I’m trying out a new section of my blog called “Writing Stories,” where I’m going to let you in to how my writing process works. Last time I talked about preparing for Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, and the struggles of brainstorming in a way that was both disciplined and spontaneous. Well, I finished October on a strong note, having written 26 pages of notes and decided that I was going to tackle the end of Sylvie's arc (3 chapters) in The Originals (sequel to The Changelings), and, if that didn't take up enough words, the middle section of Company. With that in mind, I sat down to write...
Friday, November 1, 2019
I pull up my computer and stare at my blank computer screen. I shouldn’t be scared, because I’ve done this a million times, but I can’t seem to start. It’s late in the evening, around 7:00 PM, and my room is a mess. I’m still tired from Halloween, I’m thinking of how baby-sitting my nephews on Saturday is going to cut into my writing time, I’m thinking about how I’m going to finish these chapters.
Even if I ignore all the stuff on Company, even if I just focus on three chapters of The Originals, it seems impossible. I’m supposed to supposed to write structured scenes. I’m supposed to be in the moment. Which moment? There’s a million of them? I don’t want to re-write what I already have—but I can’t remember what I have. Should I re-read everything? It seems overwhelming.
I decide to take a bath.
It doesn’t matter, I tell myself as I slip under the warm water, if anything I write is good, because it’s still early. I need to get into my character’s mind. Sylvie’s mind. She’s come back from a long journey. How is she feeling? What is she seeing? I know the town is called Pearblossom now. I can start to describe it. If it all comes in bits and pieces, who cares? I can weave it together later.
Earlier I was talking to my friend on the phone, talking about an idea I had for the end of my story during the brainstorming session. It was simple, it was logical, it made sense--and I hated it. Because it seemed so obvious. Because it didn’t come to me in a flash of brilliance. That’s part of the problem I have: I get too caught up in being brilliant, original, exciting, surprising. It ends up becoming a complicated, tangled mess, and then I have to throw half of it away.
That’s like what I feel now. It has to be “good.” That’s what throws me off. Once I let go of expectations, the writing comes easily. I know this. I just have to let go.
Earlier this summer, I wrote a little over 33,000 words in 8 days working on a new story called Girls and Monsters. What was the secret to my success? It was fun. I enjoyed writing it. Honestly, I felt sort of naughty, like I was indulging in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Tee hee hee. Look at me spending all this time immersed in my own little world. What a luxury. How many people get to do this? Yet here I am, flagrantly imagining in the middle of the day.
That’s how I need to be thinking now.
I’ve put in the work. I spent all October brainstorming. Later on, I’ll put in even more work into editing. But right now, here in November--this is playing. I get to play around in my world. It is my job to indulge in every detail, every emotion, every dramatic conversation. It feels wrong. It feels like I shouldn’t be spending so much time having fun. I should be productive, damn it! But right now, the most productive thing I can do is to have fun.
I finish my bath. Dry off. Get in my pajamas.
Words written today: 4340
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Sunday, November 3, 2019
I pull up my computer and stare at my blank screen. Oh, boy, here we go again.
My room is clean. I’ve spent all day cleaning it, washing my sheets, prepping meals for the week, washing dishes, and baby-sitting my nephews. Sunday is a supposed to be a day off, you say? Ha! You lie. At any rate, it’s once again 7:00 PM and I’m once again starting Nanowrimo late.
Worse still, I didn’t even write on Saturday. I ended up watching SNL videos on YouTube until 2:00 AM. Great job, Becky! Productive use of time. Nevermind, though. Guilt isn’t helpful. Push it away. At least you wrote those 4000 words on Friday. You haven’t fallen behind.
But were any of those 4000 words good?
Don’t know. Doesn’t matter.
Yes, it does. At some point, I’ll have to stop writing nonsense and actually start writing something good, won’t I?
For crying out loud, did we learn nothing from Friday? Expectations are bad! Fun is good! Look, go take a bath again, and don’t come out until you’re ready to play. What do you want to write about? What sounds fun?
Well, I left off last time with Sylvie falling asleep. Maybe I can write about her waking up.
Seriously? That’s fun to you.
A million interesting things, and that’s what you go with? Fine. Get out of the bath, get in your pajamas, and start writing, then. Yeah, go ahead and describe her dream. You know you’re going to cut that. What is the point of writing any of this?
You said to have fun.
How on earth is any of this fun?
Remember how you took Tyson to the park earlier today? He was getting crazy in the house, so you took him outside to burn off his energy, and when it came time for him to play, what did he do? He spent at least five minutes sticking mushrooms into anthills and watching the ants go crazy, because that was fun for him. And the dirty little secret is--that was fun for you, too. Let’s face it, you may think of playing as running and screaming, but you spent a lot of your play time burying rocks in the sand and picking flowers. Not everything fun is exciting, and not everything exciting is fun.
Fine. Point made.
Good. Now shut up and let me get my word count in.
