Day 281 – Build momentum first, then ride the wave

Day two hundred eighty-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I made time to write again today. I’m so glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Only two days in a row after some weeks of intermittent writing and I’m already succumbing to obsessive-compulsive writer moments. For instance, I was in the shower this morning thinking about a long dialogue between two of the characters of my new book. I was so immersed in my own imagination, I forgot to hurry in the shower to get ready for work. Before I knew it, my slow-poke son was standing outside the bathroom telling ME to get a move on. But I couldn’t leave the story be. In fact, I continued to think about it the rest of the day until I could write about it.

Truthfully, I’m still thinking about it. This is the kind of motivation I need. It might be obsessive or even a little crazy, but if it builds the momentum I so desperately need to get back on track to write every day, I’m all for it.

Day 230 – Back into the rewrite

Day two hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m back. Back into the rewrite. I did some other writing for a bit, but began to again feel that niggling urge to get up to my elbows in revising my first draft. And I must say, it feels good to get back at it.

I’m revisiting the second half of Chapter 3 with purpose in mind to make changes to the plot. So far, so good. It’s even a little exciting. I have discovered that plot changes have that effect on me. With renewed creative energy, I look forward to working on it some more tomorrow.

Day 206 – First draft, first chapter rewrite

Day two hundred six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m in Chapter One of my first draft, revising and rewriting. And it’s going slow. I wrote an entirely new first paragraph – the opening paragraph of the book – which was a bold change. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it works. I read it over and over, tweaking it here and there, trying to decide. The best I could do was to just leave it alone. I could pass hours on that one paragraph which would be a monumental waste of time. I know I’ll probably end up changing it again later.

I can see how revising and rewriting is going to be a tough process for me. Although I love to do it, I tend to get obsessive about getting things just right. But I can’t let myself do this. I have to keep moving forward and working in stages so I don’t get stuck. The way to do that, I think, is to continue to remind myself that the second draft won’t be the last. There will be more time to get it right. For now, the goal is to simply make it better.

Day 205 – What I learned from my last chapter

Day two hundred five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

As I read the first draft of my book, I took notes on plot inconsistencies, story lines that need more development and character issues. I found myself doubting parts of the story and even the whole book as being too cliche, too bland, too unrelatable. I started to panic that maybe I couldn’t fix it. Maybe all the rewriting and revising in the world wouldn’t be able to turn this book into what I have been envisioning for so long.

Then I got to the last chapter, and everything came together. All I need to know to rewrite this book into something great, I learned in the last chapter. First, my writing in the last chapter is far superior in quality to anything I had written in the twenty chapters before it. That is promising. Secondly, I effectively closed the loop on the conflicts and dilemmas of the protagonist, evolving her into the person the reader wants her to be. That I managed to pull that off is also promising. Most importantly, what I – as the reader – wanted to experience in the last chapter told me what I – as the writer – need to develop and focus on in the earlier chapters.

I feverishly took notes on these realizations and have begun the rewrite. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I know where I’m headed. The last chapter is my beacon in the fog.

Day 200 – The two hundreds

Day two hundred of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I can hardly believe that I’ve made it to the two hundreds. Another milestone, another day working on my book. I’m on Chapter Seventeen now, continuing my read-through of the first draft. I don’t have much to report other than what I already have.

It is still an eye-opening experience: reading my writing as the reader not the writer, noting problems and errors in the plot, tripping on poor wording and dialogue, and appreciating some very good parts where I seemed to get it all right. It has been a ride, but I’m looking forward to finishing the read-through so I can get started on the next stage. It will be fun to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Just a few more chapters to go. I’m ready.

Day 191 – Enjoying the read

Day one hundred ninety-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Well, that was fun. I read the rest of Chapter 1 and all of Chapter 2 tonight, and I really enjoyed the read. I wanted to get into Chapter 3 too, but decided to save it for tomorrow since it is so late.

