WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

I feel like I just wrote one of these posts and after visiting my blog for the first time in weeks I realize that it’s because I just did. I haven’t been blogging much and it’s partly because I haven’t had very much time but it’s also partly because I’m afraid of documenting my snail-pace progress for all the world to see and also of reading about all of the amazing things other people are accomplishing that I’m not. I guess you could say I’m in an intense state of hibernation these days working on this series but the strange thing is that the more I work on it, the more work there is to do. Every time I peel back a layer of disfunction there are two more hidden underneath and when I make a significant change to the plot I don’t just have to make sure it works within that particular novel, but I have to go back and weave it through three other books. I’m not sure what I expected. I knew writing a series wouldn’t be easy but I also didn’t anticipate that almost an entire year would go by before I published something post Breathing Ghosts. I know that writing them back to back was the right decision for me, especially since this is my first series, but eight months without putting anything new out into the world has definitely made me more gun-shy when it comes to this next project. Hence the hiding in shame.

But seeing as this monthly check-in is supposed to hold me accountable, I’ll be honest and share the fact that nothing much has changed since my last WIP Wednesday. Book 4 was supposed to FINALLY be complete this month but after several delays and going out of town last week that’s just not going to happen. Luckily it’s just awaiting some minor changes to the ending and one last copy edit before I can set it aside for good.

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As for the sequel, I’m slowly working my way through those revisions now. Tragedy struck for one of my beta readers and all of her notes were deleted and although (thankfully) she was willing to re-read the entire thing again, it set me back about two weeks and after going out of town I just haven’t had a chance to gain the momentum I really need to get through these changes.

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I was supposed to be editing the third book this week, but due to the aforementioned setback I won’t be getting to those revisions until next week.

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The almost good news is that I’ve still been making somewhat steady progress on the last novel in the series and just hit 41,000 words, which is just about halfway. The bad news is that my deadline is just two weeks away and there’s no way I’m going to meet it.

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But the real good news this month? On the drive back from my trip I had an epiphany about my NA Contemporary novel and when I re-write the entire thing from scratch this fall it might actually be interesting.

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I was tempted to delete this post instead of publish it but that wouldn’t exactly be fair. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery and I definitely have a problem focusing right now. But for the sake of my own sanity I can’t keep dwelling on all of the things I didn’t do this past month. In fact, let’s all just pretend like the month of May didn’t even happen. Let’s also pretend like it’s not my 23rd birthday this month and that, just like everyone else on the planet, I’m not immune to getting older.

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When Enough Is Enough

Writing Process

I had another good day today, on the verge of great, though I don’t want to jinx it. But for the first time in a long time I actually had to force myself to step away from the laptop. I reached 4,000 words in just five hours, something I don’t remember having ever done before and by the end of it I didn’t want to stop. Sure I was exhausted but in the midst of that mental strain was this strange euphoria. Almost like a runner’s high–which I would know absolutely nothing about because, well, screw that. But it was just the most encouraging fatigue, the kind that says, “I did something important.”

Maybe that was the real reason I didn’t want to stop writing, because every word that came out of me felt important. Not perfect and certainly not easy but important. I made some huge breakthroughs in the past couple of days and I really think I owe it to this commitment I’ve made to write without question and without doubt and fear. And I’m doing it and it feels amazing.

So then why did I force myself to step away?

Reason One: To Maintain Momentum

Some really great writing advice that I’ve never forgotten was to always finish the day right in the middle of something whether that be a scene or a conversation or a chapter. Nothing wards off writer’s block like being able to pick up the next day right where you left off. Because let’s face it. Isn’t that where most of us get stuck? Beginnings are hard and intimidating and for some reason that pressure is always the most crippling. Which is why so many of us never do. Instead we procrastinate and feel guilty and then we go eat our weight in peanut butter cups because once again we have failed to live up to our full potential which means that our stories will never live up to their full potential. But if we started each day knowing exactly where our story was heading, well then we’ve already won half the battle and all that’s left to do is keeping going.