Words written today: 2411
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Monday, November 4, 2019
So here’s how my day went: not great, not terrible. I wrote during the mid-afternoon which is not the best time for me, and so my writing was even less interesting than before. The plot started to kick in. I poked and prodded at it, trying to figure out an important conversation, but it wasn’t quite clicking. The main revelation was written earlier, but the transitions are bugging me. How do you go from “So how are you doing?” to “We’ve figured it out!” How does Sylvie react to it? And then how do I go from that bombshell to the next section. And, um, what is the next section, please? Are we finally going into the town? When do we meet the Gryphons? Goodness, there’s a ton to get done in this chapter, and I’ve barely even gotten started.
There’s a part of my brain that kicks in when I’ve got too much information and it tries to organize it, and this is happening now. Now that I’m nearly to 10,000 words (and barely into the first chapter), I need to start making decisions and sorting things out. I wonder if I should spend part of tomorrow re-writing/ organizing my words. I might want to start re-reading stuff and at least thinking about how to solve these problems.
Really odd how quickly my brain changes track. It twists from one form of thinking (creative, emotional, imaginative) to another (logical, organized, problem-solving) on a dime. I’ve gone from needing to play to… yeah, I need to start making decisions now. These decisions will determine how I write these next scenes. I need get events into the proper order.
Words written today: 1803
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Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Writing went all right. I played around with the town and Sylvie’s feelings as she walked. And that went fine, although, as far as finishing chapters, I haven’t seem to have gotten that far. It’s a bit frustrating that the first week is almost over and though the actual words are flowing, I’m not accomplishing as much as I thought. Three chapters should not take so long.
But they are. Maybe because I’m taking my time, enjoying myself. I mean, I’m still making progress. It’s not like I’m getting nothing done, it’s just been taking time to work out the details.
In fairness, I did go back and re-read my old writing and the new stuff I wrote for Nanowrimo. Later, as I was working on the scene, having Sylvie wander to the hill, it occurred to me that I should switch the order of two major scenes. That one little switch will throw off the organization of the chapter.
So maybe there’s a reason to spend more time and proceed with caution. Better I take more time and get it right than to rush and throw away everything I’ve written.
Words written today: 2025
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019
I worked today in the morning and in the afternoon. If I have more time, maybe I’ll write some more. I took a walk to start off, and I thought about a different scene, where Brooke decides to enact justice. This, for some reason, got me writing about the setting and the political situation. It was nothing coherent, but I did get a better idea of the setting details, and I feel more grounded. I’m still frustrated that I’m all over the place, but, oh well.
Words written today: 2095
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Thursday, November 7, 2019
The other day, I was thinking if I was worthy to write. I don’t often think about it. It’s sort of like asking if you’re worthy of eating. Or worthy of making dinner. It’s just an activity, and a neutral one at that.
But is it really neutral? I mean, if my dream ever came true and I was this famous author who had written classic books, then what I said would echo throughout the generations. Am I worthy for that? Am I worthy of my dream? That’s a question people don’t really ask themselves—or maybe they do and the answer scares them. Am I good enough for my dream?
For me, the idea of “good enough” typically refers to my skills and abilities. Is my writing good enough? But I’ve been watching The Good Place a lot and thinking about morality. Does it matter if I’m a morally good person?
On the one hand, writing is the expression of an individual, so perhaps it’s less a question of, “Is this person worthy to represent us?” than, “Well, here’s what comes out of my brain, and now you have the experience of looking through life from a different perspective.” It’s not about finding the ultimate truth or anything. It’s more like talking to a really good friend and listening to their life experiences.
That said, isn’t it better to hang around friends who are good influences? I create characters who are better than me in some area, so I can learn from them. Writing is an act of meditation, I suppose. A reflective experience.
Am I a good person?
It’s not something I think about much, but maybe I should. What should I do to be a better person, to put good into the world? What are actions, big and small, that I should be trying to do?
So that ended up being some of my random thoughts, but now I’ve still got my story to write. It’s weird that I am managing to get huge word counts, get great and needed information, and still be going way too slow. Oh well. I’m just going to be patient with my process.
Well, holy cow, what a day.
Today, I actually got part of a scene done. It wasn’t a scene I thought I would write, but I did end up introducing Sylvie to the Gryphons. This new scene helped with their relationship, forced me to think about what had been happening with the Gryphons since the last time I saw them, and foreshadowed several other events. In other words, tons of set-up. But that set-up is finally starting to manifest as an actual scene.
This week I’ve averaged 2300 words a day, finishing these seven days with over 16,000 words. That… actually seems about right for me. All this work and I still just have half a chapter. And not even a finished half a chapter. I have thirty pages of information, I need to edit down into about 15 pages and I have no idea how I’m going to do it. Sigh.
And that’s the end of Week 1. How do I feel? I went from scared to kind of… nonchalant, I guess. It’s a process of gradually caring less about expectations and just being happy to get something done.
Words written today: 3739
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.