Day 33 – Writing on vacation

Day thirty-three of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: approximately 45 – 60 mins combined

Words: 1,050

We’re on a holiday weekend vacation so finding time to write presents a different set of challenges. Today wasn’t too bad because we were traveling by car and there was time to kill. While my husband drove and my kids were, well, being kids in the back seats, I managed to find enough time and gumption to write over 1,000 words. Was it uninterrupted, non-distracted writing time? Nope. Not even the slightest bit. But it was writing time, and I found myself getting lost as I was writing even if only for a few minutes at a time.

It’s not easy to “make it happen.” It does sometimes feel forced. In the future when I go back through all of this writing to edit and rework what I have created, I think I will find it to have been totally worth it to write every single day. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when my “regular” life was getting in the way. I know that I’m not always writing quality work, but I’d like to believe that some of it is pretty darn decent. Maybe even good. Honestly, my goal is not to produce a book that others will consider to be amazing. My goal is to live and enjoy the process of creating something from my own imagination, my own spirit, every day.

Day 32 – When you just aren’t into it

Day thirty-two of My 365 Day Writing Project

Time: 50 min.

Words: 850

I didn’t feel like writing at all today. In fact, I really wanted to blow it off and go to bed early. I didn’t. I made myself stay up late and I wrote. Discipline. Always reminding myself: No days off

Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about the story I am writing. No matter what I am doing – taking a shower, eating lunch, busy at work, in the car singing with my kids – I want to work on the story. I want to keep it developing on paper, not just in my mind. I want to write. I can’t wait for the opportunity to sit down, uninterrupted, to work on it. I look forward to banging out my thoughts through the tapping keys of my laptop. I want to write. I can feel it in my bones. My imagination is bulging like a balloon with too much air in it, about to POP. My psyche is crowded and loud and hyperactive like a subway station, thoughts and words and ideas blowing in and out of tunnels like the trains. I want to write.

Today was just not one of those times. But I wrote anyway.

 

Day 31 – When the plot changes

Day thirty-one of My 365 Day writing project.

Time: One hour

Words: 1,000

When I first started to formulate ideas for this piece of fiction I am working on, I outlined the characters and the plot to the story. I thought I was awesome, getting all of my thoughts and ideas organized. What I wasn’t prepared for was how the stories within the plot often change as I am writing. Even the characters change. I’m still in the early stages of this particular story and it has changed so many times, my outline is now a worthless piece of garbage. 

You may be asking: Why does she let this happen if she is the one doing the writing? Well, you have a point. Yes, I’m in the driver’s seat here. I’m the one doing the writing. But I believe that writing a story from your own imagination is an organic process. It just sort of…happens. Obviously, there is some control involved. I prefer not to get carried away in a misguided need to control and contort the story into something that may not feel right. If something else feels better in the moment, I try to just go with it.

Most of the time when this happens, I love how the story changes. Other times, it bothers me. Today was one of those bothersome times. I had an idea about where the story was going and then, boom, it went in a totally unanticipated direction. All this did for me today was give me the start-and-stops. The start-and-stops can happen when I start to write and get a little down on the paper, only to stop. Now what? Rinse and repeat. I did this over and over in the matter of an hour. That is when I know I need to call it. Time to break and pick it up again tomorrow. 

Day 30 – Writing versus research

Day thirty of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Words: 1,200

To update those who read Day 29’s post, I revisited the “piece within the piece.” I decided that the main character should just read the first few paragraphs of the article and then skip to the end of the article. This decision eliminates two things: 1) the need to write a full, realistic article in the voice of an experienced journalist; and 2) the risk of the reader getting too bored and disconnected from the main story line because of a long article.

This is why: My main character, Skylar, at this particular moment in the story is hiding in a utility closet in a Barnes and Noble. She is hiding because she is on the run from a creepy guy who has been following her for two days. A computer geek acquaintance from many years ago – Ben – sought her out to tell her she is in danger about the same time the creepy guy showed up, and, oh by the way, it’s his fault. Without getting into all of the background, Skylar is now sitting on a box in a closet until Ben can lose the creepy guy and can come back to get her. She fumbles through her purse in search of a snack (we all know how hiding out in a closet makes a person hungry) and starts organizing the contents of her purse (what else should she do, she’s in a closet). She pulls out a newspaper clipping that was given to her by a friend (who just so happens to be a wise old journalist with a penchant for conspiracy theories and who often cuts out newspaper clippings to give her). She reads the first few paragraphs of the article, which reports a news story eerily similar to what little she knows about the danger she is in, and in her nervous haste (from being, you know, chased into a Barnes and Noble by a creepy guy from whom she now hides) skips to the end of the article to read the last paragraph. She connects some imaginary dots and pieces together a theory about who may be after her and Ben and why. A figurative light bulb goes off (ding!) and she’s figured out something critical. Or at least she thinks she has…

Anyway, I think it works to handle the article inside the story line this way, but I will admit it isn’t solid yet. I have to do more research for the content of the article to really work in the story (that last paragraph of the article really needs to be a kicker), and I need to brush up on my AP writing style rules. I’ll have to keep working on this piece. In the meantime, I am wondering what is the best way to handle research when writing. I like doing research, but it takes time and I am not one to research everything in advance. I tend to do it as I go or save some of it for later if I don’t want to take time out from writing in the moment.

What do other writers do? Research everything before writing the story, research as-you-go, or leave parts unfinished to complete later after all of the research has been done? Hmmmm…food for thought for next time.