I have to remind myself that the purpose of the first read-through is nothing more than that: a read-through. No revising. No re-writing. Just reading. I’m not going to lie. It isn’t easy. But it is necessary and should be worthwhile for when I get into it a second time.

As I was reading, there were plenty of moments when I wanted to make revisions. Even cringe-worthy ones when I couldn’t believe I used an adverb here, or used redundant language there. I had to work hard to scrape up some restraint during those moments. But after a while I got lost in the story and just read.

That’s a good sign.

Day 190 – First-read of the manuscript

Day one hundred ninety of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I began moving forward into new territory tonight: the first read-through. I finished the first draft of my manuscript last night and wasted no time to continue working on it. While it may be crazy to jump right into reading the draft the next day, I decided it was the right way to go for me. After all, I’m not going to read it in one sitting.

The general tip out there is that it is a good idea to let some time pass between finishing the first draft and reading it. Nat Russo gives great advice about the subject in his article Revising Your First Draft: The First Read-Through. He suggests putting your first draft on a shelf for at least a few weeks. Despite his solid recommendation, I decided to get right into it. I made that decision because I wrote the first chapter over six months ago and now I barely remember it. Which is just how it should be.

When you pick it up again, you need to feel as if the words are somewhat strange and alien…like you’re rediscovering something you had almost forgotten. You’ll recognize the work, vaguely, as something you wrote. But you will have achieved some degree of objectivity and distance. You’re in “the zone” now. – Nat Russo, Revising Your First Draft: The First Read-Through

I’m in the zone now. My first impression after reading a portion tonight is that I have a long, long way to go before anybody else is going to read it. Boy, it needs work! But it was good for me to see how much my writing has changed between then and now. Marked improvement. So while there will be a lot of revising and re-writing ahead of me, already seeing improvement from where I started gives me hope.

Day 189 – 1st draft complete!

Day one hundred eighty-nine of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words for Days 188 and 189: 1,700

I did it! I finished the first draft. Twenty-one chapters over a little more than six months, and it’s done. Things got a bit wobbly the last couple of days as I tried to finish it. It was more difficult to bring the story to an end than I had anticipated. Fortunately, I think it turned out well.

Now that the first draft is done, I’m excited to start reading, revising and re-writing. I do not have a solid sense of the best way to proceed with this stage, so I plan to do a lot of reading up on the subject over the next couple of weeks. And while I have been keeping track of my word count and general progress over the last six months of this Project, now I am faced with no way to quantify my ongoing work. But I don’t think that matters anymore. It’s all part of the process of writing. I will continue to blog about my daily work on writing my first novel, whether I’m reading, writing or revising it.

Day 187 – Getting the groove back

Day one hundred-eighty seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words for Days 186 and 187: 500

It has been tough to get into a groove writing the last chapter of my book. The fast-paced adventure is over. The characters are returning to where they came from. The story is…well, it’s still going, but it is definitely making me re-think my plans for the ending.

The good news is, I can sleep on it. And that is exactly what I plan to do. If I have learned anything about writing fiction, it’s that the story can change very quickly no matter what plans the writer may have. So I’ll leave it where it is tonight and come back to it tomorrow. Chances are, the groove will come back too.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

Day 185 – The end is near

Day one hundred eighty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 950

I’m writing the ending of my book. It’s the final chapter and although I am not completely sure how I will end it, I’m close. I should be done in the next few days and because of this, I’m experiencing a broad range of emotions. Mostly, it feels amazing to be this close to the end. But I also feel a little sad that the story – my story that I have been weaving for many months – is coming to an end.

I know it isn’t really ending, since I have a long road of revising and re-writing ahead of me. The story will even change and morph into something different than it is now. So of course, it isn’t over. There may even be a continuation in a series for me to write.

But I still feel a sort of loss I don’t quite understand right now. And that’s okay. I suppose I will understand it more when I’m truly finished with the book. Because then, I will have told the story. It will will be memorialized in print for me and hopefully others to read and enjoy anytime they want. That is, after all, the point in writing it.