Day 294 – At least I’ll always have my imagination

Day two hundred ninety-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I waited all day. I waited over fourteen hours, actually. For over fourteen hours, off and on, I thought about writing. Distracted, busy, obligated to fulfill a long list of responsibilities, I had to wait. I was eager to sit down and write today, which is pretty much the norm for me. But it was another Monday I had to go to work when all I wanted to do was stay home and write.

Hour after hour, I couldn’t take my mind away. When I could – when I wasn’t absorbed in one of my legal matters or taking care of my kids or doing yard work with my husband – or maybe even when I was doing those things, I was thinking about writing. Earlier today I described it on Twitter like this:

If I can’t be writing, at least I can allow my mind to tumble freely through the halls of the story.
And that is what it feels like. It’s like my mind is tumbling around ideas, words, story line and characters, with no particular sense factored in. That’s my imagination, like a load of dirty laundry in a front-loading machine; it’s a busy mess in there. So, then what? What does one do with all of those active thoughts about a story? One writes.
I wrote down some of my tumbling thoughts tonight before they vanished. Now, they reside in my outline. Boom.

Day 290 – How do we know?

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

How do we know that we are doing something worthwhile and that it isn’t all for naught? How do we know that we are writing something that will interest others and will bring them enjoyment in life? How do we know that our time building a dream isn’t time wasted? Or even worse, are we just chasing that dream? How do we know? Well, here is a dingle berry of an answer: we don’t.

Doubt is as much our friend as it is our foe. Doubt can infest our minds to the point of paralysis of motivation. It can choke our creativity and stifle our drive to succeed. In my opinion, doubt is worse than fear, because fear is born out of doubt which is a fear of the unknown. It’s an ugly thing. But on the flip side, doubt helps us self-govern and self-regulate. It causes us to keep ourselves in check, to not let our egos take over. Doubt forces us to subscribe to an “all or nothing” philosophy. We either give our all to crush that doubt to rubble, or we get too scared to crush anything. Yes, we can fail and crash in a pile of flaming turd, but just think: we can soar and reach the stars.

As a writer, doubt be damned…I keep thinking about those stars.

Day 287 – With an outline comes ease and efficiency

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

I’m on the cusp of delving into the meat and potatoes of my new book. Writing it, that is. In light of this timing, I decided to outline the story from beginning to end so I can more readily proceed. When I wrote my last book (which is still in first draft form and hopefully will evolve more later), I prepared an outline very early on. It was a helpful tool throughout the writing process even though I deviated from it multiple times. It helped me stay on track and get my story down on paper. That’s half the battle, right?

Now I have about half of the outline finished, which means I have about half of the first draft done. Okay, not really. What I have is a lot of work ahead of me. With an outline prepared, the work will be easier and much more efficient. Ease and efficiency. I like the sound of that. A LOT.

Writers like to make writing sound easy. After doing a good deal of writing over the last 287 days, I know for certain that it isn’t. It’s hard. So here is a no-brainer for myself and any other writer out there looking to make their process better: Prepare an outline for your book. And eat chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Day 260 – Ah, writing

Day two hundred sixty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

A few days ago, I started writing a new book. For those of you jumping in now without knowing what I have been up to lately, let me bring you up to speed: I decided last week to set aside the first draft of my first book for a while. The revision stage wasn’t working well for me and finishing a second draft was becoming increasingly difficult. I think I’ll revisit the book some day, but I currently have no plans for it.

In the meantime, I am thrilled to be back to straight-shooting, unadulterated writing. I love the feel of extracting crazy and beautiful and awkward thoughts from my mind, one word at a time. Reality disappears except for the sensation of my fingers hitting the keys as the words flow out of me. I always feel that. The sound of each strike is comforting background noise. Tappity tap tap ta-tap. It speaks to remind me of why I am writing, sometimes with surprising enthusiasm. I always hear that. Creative process envelops me, like an old friend wondering where I have been but picking up where we left off. I always welcome that. Emotional upheaval ensues, commingling my hopes and fears between the storm and the calm, then sending them out into the Universe to be swept up by the wind and carried away. I always need that.

Ah, writing. It’s good to be back.

Day 255 – Decisions, decisions

Day two hundred fifty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Two decisions are better than one. I continue to struggle through the process of revising the first draft of my book. I just can’t seem to make solid progress, for whatever reason. So the malaise and general dissatisfaction with my writing continues. What once was, is no longer. The fulfillment isn’t there, the release of emotion isn’t there, and by all means the fun sure isn’t there. I was writing for myself, but that is not what I have been doing lately.

So, I decided to decide. Yes, that’s two decisions. Number one: If I want things to change, I must change them. I decided to make a change. Number two: I decided what that change must be, naturally.