Reason Two: To Avoid Burn out

4,000 words is A LOT! My sweet spot is closer to 2K a day but recently I’ve been stretching myself to reach a deadline and even though I’m making progress at lightning speed this pace also makes me much more susceptible to burn out. I’ve been burned out before, quite a few times actually, and the thing that frustrates me the most about it is how long it takes to recover. There is a natural ebb and flow to every creative process: a time to push ourselves and a time to rest. But when we have deadlines or obligations or when we feel ourselves being driven by guilt or greed it can be hard to make ourselves stop. But we have to. For our health, for our peace of mind, and for our relationships. Real life matters just as much as our dreams and if we neglect it for too long either those things will disappear or we will. Maybe both. So learn to disconnect when you have to and stop constantly living in anticipation of the future. It will actually make you more productive in the long run.

Reason Three: To Recuperate and Celebrate

Let me say it again: 4,000 words is A LOT! And we all have our limits, that word count we’re all stretching ourselves toward. Some of you might not bat an eye at anything under 5K and some of might struggle just to reach 1. But the point is, when we actually manage to meet those goals, our first thought should not constantly be, “Okay, now a thousand more.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to push ourselves in a healthy, constructive way. But the mentality of never being satisfied is a toxic one, especially for Creatives. Instead we should celebrate our victories and we should learn to take a moment and take pride in our accomplishments. As writers we are the workhorse, we are the machine and we need the proper maintenance to continue functioning at optimal level. This means taking care of our health mentally, physically, and spiritually but in essence what it all boils down to is being kind to ourselves. And part of being kind to ourselves is acknowledging that our best is enough. That the work we do is enough. That we are enough. So celebrate your hard work because regardless of how big or how small, how much or how little, as long as it is your best then it is absolutely enough.

WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

NaNoWriMo is finally over and you’d think that I’d be hibernating somewhere or nursing a four-week-long hangover but alas I’m hard at work on revisions and hoping to carry all of that great juju into December.

First up, I started the millionth round of revisions on book 4. You’ll notice my fancy progress meter says I’m chipping away at the fourth draft but it’s a liar. I have re-worked this novel so many times that I’m beginning to despise it much sooner than usual, which is not good. But, luckily, then a beta reader will send me a really awesome email and I decide that I can stand it for a bit longer. Speaking of which, I know I’ve made this plea several times before and will probably make it again in the future, but if anyone out there wants to swap YA or NA projects at the end of this month let me know!

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After this round of revisions for book 4 are complete, I’ll be revising its sequel, which was also my Nano project. I came in just 6K shy of my goal but I still ended up with almost an 80,000 word manuscript which will be such fun to rip apart this month! And that is only me being partly sarcastic. Depending on my mood, sometimes actually having something to work with is such a relief. Other times it can be like sifting through muck. Muck filled with needles and…concrete. You get the picture. I just hope I’m in the ripping apart and stitching back together kind of mood or else this month will be hell.

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And speaking of hell I’ll be starting TWO new novels this month. Yes, I said two. I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea. I’ve never worked on more than one first draft at a time. But, despite my schedule already being set in stone, I got this idea a few nights ago and every time I think about it, I get this strange sick happy feeling that it could be…the one. So I’ve decided to give myself some time to explore it a little more and see how it goes.

But I’m not pushing myself to the brink of insanity for naught. This will probably sound strange, but I have this wonderfully terrifying feeling about 2014. Like maybe it’s supposed to be mine. My year to finally discover a way to do this whole writing thing for real. And while I’m planning to write until my hands are numb in a desperate attempt to chase down whatever success might be waiting for me, there is also a tiny part of me that is afraid. Not of failing, my dreams slipping through my fingers yet again, but of them actually coming true. Because sooner or later, I know they will.

