Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writer's Block

It's such a cliche, but damn, I sure am suffering from it. I know there are people out there who don't "believe" in writer's block, but I don't have another word that works as well for how I feel. Because, to me, that's what writer's block is. A feeling of almost aversion to writing at all. It's not that I don't have ideas, it's just that they all feel trapped in my head, and they repel going onto a page like the same poles of two magnets.

It's amazingly frustrating. It makes me feel like such a failure, and makes me doubt that I can, or even want, to be a "real" writer. But I know it's not permanent, so for now I will just have to deal with it until I can break through. I fear my writing progress will be stalled until I hit one of those rare bursts of inspiration, but then hopefully my momentum will kick in!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Writing is such a funny thing. I would bet that almost any writer would say that have times of inspiration. These are not just the moments that a great plot idea occurs to you, but also those times when words just seem to flow forth in perfect rhythm. This is when I feel like I can churn out 3 books a year, that I can be a published author, that I can write multi-volume epics. And it's a fantastic feeling. Yet I would bet that almost any writer would say that you can't rely on these. You can't only write during these periods of inspiration. I know that if I waited for them to get any writing done, I'd be probably getting about one night of writing in a month. Not a recipe for success!

So if it's not pure inspiration that gets the writing done, is it nose-to-the-grindstone daily forcing? Isn't that a true adage--that to get any writing done, you have to WRITE, so ass in chair, get moving. Whether or not you're inspired, whether you can think of where the story is going, just write something. This is undeniably a useful tool, especially for projects that aren't for "fun." For reports, or articles, or letters, or whatever we need to write but don't really want to. But I would say that this is not a great route for writing your next great novel. Sure, you'll probably produce some words. But will you be happy with them? Or maybe you won't even produce--I know some of my worst cases of writer's block are when I am sitting at the computer telling myself that OMGIMUSTWRITESOMETHINGRIGHTNOW.

If it's not flashes of inspiration or pure daily grinding, how do we ever get any meaningful amount of writing done? I posit that it is through momentum. (I feel that I must clarify that I am speaking entirely in the vernacular sense of the words, as this has nothing to do with mass or velocity!) We must take those moments of inspiration and ride them for as long as possible. If I wrote every day for the past four days, including a good multi-thousand word day, then I feel okay about sitting down and writing a bit today. My personal daily goal is 800, and that's not a terrible lot. It's easy to do when I'm riding that momentum of getting ahead. It gets hard when I fall behind.

I'm not really talking about forming a habit, because last I heard that takes something like two weeks. Maybe that's possible for other people, but it'd be a cold month in hell when I got time to write every day around the same time for 2 weeks! So it's not really a habit. It's just knowing that if I did something already, I can do it again. So when I have 2 days in a row that I don't write, it's a momentum-killer. Even if it's for perfectly legitimate reasons--for example, flying across the country, like I did on Sunday--it just murders my writing. The next time I sit down after an extended absence, even one as short as 2 days, I feel overwhelmed. I think about all the writing I didn't do and wonder how I will ever catch up. I feel so obligated to produce more than usual that my writing often comes out forced and stilted (similar to "grindstone" writing).

I'm battling a bit of a momentum loss right now, and it's very frustrating. Here's to hoping that I get a new burst of inspiration soon that will propel me for a few more days!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Positive Affirmation!

I know that it all must be taken with a grain of salt (lots of big, BIG grains, as a matter of fact), but of the two people who've read my first chapter, both really liked it! I posted it to Scribophile and got my first crit there, and he started out with "I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. It is the best thing that I have read on this site, so far. You captured my interest, immediately." Trying not to pat myself on the back too much ensues. And what he said pretty much lined up exactly with what Beta 1 (hubby :)) said. One point made in the Scrib crit hit so close to home: "Your writing is very clear and clean (and that is much appreciated - thank you), and your descriptions are wonderful. On the flip side of that, though, is a suggestion is to examine and kill some of your adjectives." It's so true! I love adjectives and adverbs, and no matter how much I know that I shouldn't overuse them, I can't stand to get rid of them! That will be a project for my line editing for sure.

Unfortunately there seems to be an issue with the in-line critique I got, where only the first word of each comment is displayed, so I didn't get to see what specific recommendations/issues the critiquer pointed out. I'm hoping it's just due to my terrible work computer and IE6, so I'll check it again at home tomorrow. Possibly an error in posting though.

With a couple good praises under my belt, I feel a lot better going forward. I'm on duty today, so I should have plenty of time to knock out some good chunks!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Drafting is Fun!

