WIP Marathon February Check-In

A few days late. Fashionable, right?

These Falmouth clouds mean business.
Last Report WC For WIP:

59,988 on my WIP, SAPPHIRA RISING.

Current Report WC For WIP:

About 75k for SAPPHIRA RISING, 1,297 for New Story A I just started, and 2,384 for New Story B. I have never written simultaneous novel first drafts before. This should tell you something. (See below).

Writing Issues This Month:

I deleted and I wrote, and I wrestled. I had some amazing (for me) word count days: 4,234 one day, 6,043 another, 5,000 another. I’m really proud of the fact that despite how I’ve struggled with this manuscript like no other, the words came out like water from a faucet. It’s just… they weren’t grabbing me. I loved some of the character ideas and worldbuilding and backstory, but I didn’t feel this pulsing NEED to be in my chair writing it, like I did with my first three manuscripts.

I’m still in love with the initial idea, but the words all felt flat. Usually first drafts are the hardest for me, but I felt like I might as well just take a box of letters and toss them into the air and type out whatever landed and I’d have as deep an emotional connection to it.

Bill Bear, moral support on writing trips.
Bill Bear, moral support on writing trips.

So, I did some soul searching, some crying (and moaning to my lovely CPs) and more crying, and yes, I prayed about this hot mess. Lo and behold, the day after I basically surrendered the story, and writing in general — not given up, mind you, just *surrendered* … as in, if this is not what I should be doing, I’m all ears — the next day, I sat down with a notebook and a pen and told my husband to not let me leave my office until I’d written 5 full pages of brainstorming notes.

He didn’t hold me to that, but he didn’t need to. I wrote three pages, and that was enough to ignite me again. I had a shiny new idea — for New Story A. And I’m super excited about it. But I *also* managed to tease out what I didn’t like about SAPPHIRA, what wasn’t working, and I rewrote the entire prologue and backstory. And now I feel like a new person.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Out of that 75k, there are lots of ideas and snippets of dialogue that are salvageable, but I have to face the facts that it was all an exercise in finding the story.

You can't go wrong with the hot chocolate at Gylly Cafe.
You can’t go wrong with the hot chocolate at Gylly Cafe.

I’m a hybrid plotter/pantser through and through. Diana Gabaldon says she doesn’t write in a straight line. She writes what she sees happening, scenes and dialogue that come to her, and figures out where to slot them in as she goes. She does a truckload of research, of course, and this probably feeds into those somewhere-scenes, but I admire her for that. She’s not tied down to must create this in the order it is told on the page.

And why should we be? Maybe some people can ONLY work that way and that’s absolutely fine! But it’s so freeing to see, in practical terms, that this might be how I work best, too. Films are made that way, so why not books? Whatever scene can be practically shot next, whatever makes sense for the production crew and makeup and costume and locations and weather and everything else. So of COURSE books can be written the same way. It seems so simple, now that I’ve experienced it, and it gives me a kind of freedom I hadn’t expected.

All that to say, this is my first experience of writing so many words that I’m not keeping. I’ll open two Scrivener windows and as I go, see what bits I can save, but this isn’t about editing those 75k. It’s a fresh start. That’s really hard for an impatient person like me who feels like she’s been waiting a hundred years to find her agent and publisher and see a book of hers on a shelf. But that emotional connection is so critical. And I’m grateful to have found it!

Things I Learned About Writing This Month:

1) I can write more than one story at a time. In fact, switching gears actually seems to boost my creativity.

2) I can write short stories! At least, one! I took a Lit Reactor class with Richard Thomas and he managed to coax out of me my first ever completed short story! I used it as an exercise to flesh out backstory of a side plot in A SIGHT OF NEVERSEA, so it wasn’t completely new ideas, but it’s just over 4k and I’m stunned I managed to do it.

3) I learned that I can edit like a BOSS. While I was doing all this writing this month, I also managed to cut … wait for it … 5,000 words from one manuscript, and close to 4,000 from another. And that wasn’t cutting “unnecessary side plots” because I don’t think I have any of those left. That was cutting redundant phrases and adverbs. And wow. Does it make a difference.

