Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eureka! Drafting Success!!

At the risk of overused exclamation points, I am shouting my happiness today.

Me back in love with my story!


Yesterday I wrote over 5500 words in my current WIP. Yeah! (oops, there's another one).

I've really been struggling to shut up my inner editor lately and my daily word count was suffering. I was lucky to eek out a few hundred words after hours of staring at my computer. Despite being in love with my story, it just wasn't working for me.

So what's different?

Two things. And because that's the kind of girl I am, I'm going to tell you.

1. I learned more about my characters
This one took me completely by surprise. I don't do character sketches outside of very loose physical descriptions so I can be consistent in how they look throughout the story. My preference is to discover along the way all the little quirks about my characters.

My current WIP is third person, a change for me but one I felt was needed. The problem was I spent a lot of time developing my MC, and the other characters were left feeling a bit flat. As soon as I realized that and spent more time focusing on them, my story came back to life.

And the best part is, I didn't need to spend a lot of time creating back stories or intricate character builds. For me, I just needed to focus a bit more on their individual motivations. The minute I focused on what each character wants, their words and actions practically flew on to the page.  Yeah! (sorry, but that's just going to happen today)

2. I found the notes feature
Way back in April, I wrote a blog about my new software acquisition, yWriter. I've been using it, but not really utilizing all the features. But then yesterday morning, I realized I forgot to add a detail into a prior scene. My gut reaction was to close the current scene, go back to the other scene, reread the whole thing so I could figure out where to add the detail, and write the detail in. But I knew if I did this it would take at least 30 minutes of my writing time. Also, I would most likely get distracted by other things I saw wrong in that old scene.

So, instead of taking that detour, I opened up the notes window and made a little comment: Include backpacks in earlier scene. And that was it. It took no more than two minutes and then I could get right back to the scene I was working on. No distraction and even better I wasn't trying to write while ignoring a nagging need to go back and change. Once I had that little note written down, I didn't have to worry about it any more.

I realize not everyone uses a writing software, but this is easy enough to accomplish no matter how you write. You could create a separate word document of only notes you think of while writing. You might even go low tech and keep a notebook with you while writing to jot down these thoughts.

So that's it! (last one I promise) I know, it's so simple I can't believe it took so long to figure it out. For those of you who mentioned struggling with your WIP, maybe this will work for you. As for me, I've got to get back to writing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Was my 1st draft really this bad?

So before you think I'm one of those delusional writers with an inflated sense of self, let me be clear: my first draft of my novel was atrocious.

In fact, it was so bad I had to cut about 20K words right off the top because I started the story two weeks before anything happened and introduced at least four characters who had no impact on the story what-so-ever.
All those truly awful unused words!

But I worked on that draft for five months and made it all shiny and pretty.

And that's the problem I'm having now while working on my new MS. With every new paragraph I can't help but think, "This is not the best I can do. I'm going to have to rewrite that." And that's hardly a motivational attitude when I'm trying to pump out words. I seem to have forgotten that the pretty, shiny MS I sent out to the scary world of agents started out as a big lump of Please Revise.

I've heard the advice everywhere that we have to give ourselves permission to write a bad first draft, but that's easier to say than do.

Somehow, I convinced myself that I would become a better writer the longer I wrote. And to be clear, I am. But I set myself up for some kind of impossible improvement. The kind where the words flow out into a nearly perfect manuscript that only needs minor tweaking during the revision process. Ha!

So, I'm working on it. Reminding myself that it's ok if I use an adverb now, write a dull sentence that gets the point across but needs to be rewritten for flow, or insert a [insert x here] when I'm not sure what to write. It's a daily struggle to resist the urge to stop writing the new and just fix what I have so far (which you know from my last post is not very much).

So what do you do? Any mental tricks for giving yourself permission to write a bad first draft?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Goal Update

Hey there, strangers. Tuesday night we arrived back home from our whirlwind tour of the Midwest. Visiting with family was wonderful but I am glad to be back in my own bed.

Unfortunately, my trip was not as productive as I had hoped. Originally I planned to completely utilize our massive drive time to write. The trip from Texas to Cincinnati is slightly over 24 hours. We broke it up with a hotel stay in Tennessee so it took a bit longer, but you get the idea. Lots of time just sitting in a car. Turns out, I can't write in the car. I started out at a fair pace, but then it all fizzled. Instead of writing I found myself putting in movies, fetching snacks, hunting for toys and entertaining the baby. I did a lot of stuff, but none of it was writing.
Oh, the blankness. It blinds!
 Once we got to our destination I put away the computer and really enjoyed quality family time.