Day 29 – Monday Monday

Day twenty-nine of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Words: 1,050

Tomorrow is the first day of school for my kids. I’m not sure how this is going to affect my writing project, but I’m sure it will. For one thing, there will be no more sleeping past 7:00am. In fact, sleeping past 6:30am will be a luxury. I should hopefully be able to start writing earlier in the evening since the kids will be in bed early. This could be very nice, but we’ll see.

My writing tonight got interesting because I ended up writing a piece within the piece. I can’t think of another time when I had to do that. The main character in the story was reading a newspaper article. It felt odd to me to attempt to write the article as though she was reading it. This will be a piece that I will need to re-work a few times. To write a fabricated article as an experienced journalist for the New York Times is quite the…stretch. It needs work, and I will be sure to revisit it tomorrow. 

Day 28 – no challenge for the weekend

Day twenty-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 35 mins

Words: 400

Last weekend’s writing challenge proved to be a successful strategy for me. I wrote 5,600 words and felt great about it. This weekend, I chose to not impose a challenge. I didn’t want to because it was the last weekend of my kids’ summer vacation. It was busy and full.

It was the right decision because the weather all weekend was amazing and my family and I had a great time. The downside is that I did not find much time to write. Sometimes my weekends are as busy, if not busier, than my week days. That means less writing time. But it also means that I can try to make up for a slow writing weekend with a solid writing week. Here’s to Monday.

Day 26 – Maybe good writing, maybe not

Day twenty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 1.5 hours

Words: 1,000

I didn’t exactly light it up with my writing today, but I kept it steady. Sometimes while I am writing, the story seems to drag. What I can’t figure out is whether the content of the story itself drags or just my process of writing it does. That may sound a bit ridiculous, but maybe other writers can relate. It can be difficult for us to know whether what we are writing at the time is any good. Too often, we think it isn’t. Is that how artists of any kind think?

I like the story I am writing. I would like to believe this is all that matters. But it isn’t. How I write the story – how I tell it – is what matters. It isn’t the content. It’s the way in which it is communicated to the reader. So if the story drags, it can’t be the content of the story that is at fault. It is the writing. A paragraph about a single leaf on a tree limb can be utterly compelling if it is written well. Likewise, a paragraph about a philandering drug addict with stature, money, a beautiful family and a seat in Congress can be completely dull if written poorly. The difficulty writers can have in identifying the problem, however, is that reading the writing is entirely different from writing it.

Day 25 – Unstuck and on a roll

Day twenty-five of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 2.5 hours

Words: 2,300

After getting a bit stuck in the story yesterday, I picked up today where I left off with no problem. The story flowed naturally. Like a reader commented on Day 24, sometimes a break is the best thing. She is absolutely right. Yesterday, I was staggering and stumbling in the story when I decided to break for the night. It was the right choice. Today, I found my legs again and the story did too. One thing I know for certain: my creative process is most fruitful when it happens organically.

Here is a raw, unedited snippet I wrote today:

“Is everything all right, Ms. Battelle?” asked Lisa, looking concerned.

“I think so. I hope so,” replied Skylar, trying to appear calm. She put on her coat and grabbed her things. She was about to step out into the hallway when she saw Marisa standing by the reception desk. Skylar stopped in her tracks, waiting for an opportunity to slip out unnoticed. She could feel Lisa watching her, but she had no time to worry about appearances now. Finally, Marisa walked away and went into her office. Skylar said goodbye to Lisa one last time and scooted out to the elevator. The doors opened immediately and she got in, pressing the button several times to close the doors. C’mon, c’monnnn. The doors seemed to take forever to shut but as soon as they were closed tight, Skylar exhaled, trying to think of where to go. “Get lost somewhere. Somewhere no one would think to look for you.”

She quickly thought of something and hit the button for a few floors down. The elevator pinged and the doors opened, just in time for Skylar to see Mike Shanahan standing by a co-worker’s desk in the middle of a political rant. As soon as he saw her, he lit up and was about to greet her with a big welcome when he noted the expression on her face. Instead, he politely said to his co-worker, “Excuse me,” and walked straight toward her.

“Skylar. What is it?” he quietly asked, taking her by the elbow and ushering her to his desk.

“Mike, I think I’m in trouble,” she said in a scared whisper.

Day 24 – When the story gets stuck

Day twenty-four of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 50 minutes

Words: 1,0000

I had meant to write a lot more than 1,000 words today. I zipped through the first 30 minutes but then hit a point in my story when things came to a halt. It was unexpected. It was a lot of start-stop, start-stopping. I just couldn’t get there. My story has been taking some wild turns and I have been riding along with them without hesitation.

For some reason tonight, I stalled and was not sure where to go with things. I felt like I had the flow going just fine, but I was really lacking in my imagination and telling of the story. After about fifteen minutes of “where to go,” “what to do?,” I decided it was best to start fresh tomorrow with new perspective and hopefully, new energy in storytelling.

 

 

Day 23 – Efficiency is improving

Day twenty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: just over 1 hour

Words: 1,300

After more than three weeks of daily writing, I have noticed improvement in my efficiency. This is partly due to my continuing effort to refrain from editing while writing. I often have to remind myself that I can always edit later because over-editing is a downfall of mine. I get obsessive-compulsive about it, which is why this project is so good for me. It forces me to write, really write, even when I don’t have much time. That means I can’t waste time on editing. Just get the raw content down now, edit later.

It seems to be working. Not only am I getting more words down in less time, but the substance and quality of my writing in the raw is also improving. What does that mean? Well, I think it means that editing too much can take away from the writing. Not only because the writing can get watered down or even disconnected, but also because trying to write and edit and re-write and edit mid-stream is counter-productive. It obstructs the flow. Focusing on one task at a time in the creative process produces a purer result.