4) Check out this post Chuck Wendig put up, if you haven’t already. He talks about simplicity in writing. It’s really perfect. But here are the highlights that spoke to me:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 7.21.51 pm Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 7.22.00 pm

What distracted me this month when writing:

The fun stuff: I got a new tattoo! My first in about 11 years. And my first not with my friend’s husband who’s an amazing artist in Nashville, TN.

The unfun stuff: not knowing if I should carry on. Doubting my ability and my voice, which is the worst thing to doubt because I’ve been writing for the best part of ten years, seriously, and to doubt the way my voice has grown through that time is really painful. My voice will never be for everyone. I just hope and pray that it might be for some. Also unfun was considering trashing SAPPHIRA and moving on, until I reread bits of Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, like this one which was incredibly apt:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 7.27.18 pm

Goals For Next Month

I’d like to say finish the first draft of SAPPHIRA RISING but due to stuff happening at the end of the month, that’ll be very hard. I would be happy with 10k a week on SAPPHIRA and 5k a week on New Story A. And go from there.

I hope my fellow #WIPMarathon-ers had a successful February! Onwards and upwards!

Facing toward Swanpool in Falmouth.
Facing toward Swanpool in Falmouth.
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5 thoughts on “WIP Marathon February Check-In

  1. Those really were some great word count days!

    Those really were some great word count days! I totally know how you feel. I’ve run myself ragged trying to figure problems out. I’m so glad you found that connection. It really is so important, and it makes such a huge difference when we have it.

    I also recently ran into a brick wall of doubt. But our voices are what make us stand out from everyone else. 🙂

    I totally highlighted that part of Big Magic, too! Best wishes on your projects! I’m still figuring out how to multitask like that. 😀

    1. It’s always encouraging to know we’re not alone in the periods of struggle. When I read your post, I kept thinking, yes. There’s something in the air! 😉 And yes, re: voice. I have to keep reminding myself that. They say to write what you would want to read, and write what you’re passionate about, in your voice. That’s what I’ve done, and I have to trust to that, regardless of the market and what people are or aren’t “looking for” right now (ie what they are confident they personally have the ability to sell).

      Haha! BIG MAGIC is SO good. I’m rereading it less than a month after I read it the first time! And I don’t by any means think I’ve got multi-tasking figured out. I’m actually trying to single-task. 2 hours or something on one story, and pretend nothing else in the world exists. Then shift gears after a break to the other story. I’ll see how it goes…. 🙂

  2. Yay, I’m glad to hear you were able to get your writing mojo back! Sometimes just stepping back and brainstorming/daydreaming until you find a solution is the best option.

    I actually write out of order at least half the time (or write several chapters at once). I’m a hybrid plotser too, and I sometimes find juggling projects helps my creativity. Probably because my brain’s too occupied to stress too much. Lol.

    Big Magic is soooo good! I need to print quotes from it to put on my desk.

  3. Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC sounds like a really good book! I also like what you posted last month about she saying that it is people who stand on the getaway of our dreams and it is all about the timing, so we just have to keep being persistent!

    Glad that God answered your prayer about your old draft pretty quickly and blessed you with muses that fired you up! Hope starting over goes pretty well for you this month!

    And thank you for sharing Chuck Wendig’s tweets. I’ve also noticed the same with the books I read, the simpler it is- in language, in plot, in motivation, the more I’m tuned into reading! Or maybe simplicity also ties in with pace, if a lot of simple things are happening at the same time, that could also be pretty hard to follow.

    And I’m pretty sure your work would appeal to people! Come to think of it, there are about 7 billion people in the world 😉

    Best of luck this month!

  4. Oh and there is definitely not one writing process that trumps all. I feel the harder we resist what works for us just because we think there’s a right way to do things, the harder it is for us to write.

    Looking forward to reading more updates! xoxo!!

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