Archives: Writing Progress

What Is Going On?

Urgh. WordPress have forced this new, unnecessarily complicated editor on me and I’m all confused. (I’m easily confused. I’m technologically stunted.)

But apart from that, something even stranger has happened. 

stephen colbert omg GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

On Saturday I was listening to Wolf Totem, by James Horner, and an idea hit me out of the blue: a complete story idea, with characters, world, and a general gist of the character arcs. Like, the kind of vivid idea I had when I cooked up The Night Mage. 

And this new idea…it was for Beauty and the Beast. 

(Cue me gasping in disbelief.)

Beauty and the Beast? Seriously? I thought I’d beaten that thing to a pulp. But no…it seems there’s a determined wee bugger in my brain that wants to write that story after all.

So, I’m not abandoning Midnight Shrine. No way. But I am going to play with this Beauty and the Beast idea on the side, and see what happens.   

Happy Days

I’m sitting here listening to The Last Jedi soundtrack and bawling my eyes out. (It’s cool, I’m in an empty house.) I love that film more than any other. And I love Rey more than words can describe. 

Seriously though I’m gonna have to reapply my eyeliner before I go out again. 

the last jedi rey GIF by Star Wars

Anyway, back to business. I have had, somewhat miraculously, an awesome day. 

In fact, miracles had nothing to do with it…

It began when I pulled out a notebook of mine from 2013 (pre messed-up) and read through my old to-do lists (riveting morning, eh?). Anyway, these to-do lists proved to be very illuminating, because I saw that I made a list each day of the scenes I wanted to map/write/edit, the characters I had to think about, research I had to do, elements I had to weave through the book… Basically, there was no talk of page or word counts, or first draft this, second draft that. I mean, I knew my approach used to be far more organic, but I didn’t realise, until seeing it right before me, just how messy my natural process is. 

Well, after reading it, I felt connected to that old me, and I immediately made a to-do list for the day. 

And then I got to work. And the writing felt awesome. And I felt in control of the book, and daunted by the project, but in a really good way. I removed my word count from Scrivener and have had no urge to look. 

It sounds so simple and obvious, but having a to-do list that operates only in terms of story (no cold word counts here) makes such a difference to my attitude. It’s kinda hard to explain…but all I know is I’m not giving up my to-do list ever again. 

I’m hoping this puts an end to the last fortnight of funky mood. I’m ready to feel good again. 

The Sun’s Still Rising

BEFORE I BEGIN:

The Night Mage is available for only 0.99 at KOBO in the US and CANADA until the 6th of August, as part of Kobo’s Summer Price Drop sale.

BACK TO THE POST:

My problem is I’m too hard on myself. My other problem is I let myself off the hook too easily. 

I don’t allow myself to be flexible. I allow myself to quit when the going gets tough. 

I never used to be like this. Honest. Something went bad… In my search to increase productivity, I broke myself. That, my friends, is irony. 

Anyway, I took my handwritten pages for Midnight Shrine and typed up the first two, then thought it was a waste of time because all of it would be rewritten anyway, so instead I typed up the page headings and listed them as scenes in Scrivener. There are two main narrative threads in Midnight Shrine and one is coming to me clearer, so I’m going to write that one first. I’d rather work linearly, but every time I think about the beginning my brain seizes with panic. 

Every book is different. For this book, my gut is telling me to start with the easier of the threads, so that’s what I’m gonna do. 

It’s A New Dawn

It’s a new day and I’m feeling…pish. 

Here are my thoughts thus far (it is 10.07).

  • I have no energy to write
  • I don’t want to write
  • I have no ideas
  • I can’t be a writer
  • This will never work
  • (goes to Starbucks and opens project, which I’m going to refer to as Midnight Shrine from now on, because I change projects so often that even I can’t keep track of what book I’m referring to in posts) Is this coffee actually decaf? (confirms with barista)
  • (reads yesterday’s work) This stuff is absolute garbage; I’m going to write out of order, writing a scene only when it’s epic
  • (reads old newsletters from Susan Dennard) I love Susan Dennard
  • (plays MS’s soundtrack; writes down fuzzy vision of what I want this book to be) I don’t have enough mystery for this book and the romance isn’t strong
  • I never had a flash of inspiration for this book; it all grew out of discovery-writing
  • Do I really want to write this book?
  • When was the last time I had a good idea for a book? Oh, THE NIGHT MAGE FFS. 
  • (mentally searches through old half-finished manuscripts such as The Forest King and, god help me, Beauty and the Beast) I don’t want to write any of these books either
  • I have no ideas I am broken do I even want to be a writer and is it relevant because it’s clear I cannot write and yeah I have no ideas
  • (reads through old blog posts about how I’ve been quitting too easily and have been driven mad by perfectionism and pressure to produce) Ohh….
  • Okay maybe I’ve been quitting too easily
  • Maybe Midnight Shrine is the best I’ve got so far
  • Maybe Midnight Shrine seems difficult because I have much higher standards these days and I want this book to be utterly gripping and jammed with mystery and damn that stuff is hard to write and I simply have a lot of work to do to get this book to where I want it to be and Midnight Shrine is the most complex book I’ve ever attempted to write
  • I promised myself I had to finish this book because it’s been so long since I finished one and if I don’t relearn how to complete a book my fledgling career is over before it ever got going
  • Okay gonna work on Midnight Shrine

It’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m gonna write this bloody book even if it kills me. Even if it turns out so terrible it never sees the light of day, this is about me proving to myself that I can still write a novel. I’m not broken. I can’t believe that. 

