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 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 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 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 183 – Gratification oozes in anticipation of the book’s ending

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

Words: 2,000

I wrote an almost even 2,000 words tonight as I closed the loop on the story. The thrilling adventure through which my protagonist has been hurtling officially came to an end. So did Chapter Twenty. And now, I should only have one more chapter to write. That’s it. After that, my first draft will be done.

A sense of pure gratification is oozing from my core. I can’t believe I’m almost done.

Until I start re-writing and revising, of course.

Day 166 – Looking forward to a first read

Day one hundred sixty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

Without saying what it was, I can report that I made a decision about my plot dilemma from yesterday. It wasn’t an easy one, and I’m not even sure I made the right decision. I *think* I did, but I won’t be sure until I reach the ending. So, we’ll see.

I am most pleased by the fact that there is still progress. Tonight I ended Chapter Eighteen and started Chapter Nineteen. That’s my favorite kind of progress; dynamic and exciting. I will go into the weekend with a new chapter started, and hopefully some extra time to work on it. It would be great to reach the ending of this draft (maybe another couple of chapters to go) because I am thick with anticipation of doing a first read of my manuscript. Now that I think about it, I suppose I am in a good place right now. There is a lot to look forward to.

Day 152 – Slowing down to make room for writing

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

Words for Days 149, 150, 151 and 152: 2,200

It was a nice break from reality the past few days. Not having to get up and get kids off to school and daycare, go to work, and meet all of the usual daily obligations has been a much-needed respite. It has been busy in other ways, but much less intense. It is nice to be able to say that about the holidays. I know for some it can be even more intense than ‘normal.’

I’m happy with the amount of writing I did over the past few days of holiday celebration. Sure, it isn’t really all that much, but I had planned on much less. It was nice to surpass my own expectations. Slowing things down made all the difference. I wasn’t on my normal schedule. I wasn’t stressed about the next day. I just was. This removed the sense of urgency and “I have to get this done” that is usually hanging over my head when I sit down to write. I had more room, so-to-speak, to be a writer. The result was a feeling of pleasant contentment for me, and more colorful writing for my manuscript. I have more days off next week so I hope to maintain this slower pace. What is better for me is better for my writing.

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.