few paragraphs, and then suddenly think, “Oh crap. I don’t want to write this story!” Then I’d have to start all over with the plot and characters and so forth. But it didn’t, and now I can go to bed happy.
I don’t know if any of the Portland Wrimos are reading this, but since the downtown Portland write-in takes place on a Thursday, I’m not going to be able to attend, which sucks because the downtown people were pretty awesome at the kickoff party. Instead, I’m tentatively going to be hitting the SE write-in on Tuesday in Woodstock. Details are in the forums, as always.
So I’m shifting into high gear. From today, we have only 121.5 hours until NaNoWriMo 2010 begins. After my nice, restful vacation, I’m reading to bust out a novel!
I didn’t get much done on vacation, which makes sense – it was a vacation. I definitely feel like it recharged my batteries, and I did manage to work past a particularly thorny plot problem, so I’m feeling pretty good about the next week. Much remains to be done, though, so let’s quickly run through it, shall we?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I only have a few readers, but I’m honestly curious what they think about this question: how do you keep working, keep writing, keep not surfing the internet, when the tough times come? If I have a great deadline in NaNoWriMo, then that usually does the trick for me, but usually that’s not the case and it’s up to me to keep me interested.
I’m not having any huge difficulties right now, although I feel like I might be on the borderline. I’m doing my story outlining, as I mentioned previously, and it’s pretty much as boring as I expected. I keep running into the problem of balancing story elements, and I’m starting to get a bit concerned that I don’t have enough subplots (of all things). Sometimes this entire project just seems incredibly difficult.
Of course, it is incredibly difficult. Most people would never finish it. For that matter, I may never finish it (although I plan to!). So here’s how I’m coping: I admit to myself that what I’m doing is difficult and a little boring. But I make myself sit in front of this laptop for at least two 30-minute intervals, not browsing the internet, not playing Minesweeper, just staring at my Word documents. Eventually, doing nothing becomes more boring than writing, and I’ll start typing again.
I also turn the internet off.
Anyway, short post today. I’m honestly curious about what you think, so please sound off in the comments! This will be the last post until next Monday; I’ll be out of town and away from internet until then. Bon voyage!
I hit a big planning milestone today: I started work on a detailed outline. I have never done this before writing a story of any length, and I have to say that doing it before writing a novel is a little intimidating. For one thing, it was hard getting started, and for another, I’m really worried that it’s setting me up for failure.
Let me explain a little bit. Just like everyone who writes without outlining first, I always start stories off really strong, then get somewhere between a few thousand and a few tens of thousands of words into them before suddenly realizing that I’m out of inspiration. Up until this point, I’ve kept kind of a mental outline of what I wanted to have happen in the back of my mind, but suddenly, that’s run out like a bad date, leaving me along to pay up the balance of my story.
I have a huge pile of books on writing. Some of them cover writing in general, others on writing science fiction, and others on very specific aspects of writing: character, scene design, etc. I used to tremendously enjoy reading these books, and they used to tremendously inspire me; I would read a few chapters and then go and write like crazy. To say the least, this has changed.
It might just be a lack of self-confidence on my part, but now I find that reading all this advice just puts a burden of perfection on me. “Show, don’t tell.” “Use round characters.” “Always escalate the conflict.” Yeah, yeah, I’m trying! My inner editor is loud enough without famous authors cheering him on. I’m just trying to write, not to be perfect.