Writing Challenge: Day 10

Today was awful: 727 words. I’m now 3602 words behind. After yesterdays 4901 words it’s a huge let down, but I also know I can do that, so it’s encouraging too? I guess?

My time was limited today: orthodontist appointment for my 9yo and then a meeting with his teacher ate up a big part of the day. But I also wasn’t really writing when I had the time. I did some re-reading (which is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do during a NaNo style writing session)  and I realized I’d forgotten a few things in the first 23k so I had to go back and add them in. It wasn’t a lot of words, but it took time to find the right spot, alter what needed to be done, and find the right words.

Anyway, tomorrow will be even worse. I have a meeting in the morning and a field trip in the afternoon. Maybe I just need a weekend away from everything to crank out some serious numbers to pad my total word count so these off days aren’t hurting my bottom line so much. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening.

Well, back to it tomorrow. Even if I only get 500 words out, it’s 500 I didn’t have when I woke up. You have to look on the bright side.

Status Sheet 10102017

Writing Challenge: Day 9

I had a good day today: 4901 words. Considering I had the three littles home today and swimming practice for one of the boys, that’s pretty good. Actually, that’s pretty damn good! I’m still 1587 in deficit, but considering I started the day 3736 words negative I can’t be unhappy with my progress.

I had planned to get up at 7am this morning and write since I knew having the boys home could really hamper my writing time. But when 7am rolled around I decided I would stay in bed, think about what I wanted to write today, and get a little more rest. Turns out this was an excellent decision.

The words flowed so much better today. Maybe it was that little bit of preparation I put in this morning, or maybe I’m just getting into the story more. Whatever it is I actually had a bit of that magical feeling when you write a scene you really love. Something that shows who your characters are in a deep way. It’s an amazing feeling.

So don’t be afraid to just think about your story. I like to do this while I’m going to sleep at night, when I’m driving long distances on a highway, folding laundry, or basically doing anything that allows me to think about the story and not ignore my family.

I have another busy week of field trips, doctor’s appointments and meetings, so hopefully I’ll be able to get in the appropriate writing time. With any luck the words will keep flowing like they did today!

Status Sheet 10092017

Writing Challenge: Day 8

I didn’t have a lot of time to write today so I only achieved 1919 words. I am 3746 in deficit. But, those were 1919 words I didn’t think I was going to get today, so I’m not too unhappy.

And instead I went to a pumpkin farm with 4 of my 5 kids and with friends and their kids. My son calls their son his long lost brother, so anything is worse getting those boys together!

Tomorrow is up in the air. I will write, but my boys have the day off school, so it could be limited. I am not afraid to use cartoons once in a while to get some writing time in and let’s be honest, I’m going to do that for part of the day. So we’ll see how much progress I make.

The good news is the words are starting to come more easily. The characters are beginning to form themselves in my mind and on the page. And isn’t it funny how you can do all the research, plotting, and character sketches you want, once the words appear on the page the characters sometimes have a life of their own. One of my main characters was supposed to be sweet and naive, but now she’s turning out a little snarky and kind of morose and morbid. Strangely, I’m kind of good with it. I like her better now.

Wish me luck! If I don’t catch up soon I’m going to get really frustrated, but right now trying to focus on the end game and the fact that I am making daily progress, even if it isn’t as big as I’d like.

Status Sheet 10082017

Writing Challenge: Day 7

So my 9yo came home from school talking about ‘opportunity costs’ the other day.  You know, the thing where you only have so much money or time for the things you want and you have to choose what is  most important or you want the most, and the opportunity cost of that is not getting the other thing you want.

For example: if your daughter who lives two hours away comes home for the weekend bringing her new boyfriend, the opportunity cost might be that you didn’t get to write very much on Saturday.

You guys.

I wrote 418 words.

I don’t regret it at all.

It’s not like I never get to see my daughter. It happens every couple of weeks and we talk on the phone. But this is where putting family first comes in. I don’t know how much work I will get done today because she’s s till here and all my boys are home. It’s the weekend. Yes, I can get words on the page, but time is going to be limited for that. And it’s an opportunity cost I’m willing to accept.

Doesn’t mean I”m not frustrated about it a little. I’d really like to catch up and stay on track with my goals. But we’re only on Day 7. I have plenty of time (and hopefully a life that’s a little calmer and less chaotic) for the words to flow. Which of course is another problem. But I’ll handle it as it comes.

As writers, we have to accept opportunity costs all the time. If you have an 8hr/day job 5 days/week, we have an obligation to show up at a certain times. But if you’re a creative who sets their own hours, we have to decide when to create and what we’re willing to give up to do that.

Status Sheet 10072017

Writing Challenge: Day 6

I wrote 3333 words on Day 6, exceeding my daily goal of 2742, but I’m still 599 behind on my total word count goal. I really wanted to make up the entire 1190 word deficit, but at 9pm I still had a thousand words to go and a few hundred  is usually all I can achieve that late at night (with the TV on!)