The past few weeks of finishing my rough draft have bee difficult. From time to time I wondered why I was even doing this. I wasn't having fun, I was constantly beating myself up, and it was painful to get 200 words a day. Yet I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am so glad I pushed through! Now that I have started on my re-write, inspiration has flourished anew. I'm easily cruising past my daily word goal of 800, having half-hour bouts of writing that are kicking out 1K words. True, a large part of these words are merely adapted from what I had already written. But what I find myself doing mostly is reading over a page or two of my handwritten draft, and then typing at will for my new draft. Sometimes I surprise myself by using the exact same turn of phrase for an upcoming part that I haven't re-read recently, and sometimes I start going one way and wonder how I ever wrote it so differently to start with.

Besides just the writing of the new draft, there is the plotting and restructuring. I have a whole list of the scenes from my first draft, and that snapshot makes it easy to see how much I really needed to do some structural work! Over the six years of the first draft, I seemed to have gone through several phases regarding chapters. I have one chapter that is 13 scenes long and is nearly half the draft, followed by six single-scene chapters! And jumping from city to city because trying to describe travel bored me, which leads to weeks and miles being condensed sloppily into 2 key scenes and 5 pages. I've been having a lot of fun moving things around, adding new scenes here and there, combining others. It's kind of like starting a whole new novel, except a lot easier because most of the hardest work is done!

So writing is on the upswing for me right now. I'm almost telling myself I could be ready to start writing query letters by the end of the year! Then I realize I'm getting way ahead of myself. Oops.

(Right now, going off MWord word count. Once the draft is finished, I'll revise to "manuscript word count," with the 12 point Courier font and 250 "words" per page.)

Less than a week of work!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Wow, what an amazing feeling! It's been so long since I've finished something that I almost forgot what it's like. To actually be able to write "THE END." And underline it, and star it. Because this is a Big Moment. Sure, I still have a very extensive re-write to do. Sure, after that I'll need to draft a query letter. Sure, after that I'll have exhausting, demoralizing, and depressing rejections to get through. Sure, after THAT I'll probably re-write again, and again...but this is the first big step in the way of getting one of my novels published. Ooh. What writer doesn't get a chill down their spine at that thought?

I started this novel when I was 16, which is ridiculous. Six and a half years ago! Yes, I took a big break (about 4 years) in the middle, so it's not like it's taken me that long of steady work to produce a rough draft (I'd never be a professional novelist at that rate!). That's still a long time. I'm so glad I didn't give up on this one. Despite all the flaws that I know it has (and that I'm just itching to go and find and FIX), this is much better than my first two manuscripts. So, with a happy heart, I'm on the next task. It seems a lot more doable now.

Rough estimate (based on counting a couple pages and averaging them, which is probably wildly off due to changing handwriting, pens, etc), the draft clocks in at 53k. I know it's not a lot, but I also plan to enrich it during my re-write. I don't go into too much detail at first, and I've not given the subplots as much space as they deserve. So I'm expecting my finished draft to be over 60k, and hopefully more like 70k. I know it's short, but I also know that short can actually help in publishability, so I'm not worried (yet).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pushing Through

I have been stalled at The Ending for a few days now. Partly this is due to craziness at work--due to a last minute schedule change, we ended up traveling up to Seattle! Still, as much as I might make excuses for myself, I know that I had the time to get writing done if I'd so chosen. But I didn't, because I was daunted by the task at hand. I'm almost finished with the main conflict, and I'm faced with tying up the loose ends. I don't want the novel to drag on, but I don't want to write a handy little epilogue either. I want to SHOW these characters getting their resolution. But I can't seem to manage that without it being slapped together hastily. So instead, I'm not writing anything.

It's frustrating, being this close to finishing this draft and not being able to close the deal. Of course I have a work function tonight, so another excuse rears its head. I'm already far behind on my August goals, and it's only the 4th! Part of the problem is that I'm so excited to start on my re-write, I don't actually want to finish the draft first. Tomorrow is going to be another hectic work day, coordinating a big function, but Friday is going to be IT. I am going to finish this draft then, I swear it! Okay, maybe not, but I'm going to get a good chunk of work done. Must finish one milestone before I can look forward to the next!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July 2010 Wrap-Up

July has come and gone, and it was not an altogether unproductive month for me. I had hoped to write 31 pages, which is not a very lofty goal, but given my work schedule and sometimes much-lacking motivation, it was difficult enough. I am pleased.

Pages written: 43.62 (by hand)
Words written: 8000 (approximate)

August will see the completion of Novel 1!