Work-in-Progress Wednesday

WIP

I took a week off from writing. Eight days to be exact. This wasn’t something that I planned on doing. One day off just happened to snowball into an unexpected vacation from writing. Needless to say I’m behind on my manuscript.

This first draft is slowly moving along. Yesterday, I finally opened up the file again and started writing. I’ve been trying to get through the first Act. It feels like it’s taking forever. The scenes I’ve written so far are a jumbled mess that are full of holes. The writing is atrocious, the characters are flat, and the dialogue has no sparkle. Throughout the process, I keep asking myself the same question — Why? As in, why the hell are you putting yourself through this torture? There is, of course, only one answer to that question:

Because I don’t have a choice.

Without a first draft, I won’t know what the story is or how to fix it, or even see if it’s worth a rewrite. I’ve never written a novel before. I imagine the process will be the same every time I write a book — the torture part, that is. I just want to get the damn thing out of my system. Get it written already. That’s what keeps me chugging forward. I’ve gotten this far, I might as well keep on going. It’s the only way I’ll find out what happens next.

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Work-in-Progress Wednesday

Copy of WIPWednesday

It’s been about a week since I started my fast draft challenge and I’ve come to one conclusion: I’m not cut out to write twenty pages a day. If you are one of those folks that can knock out twenty pages in two hours, more power to you. That’s an impressive achievement.

Me, I’m a slow writer and I’m okay with that. It’s part of my girlish charm.

Over the past week, I’ve been chuggin’ along with my first draft. I’ve managed to get in about 5700 words or so. Following my romance beats outline has been a big help. It’s given me some direction so I haven’t been flailing about writing aimless gibberish. I also went back over some of the scenes I’d written in April during Camp NaNoWriMo and found that quite a few of those fit in with this draft, so that added to the overall word count. Check out the tally over in the sidebar.

I am officially throwing in the towel with the fast draft challenge and aiming for about 7000 words over the next week. If I can keep up that pace, it should take me about another eight weeks to finish the first draft. The key is to just keep going.

Writing Dreams vs Writing Goals

The Best Way to Make Your

Writing dreams. Those of us who write or aspire to write all have them. Here’s a list of my Writing Dreams:

  • Landing a book deal for my current WIP by the end of this year
  • Being offered a huge advance and multi-book contract, enough so that I can quit my job and write full-time
  • That each time I sit down to write, the words will just flow out my brain and onto the page
  • That I can make my own schedule and write whenever the muse strikes
  • My books will sell themselves
  • My first book becomes a runaway bestseller, Hollywood comes knocking and turns it into a blockbuster smash hit staring Emma Stone and Chris Pine

Here’s the Reality to the above list of dreams:

  • My first book, quite possibly, will never see the light of day
  • Unless my name is Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, a huge advance, one that would allow me to quit my job, is just not going to happen.
  • Writing is hard. There will be days where the words just flow out of my head and onto the page, but only on rare occasions
  • If I only wrote when the muse made an appearance, I’d never write anything. Writing professionally means meeting deadlines — and that means writing when you don’t feel like it
  • I’m not that great a writer and nobody knows who the hell I am, so I’m pretty sure my books won’t sell themselves. I’ll have to put in some effort to find readers and sell my work.
  • That last one is borderline delusional but a fun daydream nonetheless

Dreams are fun to think about, especially when you’re having an especially crappy day. They give you something to look forward to, even if they are just daydreams. If you want to earn a living as a writer, you have to learn early on to not get caught up in romanticizing the “writer life.”

Writing is a profession just like any other. In order to succeed, you need to focus more on your writing goals rather than those crazy dreams you might have.

Here is a list of my current Writing Goals:

  • Write every day. Set and meet weekly word count goals. (minimum goal of 7000 words a week)
  • Finish my first draft, rewrite it, polish it, hope that it’s good enough to submit to either agents or directly to a traditional publisher and send it out into the world
  • Write a second novel and go through the whole process again (hopefully will have found agent at this point)
  • Post to my blog and social media (Twitter for now) on a regular basis and build a “writer platform”
  • Write at least one short story a month for the rest of the year and submit them for publishing

The one difference between goals and dreams is Control. We control the outcome of our goals. Whether we achieve them or not is entirely up to us. Dreams are out of our control. I dream that the Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol will knock on my door some day, but I can’t make that happen. Goals are the hard work that we put in while trying to turn those dreams into reality.

Daydreaming is fun once in a while, but I think I’ll stick with reality for now and focus more on reaching my goals.

 

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

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{image by Livia Cristina}

If you read my last post then you may know that I’m going to challenge myself to do a fast first draft in two weeks. This is based on Candace Haven’s Fast Draft workshop. She’s not offering the class right now, so I’m going to wing it. The idea is to do a fast first draft to the tune of twenty pages a day for fourteen days in just a couple hours a day.

Today was day one for me.

I didn’t do so well.

In two hours I managed about six and a half pages. Perhaps first day jitters? Or maybe twenty pages a day is an unrealistic goal for me. Whatever the case is, I think a little over six pages in two hours is a pretty good start.

Up For The Challenge

I recently took a workshop taught by Gwen Hayes called Writing to the Beat based on her book Romancing the Beat. She teaches you how to use a beat sheet to figure out the romance arc of your novel. I bought her book a few months back and when I saw that she was teaching a class based on her beat sheet system, I immediately enrolled. It really helped me map out the course of my current WIP — the one I started during April’s Camp NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know if Gwen is going to teach this class again, but if she does, and if you’re a romance writer, I highly recommend the class and her book — and no, I’m not getting paid to say this.

