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

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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.

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.

Camp NaNoWriMo

My plan to write nonstop flash fiction fizzled out quickly. I managed to complete a short story that I did submit for publication. The story was one of my better ones. Whether it’s good enough for publishing, who knows. Crossing my fingers, but expecting rejection. I’m still having problems motivating myself to just sit and write. I even had two decent story ideas to work on immediately, but kept getting sidetracked with things like lying around or mindlessly surfing the web.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been pretty fed up with my laziness and lack of enthusiasm. I want to be a writer. It’s something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. Yet I can’t discipline myself to sit and write.

It’s time to try a new tactic.

It’s time to go camping.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and it runs through the entire month of April. Have you signed up yet? Camp NaNoWriMo is the less hardcore version of the annual NaNoWriMo that takes place every November. With Camp, you can set your own goal, whether it be word count or hours or whatever. I’ve set a goal of 30,000 words for the month of April. I’ll be working on the mystery novel that I’ve been mulling over in my mind and planning for at least two years. Yes, I’m an overplanner. A character flaw that I’m trying to get a handle on.

Participating in Camp NaNoWriMo is a great way to both challenge myself and develop a consistent writing habit once and for all.

For the past week I’ve narrowed my story idea down to a solid 2-3 page outline that will allow me to pump out a decent first draft of a novel. The key to sticking with a goal of 30,000 words in 30 days is to go into it knowing that what I write is going to be a shitty draft. One with plot holes, spelling errors, telling rather than showing, and stuff that just doesn’t make sense.  And that’s okay. It takes the pressure off and allows the creative juices to flow.

The end result…words on the page, a consistent writing habit, and the thrill of creating something from nothing.

 

A Short List for Short Stories

I’ve been plugging along with building up my writing habit. I’m still not writing every day, but I’ve written more in the past couple of weeks than I have in a long time, so progress is being made.

The flash fiction class that I took went pretty well. I now have a better understanding of how to structure a short story. The stories that I worked on for the class were good practice. Not very good fiction, but good practice nonetheless. Recently, I finished up a story of about 800 words that I’m pretty happy with. It’s only the first draft, so I’m going to set it aside for a week or two, go back and polish it up and submit it for publication. In the meantime, I’m going to brainstorm ideas for my next story.

Over the weekend, I started wondering about where to submit flash fiction and longer short stories for publication, so I did a Google search and came up with a few places to consider. Here’s a short list for short stories:

Not every story I write is good enough for submitting, but for those that I think have promise, it’s nice to know there are publications that pay for short fiction.

Building a Habit with Flash Fiction

It’s hard getting back into the habit of writing when you haven’t done it in a long time. Before I got sick, I was working on a contemporary romance novel. I also have the outline for a mystery that I’ve been itching to write. But the idea of a novel right now is daunting. I want to get back to writing but I don’t want to dive into either of these novels.

Part of the reason is that I’m not sure what I want to write about. I always just assumed that I would write either romance or mystery fiction, or a combination of the two, since those two genres are what I read the most. But I also like horror, suspense, and historical fiction.

I have attempted multiple times to write a novel, but I’ve never come close to completing one. My current goal is to build up a daily writing habit. I want to work on stories that I know I will complete, and that is where flash fiction comes in.

For the rest of February I plan to write only flash fiction, focusing on 500-word stories. Months ago I started to take Holly Lisle’s free flash fiction class but never completed it. Hmm…never finishing things – that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Anyway, starting today, I’m going to revisit this class and begin to build that daily writing habit.

Not only will flash fiction help me get into the habit of writing every day, but it will also help me figure out what I want to write about as well as get me into the habit of writing a story from beginning to end.

 

Do You Use Scrivener?

Some time last year, I purchased Scrivener. I’ve kind of played around with it, but I haven’t taken the time to really learn how to use it beyond the very basics. Right now I’m using Scrivener to write my first draft. Rather than writing one long, ongoing draft as you would in a Word document, I’m writing my novel scene by scene, each in their own document.

Some people are a bit chaotic when they write. The story comes to them in bits and pieces, and Scrivener is ideal for that kind of writing. You can easily use Scrivener to write your scenes and then organize them as you need to, moving things around as new ideas come to mind.  

I’m a linear writer. I’m writing my story in the order in which it happens, starting from Chapter One. I’ve written several scenes so far, and I’m organizing them using the three-act structure with sub-folders for chapters and more sub-folders for scenes. This is going pretty well so far, but I feel like I’m not using Scrivener to its fullest capacity.

So I’ve been googling and found some links for tips on how to use Scrivener and thought I’d share:

  • A great post from Justine Covington with great examples on how she uses Scrivener to organize her writing
  • Natasha Lester has complied a list of posts she’s written on how to use Scrivener to write a book
  • Jason M. Hough has written two posts on how he uses Scrivener, part 1 and part 2
  • K.M. Weiland has two very detailed posts, one for outlining using Scrivener and the second on how she uses it to write her first draft
  • Literature and Latte, the maker of Scrivener, has a list of tutorials on their website

Do you use Scrivener? If so, feel free to share your tips in the comments section.