The Words Pile Up

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s August already. It seems a cruel trick that the older you get, the faster time seems to pass. I have so many projects brewing, but they all have to wait, now. As you can see on the progress meter in the sidebar, I’ve reached the 75% mark in writing the first draft of my next novel. It’s time to hunker down and finish.

If you’ve wondered why I never refer to my WIP by title, it’s because I don’t have one. I did. I felt it was perfect, and then I thought to check how many other books have the same title. Too many, I’m afraid. Now, as I write, the title question is always in the back of my mind. And whether my new title will work with the cover image I’d already chosen.

But now, all that really matters is writing. Writing. And writing.

I’m trying not to think of what comes next—editing. I love that process, but I anticipate more of it on this book than I had on The Brevity of Roses, simply because I worked differently this time. I got the idea for this novel while I was still writing Brevity, but it was not the next novel I started. This story idea marinated for a year and a half, during which I would occasionally pull it out and turn it over.

Then, last June, I felt ready to begin the writing. I started fine with notes, a basic outline, an opening scene. By August, I’d the first three chapters and some disjointed scenes based on the outline. Then, for several months, illness limited my writing time. I made brutally slow progress. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and now I’m nearing the finish.

What have I learned this last year? First, “the best laid plans of mice and men” applies. Second, the process of writing a novel is somewhat different each time—or maybe I haven’t perfected a system yet. Three, if you don’t give up, even if you can write no more than a sentence or two some days, the words pile up and you write a novel.

Now, it’s back to writing for me. What are you up to?

A story! A story? A tale of fear!

All my sources tell me that, as a new indie author, I need to publish more work soon. Writing a novel is not quick work for me. I have a story that might run novella length—might. I haven’t written it yet, of course. Another option is a short story collection.

Until the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big short story reader. I’ve written some, but they were for my own eyes. But, in the last year, I’ve greatly increased the number of short stories I read. I also read articles on how to write short fiction. I’m still not sure I get it.

I’m also not sure why I don’t get it. It’s almost as though I have a mental block. I think I write a beginning, middle, and end, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me. Is it a vignette? Is that a story?

Does a story require a moral? A lesson? A reason to exist? Am I over-thinking this? Probably. I fear I can’t write short stories. Then again, I fear I can’t write anything. FEAR.

I’d like to say I bravely take up my pen keyboard and wield it like a sword, but that would be a lie. The truth is I sit here quivering. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story.

That’s what I’m busy with nowadays. And I thank Christ Craig for her recent post reminding me that I have to face that fear or I’ll never know if I’ve written a story at all.

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Silly things I do to waste writing time

My husband has dubbed me a chief procrastinator. What he doesn’t know is that sometimes I only seem to be putting off something. Sometimes I’m working out some aspect of the job before I start it. Sometimes I dread it so much, I need to sidle into it so I’ve begun before I realize I’m doing it.

And yes, sometimes, I’m just putting it off. For weeks, I’ve been saying I need to get down to serious work on my next novel, and yet here I am saying it again. I do have legitimate Real Life distractions. And I’m still working out some plot points in the back of my mind, so maybe not all is lost. Still, in part, I’m just wasting time. I find myself making lists. Most of these are to-do lists, which I know, even as I make some of them, I may never look at again.

But I’m capable of making even more useless lists. Consider the following one. I use a stats program that records the location of visitors to this blog. A ridiculous number of countries worldwide have shown up there. Closer to home, I’ve had visitors from every one of The United States of America. By cross-matching by time, I can track where those who leave comments live. Naturally, the info led to a list showing which state has interacted most with me.

  1. California (36 distinct visitors left comments)
  2. Illinois and Texas (tied at 13)
  3. Oregon (12)
  4. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania (tied at 11)

Other “research” shows I’ve had visitors from the following states, but none of them left a comment: Alabama, District of Columbia, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont. Are readers from those states just less chatty?

“What about other English speaking countries?” I ask myself. Turns out, visitors from all over Canada have left comments—except those who came from Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. From the UK, I’ve exchanged comments with visitors from numerous cities in England, a couple in Wales, but not a one in Ireland or Scotland.

Does any of this knowledge matter a whit? Of course, not! Will I tailor my posts to appeal more to those in Montana, Iowa, Newfoundland, or Saskatchewan? Nope. I’m just wasting time.

Now, about those games on Facebook …

Your turn: Do you ever waste writing time? If so, how?

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What was I waiting for?

First, a contest Reminder: Check my sidebar –> for links to two bloggers giving away copies of my novel!

I’m not a NaNoWriMo sort of writer. And yet, I am a “pantser.” I don’t write true first drafts. I need a certain level of reassurance I’m on the right track before I can head out of the station. And yet, I love uncovering the story as if it were an ancient artifact at an archaeological dig.

For months now, I’ve been taking down notes, sometimes nearly full scenes, in preparation to write my next novel. I know how it begins, how it ends, and some bits in-between, but I’ve been waiting for something more.

I thought I was waiting for my main character’s voice to grow stronger. Maybe I needed to know her better before I could write her. But I already know her, I created her three years ago. She’s been talking to me for a while now.

I considered doing a real outline, the kind I’ve heard other writers talk about. Some novelists, maybe you, plan in such detail before they start writing that they know every scene and exactly which chapter it will happen in. My oddly disorganized organized brain rebels against all that, but I thought maybe this time I needed to do it differently.

Then I remembered that I set off writing The Brevity of Roses with only a need to explore the story idea. I had a general idea how it would end—I was wrong. I thought I knew who the main character was—wrong again. I loved the adventure of discovery, and it turned out all right.

So, I kept taking notes and writing out bits of dialogue that came to me. I opened the file and stared at the opening paragraphs for a while before closing the file unchanged. Finally, it hit me; the problem was structure. I ran it by my critique partners and we decided my original plan was needlessly complicated. After I made a new decision on how to narrate the story, everything clicked into place. I’m writing again, and it feels wonderful.

Your turn: What do you need to know before you can start writing?

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Three months in and how’s it going?

Yes, I know it’s not exactly the end of February, but it’s close enough. We’re chipping away at 2011. One fourth, twenty-five percent, of the year is gone. Whether you made formal New Year’s resolutions or just had vague hopes for this year, how are you doing so far?

I like the idea of a fresh start. Of course, years of our lives never begin without the baggage of the years before. But we can set new goals each year. My first 2011 writing goal was actually a publishing goal, and I’m on-track to accomplish that.

Making a serious dent in writing my next novel is my second goal. I’d like to say I could write, edit, and have it polished by the end of the year, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal. I don’t know how publishing Brevity will affect my writing life.

I’ll also be a partner in a new writing blog. It’s top secret right now, so I can’t give specifics, but you’ll hear all about it soon. My obligation to that will be a weekly post and commenting. And since I’ve sort of stumbled off the path on my own blog posting and commenting, that will be a challenge.

But challenges are good. Goals are good. Moving forward, even if at tiny baby steps, is good. So now …

Your turn: How is 2011 going for you so far?


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