It is this: Either I buck up and hammer through the first draft revision out of some self-imposed sense of obligation to finish what I started, or I put it aside indefinitely and write something else. I choose the latter. And I’m positively thrilled about it.

Stay tuned.

Day 246 – Out of sync, but not out of time

Day two hundred forty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Not too long ago I had a good thing going. I was writing every day and chronicling my experience of writing my first novel. I was on a roll at a comfortable pace and settled into a comfortable groove. After about six months, I completed the first draft. But ever since then, my “roll” has turned into more of an awkward tumble. Somehow, I lost my groove.

I’m working on getting it back but I’m still out of sync. I think it is just going to take some time, patience and continued determination to reach my goal. Hopefully soon, I’ll tumble my way back into my groove again.

Day 237 – Am I in revising hell?

Day two hundred thirty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Am I in revising hell? Some days it feels like I am because in all honesty, I’d rather be writing. Writing is an exercise that allows one to stretch her legs and push herself to her limits, pulse a-ticking and mind a-blaze. Revising is…well, to me revising feels like the equivalent of the timer watching the clock on the sidelines, starting and stopping play.

It’s no wonder, then, that I have not been inclined to blog as often while in this revision phase. Motivation has been waning and I have not been spending as much daily time on my book like I was when I was writing. Is there something I can do to make this revision phase better? Does anyone have tips on how to make it more enjoyable than it actually is?

Day 233 – Narrowing the revision lens

Day two hundred thirty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Revising and rewriting is much more difficult than I anticipated. I’m too often squabbling over minor things, reluctant to take out parts that probably should be removed, and unsure of ways to make a chapter better. It has been overwhelming, really, so I have been searching for ways to improve the process. Finally, I think I found a solution.

Instead of revising by chapter, I have narrowed my focus to revise by paragraph. I ask myself several questions with each paragraph, picking my way through in small bites. It is no longer overwhelming. Bringing my lens closer has also allowed me to not get bogged down in trying to create a perfect 2nd draft. I have to remind myself: Make a pass and remember that you will need to make more passes before it is done. Just make a pass, one paragraph at a time.

These are the questions I have come up with to work on each paragraph:

  1. Is the paragraph necessary to move the story forward? If it isn’t, get rid of it.
  2. Does the paragraph serve its purpose to convey information to the reader in a clear way? If it doesn’t, revise it.
  3. Is the information in the paragraph consistent with the plot? If it isn’t, get rid of it or rewrite it to fit the plot.
  4. Does the paragraph keep the readers attention? If not, rewrite it.
  5. Does the writing in the paragraph keep a smooth flow and rhythm, connecting well with the previous paragraph? If not, revise it.

Whether this method works for everyone is doubtful, but so far, it works for me. In fact, it may be just what I need to get to a finished manuscript.

Day 224 – It turns out, it’s boring

Day two hundred twenty-two of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Since I completed my first draft and have been in the rewriting/revising mode, I haven’t been posting here as much. Revising just isn’t interesting to blog about. When there were daily word counts to report and I was going through the process of writing my book chapter by chapter, I had more to discuss. The struggles, the excitement, the challenges I never even anticipated. It was more interesting, at least it was for me. But now, not so much. I’m merely tweaking and reworking what’s already done. It isn’t sexy, not that this blog ever was.

It turns out, revising is downright boring, really. So it’s only natural that I have been pulled away from the rewrite to write other things. Because I have been doing other writing, keeping steady progress of the rewrite has been difficult. Like I posted here last week, it’s okay to get sidetracked. Especially if there is enjoyment in writing to be had. And there is! The new piece I have started is totally different from the first. I’m writing it in the first person instead of the third, which I have always found to be a fun experience. Plus, this new piece is a much more raw and emotional story. Although I am still getting in some sporadic time on the first book, it feels much less fulfilling than writing the new piece. At the moment, anyway. So I’m just going to go with it for a while. I’m still writing, and still happy to be doing so.

Day 219 – It’s a love-hate relationship

Day two hundred nineteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

As I continue to rewrite and revise my first draft, I sometimes feel like I’m in some kind of bipolar existence. One moment I’m reading it thinking, “Who wrote this garbage?” and then another moment I’m caught up in the story and a single sentence leads me to breathe a deep sigh and forms a smile on my face. Can I really love and hate my own book at the same time?

Yes. I absolutely can, and here is why: because it’s the first draft. It is a simple fact of a first draft that there are at least as many lousy parts as those that are good. The point of rewriting second, third, fourth and tenth drafts is to eliminate the junk and turn the rest into something great. I have faith that at some point in the revision of multiple drafts, my love-hate relationship with my book will evolve into love-love.

“(W)riters are often the worst judges of what they have written.” –Stephen King, Just After Sunset