Usually when I take online workshops, I’m more of a lurker than a participant. The introvert in me likes to prevent me from putting myself out there. This time I did myself a favor and participated. I received much-needed feedback on my WIP and met a great group of writers in the process. Since the workshop ended, we’ve kept in touch through Facebook.

The other day, one of those writers mentioned she’d taken a Fast Draft workshop taught by Candace Havens. I’ve looked into taking this in the past but never took the plunge. During the Fast Draft workshop, you write the first draft of your book in fourteen days. Twenty pages a day to be precise…in just a few hours a day. A monumental task when you, like everyone on the planet, have a busy life. It just seems so impossible. But I want to try it myself and see if I can do it.

Unfortunately, Candace Havens isn’t offering that workshop right now, so I think I’m going to wing it and try writing a first draft in fourteen days on my own. Twenty pages a day is a lot to accomplish in two or three hours a day. I have an outline and now have my romance beats all worked out. For the next few days (maybe the rest of the week) I’m going to create a semi-detailed scene list for my WIP and then write my ass off for two weeks and see what happens.

I’ve been dragging my heels with this novel and just want to get the first draft over and done with already. I think I’m up for the challenge, and who knows, maybe I might just surprise myself and actually pull it off.

Things I’ve Learned From Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo officially ended yesterday and I didn’t meet my goal. My final tally was 15,487 words, a little over half of my initial goal. And that is perfectly fine by me. This project got me writing again, and that was my real goal.

When Camp began, I started out working on a cozy mystery novel that I’d outlined, but four days into writing I realized that I didn’t want to write that story. Instead, I began working on a romance novel that I had last worked on two years prior. I’m a flip flopper when it comes to deciding what genre to write. This is an issue that’s kept me from moving forward. I’m also an overthinker, which is not a good thing. For the longest time I wanted to be a romance writer, but for various reasons I’ve talked myself out of making that leap. Mystery is also a genre that I love, particularly psychological suspense, and a genre that, once again, for various reasons I have talked myself out of making that leap. This past month I’ve learned that my hangups are all tied to one thing.

Fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of wasting my time. Fear of not picking the right project. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of what other people think. Fear that I might reveal too much of myself. And any other fear that crosses a writer’s mind every time they sit down to write.

Once I started working on the romance novel, the words began to flow. It’s just the first draft, so I gave myself permission to write the shittiest first draft ever and that seemed to do the trick this time. I’ve written quite a few rough scenes, some being pages and pages of only dialogue and some scenes that consist of long paragraphs of description. Either way the ideas are out of my head and on the page. At some stage they will be rewritten into a better second draft. And that’s the whole point. To get those ideas out of your system so that you can mold them into a structurally sound, cohesive, and, hopefully, compelling story.

Here are a few things I’ve learned while participating in Camp NaNoWriMo:

1. It’s okay to switch projects if you want to. It’s often said that you should always finish a writing project…no matter what. I get it. The only way to learn how to write is to write. The only way to get better at writing is to write, and that involves finishing your writing projects. But if what you’re writing is holding you back or keeping you from writing altogether, then by all means switch to a different project. You’re not beholden to follow someone else’s rules of writing. Do what works for you.

2. It’s okay to not write every single day. There are days when you just can’t write for whatever reason. You’re tired. Your job needs you to work overtime. You have hemorrhoids. Whatever. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It doesn’t make you a lazy ass. It doesn’t make you want it any less than the next writer. We are humans and sometimes it’s just not humanly possible to write every damn day of the week. If you have a day where something has come up or you’re just too freakin’ tired, go to bed, binge watch an entire season of Bosch, work that overtime at the job that pays your bills…it’s okay. Write the next day, even if it’s for only five minutes.

3. Writing in small bursts adds up to a lot of words on the page. Before Camp, I wrote down all of the tasks I do from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed each night. After a couple of days of tracking my activities, I was able to figure out when I had free time, as well as when I was wasting time doing less important stuff, like vegetating in front of the TV binge watching an entire season of Bosch. I figured out that I have one hour available each work day before I have to make dinner and then I have about two hours before bedtime to write, and I made sure that on most days I took advantage of that time.

4. The final (and most important) thing that I learned is that, yes, writing is hard and sometimes downright boring, but man I love it and I want to get better at it because it’s something I want to pursue. Yes I want to be a published author some day. Yes I want to earn a living as a novelist, even if it’s just a supplemental income. But I know now that whether I get published or not, whether I’m good at it or not, I will always be a writer trying to hone my craft. I don’t think I can imagine life any other way.

Update: Work In Progress

This is day three of my novel-writing challenge. I just finished writing for the night and got in just under 500 words today. Yesterday was a little more productive with somewhere around 1200 words written. According to Camp NaNoWriMo, I should reach my 50,000-word goal by January 2, 2016.

Yes, I’m a bit behind schedule. However, I didn’t start my challenge until July 6th. Camp NaNoWriMo began on the first of July.

Before I started, I came across this post and found the advice for writing a first draft very motivating–particularly tip #2:

Forget about quality, just get it done.

I’m one of those people that will start writing a scene and the next day go back, read it over, and start revising it before the scene is even completely finished. I will revise the shit out of the first paragraph until I think it’s perfect. Problem is, it never will be perfect.

Writing a crappy first draft is okay.

That’s my new mantra. It’s what I have to keep telling myself in order to push through. It can always be fixed later. And isn’t that the point of a first draft anyway? I do have a general idea and a loose outline for this story with the major plot points. The first draft will help me figure out the rest of the story idea. When that’s done, then I’ll turn it into a better story by way of a second draft.