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 210 – Progress is slow and ugly

Day two hundred ten of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m working on the first draft rewrite but I’m finding progress to be slow. I don’t suppose I should expect anything more than that. It’s a work in progress. And typically, I’m not able to work on it during the day. My writing time is at night, usually after the kids are in bed. Which happens to be when I am most tired. It isn’t easy, but little by little I’ll get there. I know I will.

But for now, it’s ugly. Slow and ugly. They say the first draft is always total crap. Now that I’m nitpicking through it, I see that I am no exception to the rule. I just hope my writing – and my book – evolve into something much better than they are at the moment.

“Writing is like sausage making in my view; you’ll all be happier in the end if you just eat the final product without knowing what’s gone into it.” – George R.R. Martin

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 193 – First draft errors and regrets

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

Reading through a first draft is eye-opening. This is my first time doing so at this level and I must say, it isn’t for the weak. Or at least, it isn’t easy for the obsessive revisers/editors like me.

I stopped in the middle of Chapter 6 tonight. I stopped mid-chapter partly because I am tired and it’s late, but also because I needed a break from reading – and then having to leave untouched – an endless slew of factual errors, plot disconnects, grammar faux pas and non-descriptive, sub-par writing. I made notes about many of these issues as I went along so I can come back to them later, but that sure as hell didn’t make me feel better about them.

What does make me feel better is the promise of revising and rewriting. And, quotes like these which I am including here to return to again (and again) when the frustration returns:

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” – Justice Brandeis

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.” – C. J. Cherryh

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it…” – Michael Crichton

“I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.” – James A. Michener

Day 175 – When memory doesn’t serve your writing

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

Words for Days 173, 174 and 175: 1,800

I started the book I am writing over six months ago. Now that I am approaching the end of my first draft, I am having some difficulty circling back to previous moments in the story. I can remember generally what happened, but I have forgotten many details.

My most recent chapter has a lot of blanks and notations to consider when I’m in the revising/re-writing mode. Until then, I am following my strict policy to not go back and read previous chapters. As you may know from earlier posts on the subject, I’m an obsessive reviser. I can spend ridiculous amounts of time re-working one sentence or one paragraph, let alone a whole chapter. I used to go back to read and re-write before moving on to the next chapter. That was crippling. When I started this Project, I finally figured out that I can’t let myself do that or I’ll never finish a draft.

For now, when my memory doesn’t serve I will leave blanks in the text and notations to come back to when the time is right.

Day 155 – The closure that comes with ending a chapter

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

Words: 900

I had planned to write at least 1,000 words tonight, but I reached the end of Chapter 17 at just over 900. There’s no better place to end a writing session than at the end of a chapter. I love those last moments of reflection about the state of a character or characters, foreshadowing of what is to come, and closure of what led up to that point. I finish a chapter feeling satisfied and eager to start the next one. And that is exactly how I hope the reader will feel in that same moment before turning the page.

What the reader won’t experience is the closure from finishing a part of the book that allows the writer to put it behind her for a period of time. I enjoy thinking about the story as I write it, but I also enjoy letting go of each scene, each chapter after it’s done. I have more writing to do, so to be able to set past chapters aside – to shelve them for a while to let them steep before I get into the reading, re-writing and editing process – is in many ways a relief. I have written seventeen chapters totaling 139,182 words. I still have more to go, but right about now this kind of closure feels pretty damn good.

Day 148 – Unexpected interludes keep the story interesting

Day one hundred forty-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,100

When writing fiction, it’s easy to veer off from the planned story line. This can be good or bad. I’m never sure about it while I’m writing it. I suppose whether it works or not will be clear to me when I hit the editing and re-writing stage. But what is clear to me now is that sometimes an unexpected interlude – unplanned even by the writer – is just what is needed to keep the story interesting.

As a new writer – someone who is having her first experience writing a novel from start to finish – I’m always pleasantly surprised at how fulfilling the creative process can be. A meaningful writing session never fails to leave me with a light heart and mind. Going to bed in that state is invaluable. I rest easy after I write. I wake up refreshed and full of new ideas. And it is no surprise after that kind of experience that I look forward to sitting down to write again each day.

Day 130 – Robotic skeletons in the closet

Day one hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 600

Does it ever feel like you’re writing the skeleton of a scene? You know – all frame and no substance?

I’m writing a scene that has turned into dry dialogue and stiff action. I keep stopping while writing to try to write the next sentence better. To give it more substance. But it isn’t working. The scene is nothing more than a robotic skeleton, rigid and awkward.

I won’t let myself go back and read it because I don’t want to get bogged down with trying to re-write the scene now. Early on in this project I made a pledge to save all editing for when the entire first draft of my manuscript is done. But I can tell you without a doubt that this particular scene is not good and needs major work. Later. Remember the mantra: Write now, edit later. For now, there’s a robotic skeleton in my closet.

Day 119 – Keep shoveling and hope for the best

Day one hundred nineteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words for Days 117, 118 and 119:  2,300

Writing is easy. Writing something you hope people will truly love is damn difficult. I’m having one of those moments when I’m unsure about my writing. I blame these moments on my over-thinking, critical mind. It never lets me go too long without letting some doubt creep in. Fortunately, I don’t doubt what I’m doing. I just doubt the quality of it.

In so many ways, writing a first draft is freeing. The writer can throw it all against the wall and not have to worry about what sticks and what doesn’t. That part comes later. But sometimes the ability to write with reckless abandon and zero refinement can leave the writer wondering what the hell she wrote.

Sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

-Stephen King

Usually, the fundamentals are there: spelling, grammar, a logical story line, etc. But the writer knows that something about a certain chapter is missing. That’s where I was today. In that moment I tried to tell myself that I will be able to fix it later; during the editing and re-writing phase, I will know what to do to make it great. Enter doubt. What if I won’t know how to make it great? And worse yet, what if no matter how hard I try, I can’t?

Hopefully, Mr. King is right. Hopefully, even though it sometimes feels like I’m shoveling shit, it’s still good.

Day 83 – Writing longhand is quite a different experience

Day eighty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,250

What I wrote today turned out to be a combination of pages I wrote longhand last night and what I added as I transcribed today. I didn’t have my laptop last night so I went the old school route and pulled out a notepad. I sharpened a nice No. 2 soft lead pencil and sat down to write like I used to do long ago. It was wild.

Until last night, every page of the book I am writing has originated by me typing into a Word document. To experience writing longhand again was eye-opening in many ways. First, it was tiring. My hand literally got tired and cramped. I had to shake it out and stretch it several times. Second, it was slow. I couldn’t get the words down as fast as I am used to when I type. My thoughts were outrunning my hand’s ability to scribe by a mile. Third, it was more connective. Something about the smooth motions, curling the letters and designing the words on the page gave me a deeper connection to them. It was like I was creating the words at the same time I created the story.

It was a cool experience. But to be honest, it isn’t one I will likely repeat too often. Having to transcribe today what I had written the day before put me in the position of editing while I wrote. If you have been following my blog you know this is something I have been working hard to avoid. I simply couldn’t avoid it today when I was typing the words from yesterday because I had a day of perspective to see weaknesses in the writing. I couldn’t type those parts as they were. I had to change them. So I edited and tweaked and typed. Everything turned out well, but it definitely took away from my free-flowing writing time.

As always, its validity rules the day: Write now, edit later.