I am not broken.

Writing a Novel: 1st August 2018

I’m experimenting with firmer blocks of time. I know this can stress me out, but I also know I’m not working as hard as I need to be – or anywhere near the peak of my abilities. Somewhere between now and university, my ability to focus and knuckle down has declined. 

0745 – 0830: Shower, breakfast, that sorta thing.

0830 – 1000: Didn’t have any enthusiasm, but told myself to write for 15 minutes to see if I got into the flow. Ended up with a very rough draft of the opening scene. My MC has no voice, but she’ll get one eventually…

1000 – 1200: Yoga and walk. Took my dictaphone with the intention of musing, but on my way out I had an incident with one of my neighbours (a lazy inconsiderate asshole) which had me fuming for the whole of my walk. And then I fumed at myself for wasting time on this prick, and not getting my work done. My mood’s been really crappy since I stopped writing three pages a day, so I need to dig deep to keep it afloat here. Safe to say I’m not feeling creative.

PEP TALK: Don’t let other people impact my goals. If I let unpleasant people derail me so easily, I’ll never get anywhere, cos sadly, the world is full of them. Laser focus. Ignore the plebs. 

Cleaned my desk and played the Solo soundtrack to cheer myself up.

1220 – 1305: Hand too sore to write, so used Scrivener to plan. It’s not my preferred method, but I could barely hold my pen. I intended simply to muse the scene, but ended up drafting another skeleton. Not finished, but I can wrap it up after the gym. 

1315 – 1515: Gym/house stuff. 

1515 – 1600: Finished sketching second scene. Absolutely starving so hard to concentrate… Brainstormed ideas for next scene. 

1630 – 1800: Kept musing first chapter (but had telly on in the background so wasn’t 100% focused). Got a few ideas but none of them are grabbing me. Hmm… I have lots of thinking to do.

Bluesday

I’m circling the black hole. Not been here in a while, but it feels like I never left. 

Anyway, I’m documenting my day, mostly to keep myself accountable so I don’t gravitate to the sofa and fall into irreversible lethargy. 

0730 – 0830 General Bad Mood Bear

0830 – 0930 Scribbled in notebook in attempt to lift my mood. Decided that I’m going to dump everything I know about this book into Scrivener, and see if any scenes take shape. Have given myself until mid October to get this to my critique partner. 

0930 – 1005: Lots of musing and creating scene ideas on Scrivener. Actually feeling a lot better (but still have no idea what to write). 

1005 – 1015: Thinking about Process and how I need to STOP thinking about Process and go back to what I do naturally. It’s been almost five years since I started freaking out about word count, planning/pantsing, typing/longhand – all the crap that doesn’t actually matter. If I could wipe my memory, I would. I need to get back to the good old days, when I just used my intuition. I thought I was getting there, but I’ve realised I’m still stuck in an unhelpful mindset. I guess it’ll take continued awareness to fully heal, and lots and lots (and lots) of time. 

Out of interest, my ‘natural’ process looks something like this:

Think think think, build a general idea of the story, then write and build as I go, usually rewriting the beginning a million times as I figure out what I want to say. The whole process is a mess – it’s planning, drafting and editing all rolled into one. A fine balance between knowing what I’m going to write and planning everything to an inch of its life and sapping all the excitement. No targets for wordcounts or scenes; just putting in a good day’s work. 

So, why can’t I allow myself to return to this? In the last five years I’ve been so concerned about finding the ‘perfect’ process and becoming more productive that I’ve turned my back on my own natural method. 

I am a fool. 

Anyway, back to the day in hand. 

1020 – 1140: Went for a walk to clear my head of all this process stuff. Deliberately didn’t play my book’s soundtrack so my thoughts could get a proper break. 

1140 – 1200: Got a good idea for the opening scene and fleshed it out a bit. Need to answer quite a few questions. My mind then unhelpfully dredged up an unpleasant memory (thanks Mind!), so I’m gonna go to the gym and read, rather than sit here and stew. Mood and energy have come back down again after a nice lift. 

(1200 – 1230: General mucking about and delaying. Bleh.)

1230 – 1420: Gym. Read Contact. Mood much better now! Good ole exercise. 

1430 – 1630: More musing on Chap 1. 

So, today turned out decent in the end. I could have worked though. That’s something for tomorrow, I guess. 

99 Problems

Actually I only have one problem and that one problem is this bloody manuscript. I’m stuck, without motivation, and writing each word is like pulling teeth. 

What’s worse is I’m coming from a recent period of writer’s block, and a general lack of ideas. I know the pressure I put on myself in 2016/17 really battered my Muse, but I’ve worked hard at relaxing (ha!) over the last few months, and I thought I was in a better headspace. But this book… This book is bringing it all back. 

