Writing Pains and the WIP that WILL end!
Occasionally around here I talk about my writing projects. Not lately. A lot of people have noticed. In fact, the question I'm asked most frequently by EVERYONE I know is: "Finished that book yet?"
I'll let you in on a secret. This is my least favorite question. Here's why:
- The project I thought would take a year has so far taken over two, and I had an outline and 100k words to start with from previous attempts.
- I've fully revised this monster four separtate times in the outlining stage.
- With over 250k words, I still don't have anything close to a complete draft of it from any stage.
I've been writing since I was 9, and seriously writing since 12. I never used to get this frustrated with writing; it used to be the easiest thing in the world for me, to write a story on the fly, to write without really knowing where I was going and see the plot threads suddenly line up. So this whole frustrating/not going anywhere/CAN'T WRITE thing? I've never experienced this before and I'm the first to admit I haven't handled it very well.
So when people ask "Have you finished that book yet?" it sort of brings all this boiling to the surface, poking at me, reminding me writing used to be soooo easy for me, and yeah, Amanda, why haven't you finished that book yet?
It started a few years ago, with a middle grade series I've been working on since 2007. When I finally revised, edited, and perfected the first book, I realized it still wasn't finished because I really hadn't outlined anything about the series and that was something I'd have to do in order to foreshadow things that needed foreshadowing. Going into plotting and outlining that far in advance was really hard for me. For a while, it went okay; I thought I was making decent headway. I thought I had the hang of it. Then everything just started falling apart. I kept getting lost in the story, frustrated, and upset. Writing wasn't the joy that it was any more.
My second big blunder -which at the time I thought would be my saving grace- was switching from a Word processor to Scrivener. Since disorganization seemed to be a leading cause of my writing woes, I thought the freedom provided by Scrivener's setup would be a great tool. I loaded in my first two, unfinished attempts to write Glass & Cinders into a project file, pulled up the plot lines, and started working on my next attempt. Unfortunately, it turns out Scrivener gave me too much freedom and now it's a junk pile of scenes I need, scenes I don't need, and the beginnings of three separate attempts at a story line. Trust me, it's not pretty.
So I did the only thing that's ever worked for me. I started printing out a hard copy. Sifting through the jumble of scenes I knew I wanted, I just started printing them all and rearranging them as needed into a folder. And you know what? It was easy. I couldn't believe how easy it was. In just over four days, I was able to compile almost the entire back story of my main character into some semblance of order, something I spent weeks, maybe even months, trying to do on the computer. I've been breaking my back writing out a load of backstory for flashbacks that I have hated writing with the core of my being and I realize now it's because I'd already written this content TWICE with my previous attempts. No wonder I was sick of it!
This was the Opening of the Floodgates moment. Looking through everything in my project folder, I realized just how much I have actually done with this story and that led me to some pretty awesome and encouraging conclusions:
- The project I thought would be 'write another 100k and done!' actually had a fairly boring story. Instead of 'finishing' an 'easy' project, like I thought, I wound up creating an entirely new project from its ashes, with the addition of multiple POVs and several completely new characters, story lines, research, layers, and aspects. It's also probably the most magnificent thing I've ever written.
- I might not have a finished draft, but I've recognized and resolved major issues through the outlining stage that will save me massive rewrites/lots of time.
- I've also built an entire new world from scratch with a complicated magic system and back story that, frankly, blows my mind, so I hope it will eventually blow readers' minds, too
- Over the past two years, even though I don't have anything reader-worthy yet, I think it's safe to say I've done the equivalent of three drafts.
- For the past two years, I have begun considering myself a failure as a writer because I have trained myself to think of success in draft numbers and word count. Now I know that writing is so much more than just that. The key is to remind myself every once in a while.
This year, I'm not falling into that 'push the project to get the word count' trap. Don't get me wrong, that has worked wonders on past projects. NaNoWriMo is solely responsible for imbuing in me the discipline and motivation to write at least 2k a day for years. Only recently have I fallen off that wagon, but this isn't the time to get back on.
I'm not shooting for a big word count. That's not my goal this year. I'm not that interested in having to separate the chaff from the wheat when Camp ends, because I've already done that enough with this project.
My goal is to make good progress on what I've already got. I've set myself a relatively small word count of 15k. Since my schedule currently allows me to write only every other day, I might be hard pressed to get even this without losing losing focus, but I crave a challenge. I want Camp to push me harder, but I also want it to push me effectively.
And by big stuff, I mean the writing of the official first draft.
By big stuff, I mean the beginning of the end of this beautiful, frustrating behemoth.
I'm not predicting I'll have that draft finished during Camp NaNo. I'm not even predicting how much I'll finish this month. I have no idea when this draft will reach completion. I have become something of my own worst enemy, setting myself up with lofty goals, only to continually fail of late to reach them.
I'm going to stop pressuring myself to finish.
What I promise myself right now is that I will write and I will continue to write past any new hurdles and struggles that come my way. I will make headway, every day, every week. I'm going to take this one step at a time, until I'm back on my feet again.
So do me a favor? Cross your fingers, wish me luck, and maybe randomly tell me "I BELIEVE IN YOU. YOU CAN DO IT." at intervals throughout April. ^_^
Are you participating in Camp NaNo?
Any writing pains experiences you want to share?
Any writing pains experiences you want to share?