writing update! work your process


the artist at work

I’m simultaneously in between and in the middle of projects at the moment! The rough draft of my western fantasy (fantasy western?) is still smoldering in a heap on my hard drive. I’m going to let it cool a while longer before I dare peek under the covers.

This is the self-esteem-shattering stage at which everything is terrible and all my decisions were wrong. But I know there’s something good inside all that rough draft. I just need to smooth it out. I’m distracting myself by making notes for the next project, which has been nagging at me for a couple of months now. I resisted the siren call of New Project and steadfastly finished the Current Project first, but now my keyboard is free!

By the way, the New Project is always glorious and the Current Project is always trash. The trick is getting to the point where the Past Project is good enough.

Every book I finish teaches me some lessons and brings to light areas to work on and areas I’m fine on. It is more and more apparent that I am a hopeless outliner. The more I outline in advance (the plot beats, the character arcs, the vital drama scenes) the more I can just focus on the writing itself as I move through the outline. And the less I’ll have to edit structurally when I hit the 3/4 mark, encounter my vague “move the plot along here” chapter notes, and realize that in order to make the third act work I have to completely rewrite the first act. Infuriating!! Past self, why do you always betray me like this??

This is even more important now that I’m writing in fits and starts. I wrote most of the 2016 book before my baby was sleeping through the night. I was a mess of jangly nerves, writing scenes during naptime, during 20-minute bursts while he was playing, and during the zonked out hour after he fell asleep and before I could no longer force my eyes to stay open. I wrote on laptops, in notebooks, by email. Sometimes it felt like I was wildly stringing words together, and if there hadn’t been an outline I wouldn’t have remembered day to day what even happened in the last chapter because I was too tired.

When you only have an hour or so free, you don’t have time to hem and haw and dawdle rereading what you did the day before. You go forward forward forward or not at all. So in that respect, the baby has really forced me to stop procrastinating and I draft much faster in terms of word-per-minute than I did before. Even if those minutes are stretched across two more months than usual.

Hence my worries that I’ll open that rough draft and discover it is incoherent lunacy. But I think I did okay!

So. The next one. I don’t know how this happened, but over the course of only a week I outlined the entire thing down to the chapter level, including chapter transitions. I’m super suspicious. It’s never all done in advance. Something must be wrong that I won’t discover till I’m in the middle of it. It can’t possibly be that I know what I’m doing now.

Next up: the horrific tooth-pulling process that is picking out character names.