When I was writing my exploratory draft, I felt like the story was quietly bubbling inside of me. I was focused on getting three pages a day, making it up as I went along, feeling good because I managed it every day. But I tied myself into a knot, got stuck, and now I can’t summon any energy to keep writing it. Is this the critical voice? Is my creative voice bored because I’m trying to pin it down? Or was I just kidding myself before by giving myself a relatively easy daily target and not thinking about the bigger picture, therefore hiding from myself the fact that I wasn’t interested in the bigger picture. 

I just don’t know. 

It feels like the Block has come and whacked me on the head again. 

Maybe writing by hand doesn’t work with exploratory writing? Maybe I should have typed it, allowing myself to cycle back and edit as I went along. But can process have such an impact on ideas and enthusiasm? I’m thinking no… I’m thinking this is just me searching for excuses. 

I am sooooooooo confused and lost and stuck and BLLLEEEEHHHHHHHH.

will irwin keyes GIF

This is One of Those Moments

Image result for glowI bloody love Glow. Finished the second series last night, and I think it was even better than the first. Why can’t all TV be as good as this? 

Anyway, while last night was awesome (there was also wine and a thunderstorm), today has been crap. I woke up, wrote I WILL NOT QUIT in my notebook, then proceeded to spend the next couple of hours going around the same loop I did yesterday (I can’t connect to 2nd world characters; I should write contemporary; I have no ideas when I think of the real world; I’m hopeless; all is lost; etc). 

Now, I caught myself again, thank goodness, but STILL… I’d like to get off this loop. (Can’t help but thinking of Westworld… Are we all just stuck on our little loops?) 

I’ve had a rubbishy week because I’ve not written anything. It’s been a week of musing, and so my productivity has been down, and so my mood and sense of satisfaction have gone down with it. 

My problem is still this one character. I CANNOT figure him out for the life of me. And I need him; he’s key. I know I can’t force it, but at the same time, I want (need) to get back writing this book. All I can do is keep working. Keep hoping that the pieces will click into place soon…

Key Characters

I write this while eating porridge direct from the pot. (And it is, if I may say so myself, a perfect batch of porridge. As any bear will tell you, it’s a notoriously difficult meal to get right.)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last few days mulling my book. To begin, I came up with a big list of questions that needed answering. Then I scribbled in my notebook, half-answering, half-waffling. I wasn’t getting far, so I decided to take each major character and brainstorm them individually.

This worked a treat. By mapping out their lives, I answered all of my questions indirectly. I know who everyone is and what they want. Before, I had only a vague idea.

Now, I’d typically map out the plot after building the characters, but I’m skipping that step this time. I want to keep exploring during the second draft, so I’m not going to anchor down any plot points. I do know who everyone is, and I have a better understanding of the setting, but apart from that, I’m going in blind again. 

I see the initial 25,000 words of exploration as the first draft. Now it’s time to take another stab at it, armed with better knowledge. It’s like exploring, but with a slightly better map. 

I’ve cut characters and plot lines, and expanded others. Most of it will be rewritten completely, but a few of those initial scenes might stay. 

And of course, the second draft will be written by hand. 

This is all new and strange for me, very unlike my traditional process. But I’m putting my faith in my creative brain, and the power of the pen. 

*deep breath*

Here we go. Round Two. 

shaun the sheep olympics GIF by Aardman Animations

Stuck in the Middle

I’m at page 61 of my manuscript (around 25,000 words) and I’m finally running out of steam. I’m not stuck, but I realised what the book was about earlier this week, and since then, my brain has been closing up the story before it needed to be closed. So what happened was I hit the midpoint around page 50, then jumped straight to the end. 

This is one of the issues with discovery writing; once the discovery has been made, it becomes a lot harder! I stopped writing during my third page today because my gut was screaming at me: everything I was writing today just wasn’t going to work. Now was the time to step back, look at the story, and start fleshing out and tightening all the plot-lines. I don’t believe it was fear or doubt or the critical voice; I believe it was my creative voice, warning me that I’d gone off track. 

I guess I’ve written about half the book, and it really is a skeleton. I haven’t written the ending, but I know roughly where the book is going. I’m hoping that because I have so much written already, I won’t get bored. My job now is to take my characters and story, and ramp them up to the next level. I have to make sure there are no plot holes; I have to write new scenes and dive deeper into characters. This initial stage was me discovering the story I want to write, now the time has come to write it out properly. 

I’m not quite sure how to approach it because I’ve never written so much by hand before. I think my plan will be to make a rough map on paper, sketch out the different plot-lines, identify the holes, and then keep writing new material. I want to stick to paper for as long as possible before typing up. The more I write by hand, the more I realise how much I hate typing and screens and computers in general. They kill my creativity. 

So, this is the plan. I’m working hard to stay positive, and to not let this dip affect my momentum. Writing a novel is a messy business, and because I can’t edit as I go as I’m writing by hand, it makes sense that there’d come a point when I’d have to go back and start fixing stuff. 

This is new territory for me. I’ve never had to approach a book like this before. We’ll see how it pans out…