After struggling with my writing for the last six months, I've come to the conclusion that even though I learned a few useful things from First Draft in 30 Days, overall it's done me a great deal more harm than good.

And this is why... )

So I'm getting off the wordcount bandwagon. From now on, my only goal is to write for at least two hours every day, and quit when I'm reasonably satisfied with what I've got, whether it's 1000 words or 500 or only 50. After all, despite what all the efficiency experts say, it's always worked for me before. I wrote my first novel There Came a Traveller (120K) in six months, the first version of Knife (85K) in eight months, and the original Darkness and Light trilogy (110K) in about a year (including the gaps between, when I wasn't even sure there would be another story let alone how long it would be). To me that proves that even if I'm "wasting" a lot of effort polishing paragraphs and scenes to a high gloss only to throw them out on the next revision, it can't be holding me back that much. So forget other people's ideas of efficiency, I'm going back to what works for me.

And there's one thing I've really been missing, the thing that has always kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep writing when I'd otherwise be tempted to slack off or quit -- but I'll save that for tomorrow's post.

Ups and Downs

May. 3rd, 2007 09:15 am
rj_anderson: (Hornblower - Still Searching)
In spite of all yesterday's triumphs, I got very little actual writing done -- my count now stands at 52,069 instead of the projected 56,000. However, I decided that being totally wiped out from my weekend speaking and singing at a women's conference (about which I still have to blog), and having reached my April goal of 50,000 words, entitled me to take a couple of days off. I'll try to get at least another 1000 words written today, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't get my fuzzy brain to stretch beyond that. As long as I'm still moving forward...

I do miss the FDE crowd from [livejournal.com profile] jmprince's journal, though. Without a daily thread to report to, and that little train to remind me I'm not alone, it feels awfully lonely out here in First Draft Land.
I am proud to announce that during the month of April I did, indeed, achieve my goal:

50,000 words.

How I did it )

Anyway, I still have about 25K to write, but I have definitely hit the home stretch and I'm very happy with my progress. My goals for May are to keep writing my 2000 words a day until I finish Touching Indigo, then put that first draft away for 4-6 weeks while I query some more agents and get started on the preliminary work for the next book. Then I'll either write the first draft of that novel or I'll revise Indigo, whichever seems most sensible at the time...

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jmprince and all the others who joined me on the Fast Draft Express! And I wish you all the best as you start on the next phase of your own projects!

Indigo Update

Apr. 25th, 2007 11:39 am
rj_anderson: (Touching Indigo - Thea)
Hit the 40,000 word mark last night. More than halfway there!

The problem with writing a first draft in just over a month is that while it's very useful for reassuring you that the story does, in fact, hang together, there is a certain discouraging aspect of turning out substandard prose day after day after day.

I keep thinking wistfully that if I could just write one really good -- not perfect, but good -- scene, something that makes me feel happy and proud to have written it... but there are no such scenes in the book, not yet. No time for polishing at this stage, no chance to go back and verify that the pacing's right and the emotions ring true and the mood is consistent, none of the things that elevate a novel from Action to Story. As Laurie King put it in her recent blog entry on revision (which is excellent by the way, and well worth reading), the first draft is really more like a 300-page outline. And useful as they may be, nobody really wants to read an outline.

So here I go again, off to the sausage grinder, squishing out words. Yay?

Hey, lookit!

Apr. 4th, 2007 09:44 pm
rj_anderson: (Touching Indigo - Thea)
Today's Word Count: 3600.

O_O

I can't shake the suspicion that the story is really boring so far (I'm not used to writing psychological drama -- I keep thinking something ought to explode), but wowzers.

Will hang onto that happy feeling for the next 45 minutes, as I suspect I'm going to need it to get through this week's House.
Crossposting from a comment on [livejournal.com profile] jmprince's Fast Draft Express thread:

Well, I've done three days' worth now and exceeded my total every day. Today was harder than the last two days since I was breaking new ground -- but I managed to exceed my quota by fifty words even so. My total now stands at 6690, hooray!

Unfortunately, I forgot about the Easter weekend, which is likely to screw up my quota like whoa unless I can grab some extra writing time between now and then. And I have a few other obligations coming up that are going to make things a little difficult. But I think I should be able to stay on track if I just discipline myself.