The dedicated writer would have been writing alone in their bedroom where their writing desk is. I probably could have pumped out a thousand words last night if I’d done that, but I need to see my husband for a little bit too. Even if he’s watching TV and I’m trying (and failing) to write, at least we’re in the same room and able to talk to each other.

If we are ignoring our relationships to write, that might be a problem. Everyone is different and I realize some writers feel the need to seclude themselves from other people and other distractions while they work, but for many of us that’s only not impossible, it’s not healthy.

We all have to make the best decisions for our writing, our loved ones, and our own mental health, and I can get so focused on my work that I do neglect relationships. But I know that isn’t the kind of writer I want to be. My husband and my kids are the most important part of my life, even if I sometimes let my writing creep into first place. So I have to re-evaluate my schedule and make sure that I have time for all of the people and things that I love.

Status Sheet 10062017

Writing Challenge: Day 5

I’m 1190 words behind!!!!!

Okay, this is the first day that I’m actually irritated about this. Even though it was unavoidable. I spent the first half of the day taking my 9yo to the doctor’s office so that meant I only had 2 1/2 hours to actually write in the afternoon. I had a little bit of time after the boys were in bed, but my husband had the TV on (Will & Grace!!) which is not conducive to a productive atmosphere. So I fell very short of my goal, and even added onto the word count deficit.

And I’m finding it hard to get the words out no matter what. I read an article by John Scalzi about being a creative in the Trump-era, (view here) and it totally rings true: It’s hard! And Kaila Hale-Stern wrote a follow-up piece you can view here, so it’s not just one person’s opinion on this.

Now I’m not blaming all of my writing woes on Trump. There are several other reasons writing is difficult right now. But does his reign of terror and ignorance contribute to my overall drained ability to be positive and creative? Hell yes!

I know a lot of people have said that this time period will also generate a lot of socially aware art, and it will. I know I felt a renewed drive to create works of fiction that will impact teens in a positive way right after the election. But it will also be some of the most painfully difficult art to produce. Hopefully that will make it all the more important for future generations.

But it’s still hard as hell some days. So keep plugging away. We need to focus on the end game, not just daily goals.

Status Sheet 10052017

 

Writing Challenge: Day 4

I am behind 1060 words!!!

Buuut I’m okay with it.

So on my Day 3 post I talked about feeling like I “wasn’t in the groove” and that I wasn’t prepared. I knew that that feeling would haunt me making it difficult to fully focus on my writing if I didn’t do something about it, so yesterday I skipped my morning workout and cut into my writing time a bit to craft a backstory timeline and a rudimentary plot outline.

I actually feel relieved that it’s done! It’s going to make putting the words on the page so much easier. I could already tell during the little bit of actual words-on-the-page writing time I had yesterday that it was already working.

Having an outline (no matter how simple) helps me to focus on where I’m going and not worry so much about if I missed something important. It also helps that in order to make that outline I skimmed all my notes on this WIP, so when I came to a plot point I’d add it to the list with the page numbers where I talk about it! My notes are random, jotting down whatever I think when I think about it, so having page number references when I want to go over my original ideas about a certain plot point is phenomenal! Saves a lot of wasted time searching and missing information where I wrote about it on Page 89 of the notebook, but most of the notes are on Page 30-32.

Anyway, so despite losing a bunch of writing time yesterday, I’m excited to get back to it now (even though I lost the whole morning taking my son to the doctors!) Once again, I’m suspecting I won’t meet my goals, but strangely enough I’m still feeling really positive about this experience. My “failures” are unavoidable because like all of us I have a life to lead outside of my laptop, and they aren’t insurmountable either! I can catch up with a day or two of really focused writing. With an outline, I feel confident I can do that!

Staus Sheet 10042017

Writing Challenge: Day 3

Today I met my daily word count goal, but like yesterday, I did not recoup my total word count. I wrote 2751 words, but I have 119 words to catch up to my total goal. But just like yesterday, I’m not too concerned.

Status Sheet 10032017

I could have forced out those last 119 words if the word count was the only goal, but I ended at a point where I wasn’t perfectly sure what was going to happen next. And that for me is a problem.

Normally, when I write I am a planner. I know most of what is going to happen from the beginning to the end, which POV I’m going to write each scene from, and how it’s going to end. Before I start I will have done extensive research and end my research period right before I write an outline or start writing (I don’t always outline).

But with this novel I’ve been thinking about it, writing down plot ideas and character sketches since the end of 2015. I did a lot of research back then, taking notes and helping me to develop my plot.

But then life kind of got in the way. There were things I needed to give my attention to, and it is amazing how easy it is to fall out of the groove of a novel you have been working on, whether it’s the preparation or the actual writing.

So basically, I haven’t found my groove. This novel has a number of characters and a still undetermined number of POV characters. It has a timeline that stretches into backstory and through the novel itself with all these multiple characters so that I need to construct a reference timeline so I don’t screw up time references. And I have jotted down so many different things that need to happen and don’t actually know when they are going to happen. So I need an outline too.