Writing Amnesia

Writing Process

…is truly a Godsend. I’m not sure if anyone else has ever experienced this, but every time I look back over a manuscript, I have this faint inclination that I wrote it, but I’m never certain. I read words that I no doubt spent hours agonizing over and yet I can never remember how exactly they got there.

It’s creepy and sometimes a little terrifying. But it’s almost as if my brain has learned to repress the parts of writing that feed into that tortured artist stereotype. You know the writer’s block, the starting over, the getting stuck, the doubt, the self-loathing. These adversaries are ever-present regardless of how many books you’ve written and they’re enough to stop a novice writer in their tracks.

And yet my brain has figured out a way to combat them, temporarily and only in retrospect of course, but whatever slate gets wiped clean between the writing of each novel, it’s my secret to never giving up. Because no matter how hard writing is in that moment, the reason I’m always able to start over is because I don’t dwell on those things. Without the memories, I can’t.

Instead, every time I start something new, sure I have anxiety, but I know I’ve done it before. And even though I can’t quite remember how, I have faith. So that’s what I operate on. When I’m staring at that blank page, wondering how I’m ever going to fill it with something worth reading, I take a deep breath and just start typing. If I’ve figured it out before, I will again. I always do. That’s my personal mantra. Besides, the how is never all that important anyway. We know there are no formulas for creating art. The process is always changing and so are we.

But as long as I know finishing is an inevitability and as long as I type every word with total faith that eventually they’ll all add up to something important, then they’ll do just that.

Coming Up For Air

Mental Health, Writing Process

I’ve been heads down on book 4 for the past eight weeks. It’s shorter than my other books, a different genre and category too, but still I’ve never finished the first draft of something this quickly. I still have some loose ends to tie up before I can abandon this draft for a while and work on the 4th draft of book 3 but I’m so close. My brain knows it and my body definitely knows it. I came into this weekend feeling drained and tired and numb. Not just because I’ve been writing like crazy but because of the reason why I’ve been writing like crazy.

I’m the kind of person who hates asking for help. I hate inconveniencing people and even more than that I hate feeling like I owe people. But recently some people in my life have stepped up and offered to help me financially so that I can try and turn this whole writing thing into an actual career. I haven’t made a decision yet on whether or not I’ll take them up on that offer. But even so that feeling of responsibility still weighs heavy on me. And honestly, it always has.

I don’t just work so hard for me. I do it for my family; for the people I care about. That’s why I write every day. Even when I’m tired. Even when I’d rather be doing something else. I’m trying to build up my backlist in hopes that one day one of my books will take off, that it will entice people to buy the others, that I’ll be able to make a comfortable living doing what I love so that I and the people I care about won’t have to struggle anymore. Because that’s what these last three years have been since my father passed away—an emotional, financial, spiritual struggle that I’m still battling on a daily basis.

But what if I could change all of that? If I just keep pushing, exhausting myself, worrying myself sick, what if all of that hard work pays off? I can sacrifice my sanity for a little while longer can’t I? These are the things that keep me up at night. Especially when I realize that I’ve lived in Florida for a year and a half and I haven’t really seen any of it. I’ve only been to the beach a handful of times. I haven’t done any of the normal touristy things people do here. I haven’t made any meaningful connections with anyone new. I’ve been sleeping here and going to work here and hiding in my apartment on the weekends writing, but I haven’t really lived here.

So I’ve felt stuck. Because what’s more important—my responsibility to my future or my responsibility to my present? The here and now vs. the what could be.

I went to the beach for the first time in almost a year this weekend and while I was just wading there, feet barely skimming the sand, I realized that the answer is both.  It’s possible to suspend yourself in that illusory place between the present and the future without losing your mind. It’s possible to stay tethered to your goals even when you decide that you need a break. And I did. I needed a break. So I took one and even though I can feel that guilt just below the surface, I’m going to ignore it. I’m going to loosen my grip on the future and I’m going to let myself breathe.