It was great, but my Camp Nanowrimo count stands somewhere around the 7K mark. A far cry from where I should be with only about a week to go. So I'm thinking I won't hit this goal. I'm still going to keep working on this project though and that's the silver lining.

Since getting back I have been high on a productivity binge. I got caught up on critiquing for both my writing groups. This was a massive undertaking since I was several weeks behind from the trip. I also finished editing my anthology piece and sent it in last night. Nine days early! Woot Woot!

So the month of June hasn't been a complete wash, but it wasn't what I hoped for.

Next up on the agenda is Candace Havens Fast Draft class starting on July 7th. I am equal parts excited and terrified about this class. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has prepared to take her class convinced I can't do it. An entire novel in two weeks sounds impossible. Candace says it isn't and she has actual novels to prove her case. As always, you'll get the honest and usually brutal truth right here.

So how is your Summer going so far? Are you hitting your goals? If not, what's your plan to get back on track?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Whose line is it, Anyway?

As you know, I am currently in progress with my first ever Nanowrimo experience. It is kicking my butt.

I have lots of great reasons why my word count is far short of where it should be. I'm on vacation with my family and it's a little rude to hide away in my guest room with my computer for hours. Also, somewhere on the road I got pink-eye (which is really disgusting by the way) so staring at the computer for a long time gives me a head (on account that I can really only see out of one eye right now). I've also recently gotten some good feedback about my last project and I've been making revisions (again) even though I said I wouldn't and I've already sent out my first round of query letters.

All of those are valid reasons for missing my goal, but in the end, they are excuses. Very lame excuses.

The real reason I'm not hitting my word count has nothing to do with outside influences and everything to do with the story I'm trying to write. After building this story in my head for the past month, I'm not feeling it. And that sucks, because I love this story.

So, what am I going to do about it?

I could quit. I could say this isn't the story for me to write right now and move on to some other idea in my folder. But I don't want to do that. I could force myself to continue down my current path and carve each word from a granite boulder. But that sounds really hard and writing should be fun. I could change my perspective. And that's exactly what I'm going to do. Literally.

I started writing this story in third person because that's the way it always sounded in my head when I talked myself through a scene. I still think the story is best suited for third person, but it's not working for me. I have written almost exclusively in first person except for a few short stories. It's where I feel most at home.

So here's the game plan. I'm going to go back to the beginning and write the first chapter over in first person to see if I can get the story sounding the way I think it should. Then I'll keep going in whatever POV feels the most natural. Will this work? Gosh, I hope so. As always, I'll let you know.

So what do you do when a story you're excited about just isn't working? Any tips or tricks to get you going?

Friday, June 1, 2012

And so it begins

As you read this I am traveling the lonesome highway between Texas and Ohio in a minivan with The Professor and Kiddo #2. Hopefully, I am also logging some serious mileage toward my Camp Nanowrimo goal. Today is the day they open the page and all the crazy kids start writing like mad.

My last novel took me 16 months to write, so 30 days is going to be a significant improvement. I have a few things going for me that I think will help. Last time I started writing and then got pregnant, had a baby, put my house on the market and moved my family across the country. This time, it's just me and the open road.

Last time, I had no idea what I was doing. I got an idea for a book (probably a result of the pregnancy hormones I didn't know where coursing through my body) and I started writing. I'd never heard of a query letter, I didn't know adverbs were the devil, and I thought the more back story the better.
me, so clueless


At times, writing that book was just painful. When I finished, I realized the beginning completely stunk. I had to cut about 20K words and completely start from scratch. I'm pleased with what I ended up with, but it took forever to get there.

Things are different for this book. I have a completed beat sheet, rough character sketches, a very loose outline, and several scenes cooking in my head. I know going in what I need to write just for me and my knowledge and what actual goes into my word count. I will not waste time coming up with 60 different ways to write "she said". I will just type "she said".

Nano is going to be a drastic change in the way I wrote my last novel. But then, I am a drastically different writer than I was last time. Hopefully, I'm better.

On a housekeeping note, since I am on the road where internet service is...shall we call it spotty, I am not sure when my next post will be. Hopefully, I can find a connection on Monday. If not, good luck to all my fellow campers and I'll be back soon.