And none of that has happened yet.

So I decided to stop for the day and work on some of the prep. Because I am feeling very anxious about not being prepared. I could keep pantsting this (if you can pantst something you’ve spent years thinking about). But I think I’ll feel better about writing if I’m not always anxious over what comes next. Maybe then I can concentrate on the chapter I’m in now, instead of worrying about the plot I haven’t figured out.

Which brings me to another good writing point. It’s okay to push yourself and write something that makes you uncomfortable, whether it’s the content of the story or the way you’re writing the story. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

But don’t be afraid to find your writing groove either. Your writing space, the method of writing, even the drink you have beside you while you draft, can be an important part of the writing experience. If something is impeding your productivity, go ahead and stop to adjust how you’re working. You’ll be more productive if you can fix the problem than if you continue to try and work around it.

Writing Challenge: Day 2

Today was a decent day. I met my daily writing goal, but didn’t completely make up for yesterday’s low count. I wrote 3431 words, but I’m still behind my pace by 128 words.

I’ve also decided to set up rewards for myself as I go. Maybe this seems a little childish, but I know it works for a lot of authors. Just getting that positive reinforcement, whether it’s a sticker or a candy bar, can be a solace at the end of a long hard day of writing.

For myself my first reward—and I have to not only meet my word count but make up for the words I’m behind—will be reading time. Moxie has been sitting on my shelf begging me to read it, but I knew I had to set up goals for reading or I’d spend all my time reading instead of writing.

Another goal I’m looking forward to is the time to paint my nails. For me the rewards aren’t just about stickers on a chart (though I’ve heard those work!) or momentary satisfaction like chocolate, but rather about time. I won’t allow myself to have the time to do small things I enjoy unless I’ve done my work for the day.

I could have slapped down another 128 words tonight, but I could tell I was done. I needed a break. And anything I wrote after that point I’d have to rewrite tomorrow. The number of words weren’t the most important part to me. I won’t write just to meet a goal. They have to be meaningful words.

Tomorrow I should have a full day to write so hopefully I’ll not only meet my daily goal, but make up for the words I’m behind!

Writing Challenge: Day 1

I will usually try to post my day’s writing experience on the day I worked, but as I was up until 10:30 pm last night and my husband was trying to sleep in the room where I write, I decided to hold it off until this morning.

Truth is, I did not meet my writing goals on the first day of my challenge. I am shooting for 2742 words/day to meet a 85,000 word count goal* and finish the novel, but I only achieved 1925. I’m behind by 817 words, bu I’m actually glad I failed to reach my goal.

Why am I glad? Because it gives me an opportunity to talk about goals, failing or achieving them, and how we talk to ourselves about it. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t achieve 2742 words yesterday. And here are my excuses:

  • I was really rusty. I haven’t written a first draft since February of 2015 and wringing those 1925 words out yesterday was really hard work.
  • It was a Sunday, so I had a limited amount of time without the family at home.
  • Starting anything new for me is a mental obstacle. I have to make myself feel prepared, so I organized my desk, made a spreadsheet to keep track of progress, made a novel template so every time I start a new novel it’s ready to go, and looked over a few notes before I began. I also sat there and stared at the computer for awhile because though I’ve known how this book was going to start since forever, I had a sudden brain bunny that said here are two more chapters to write before that first chapter. I may not use them, but I’m writing them anyway.

And you know what? Those excuses are okay. I wrote. It was hard, but I got words on the page. They may even be complete throw away words because I’m not positive I need them, but we’ll see. I’d rather write too much than too little to be honest.

The point here is, we all have things happening in our lives (and sometimes in our heads) that mean we can’t always meet that word count goal. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. I know that on a good day I can bust out 5k words, so having an off day doesn’t mean the challenge is scraped for me.

And if you’re a slower drafter, then don’t expect too much of yourself. Set yourself a challenge that is achievable, otherwise you will just get down on yourself. If you can only get out 500 words on a good day, don’t expect yourself to suddenly write 3k. If you prefer to edit as you go, then maybe the NaNo style of just get the words out isn’t for you.

Personally, I used to be an edit-as-you-go writer. Then I tried a NaNo style writing to just get the words out. I liked both to be honest. So I do a mix. Sometimes I have to reread what I’ve written to keep my head in the writing space it should be in. Sometimes I reread a whole chapter and edit a little to get myself ready for starting a new day. Sometimes I need to do a small bit of research to name a character or select a city or something that helps me move on. The word count doesn’t have to be the be-all of your writing unless you want it to be.

Allow yourself the room to breathe and fail. Failure is okay. Because if even at the end of a NaNo-style writing you have 30k words, or 25k words, or whatever you were able to achieve, you still have thousands of more words than when you started to begin with.

* My word count goal is arbitrary. I want to finish a novel in 31 days and I estimate I need 80k-90k to achieve that. If I use the median number of 85k that gives me 2742 words/day, but as long as I have a finished novel by the end of the 31 days, I don’t care what the word count is.