I've found a neat trick for preventing myself wasting time online: I can check my e-mail and read LiveJournal and forums if I like, but only during non-writing hours, and I am NOT ALLOWED TO SIT DOWN when I do it. That forces me to keep my computer time brief, because it's really not very comfortable bending over a keyboard from a standing position! And less time spent on random browsing means that I'm more mentally fresh when I finally sit down to write again.

My biggest challenge right now is not stopping my writing to do research. I have yet to master the skill of leaving myself little notes that say "[INSERT PLAUSIBLE-SOUNDING PSYCHOBABBLE/TECHNOBABBLE HERE]" instead of trying to figure out the logistics of the psychobabble or technobabble and squandering my writing time.

But all that is as nothing compared to my deep and abiding love for Martha Jones. Seriously, after seeing the Doctor Who season premiere I am totally amped for the rest of S3. Spoilers ) This is more like it, I say. Not that I hated Rose (well, S2 Rose was pretty annoying at times, but then so was Ten in S2), but she was a bit pathetic at times.

Come back, RTD, all is forgiven. This week, anyway.
Today's Word Count: 2726/2000

That's including a few paragraphs cut and pasted from stuff I'd written earlier, but I made a point of writing 2000 new words today and I'm quite happy with that.

I've joined a group of Fast Drafters setting their own goals, and I think my aims are more realistic now: 2000 words a day, six days out of seven. That should give me 60,000 words by the end of the month -- not quite a full draft yet, but definitely a big chunk of it. And writing at this speed feels more natural and comfortable than the 20 pages a day required by the original Fast Draft method -- I really tried hard to make it work for me, but it felt too much like falling downstairs.

Off to watch the Doctor Who S3 premiere now!
I got a bicycle for my birthday! A shiny new bicycle from my husband, who is wise in the ways of cycling! Yay! I think this may be the first new bike I've had in my life. And it's certainly the first one I've owned in over fifteen years. *huggles it*

My other birthday present: spring weather! It was positively mild today, and the snowbanks are rapidly shrinking. Dare I hope that by next week they will be gone?

In other news, I fail at writing today -- only 572 words so far. But my head feels like it has been stuffed with cotton wool, and I just can't seem to get my thoughts to cohere. So I have been using the time to do character maps, timelines, and other useful things. At least that will keep me from feeling completely unproductive.

It's embarrassing to admit how hard I have to think to do a timeline, though. I'm constantly counting things on my fingers with my tongue stuck out one side of my mouth, trying to figure out how much time has passed between on event and another -- and even after I've done my best, I'm sure I've got it wrong. Why do numbers hate me so?

I also fail at intuition. I really thought that by now I would have some word from Agent E. about Knife. However, no news is at least potentially good news, right?
The bad news: I did not write 20 pages on my first day of Fast Draft.
The good news: I wrote 10 pages (2,727 words).

I'm going to try again tomorrow, and Saturday, and see if I can get over the stumbling blocks my Internal Editor keeps setting up for me. If I can make a spreadsheet of scenes that need to be written, that should keep me from floundering around wondering what to write next.

Other things to be done ASAP include making a chart of Thea's colored alphabet and number associations so I can refer to it at a glance, and doing a character map of Thea and Faraday.

The character map link is part of a site for screenwriters, but the concept works for novels and short stories just as well, and now that I've found it I'm quite excited about working through the questions. If you've ever struggled with finding your characters' motivations and making them three-dimensional, or with figuring out how to come up with a plot worthy of these great characters you've invented, I highly recommend Laurie Hutzler's Emotional Toolbox.

Another cool concept I've started to make work for me: making point-form notes detailing the events of the story from the perspective of each character -- including the bits of that character's backstory that most define their personality and influence their actions. For secondary characters, who appear only intermittently or for just one section of the book, this is a pretty quick exercise but I can already see how helpful it will be later on -- I never have to stop and try to figure out where they are at any given time, or worry whether their individual stories make sense when they're not "on-screen", so to speak. It helps to remind me that these characters aren't props -- they're people, with lives of their own even if those lives aren't the story I'm telling.

Off to bed now. Yawn.
Turn back now if you haven't seen the latest trailer/articles or don't want to be spoiled )

I think this year I am just going to watch the episodes this season and enjoy them as they come out, while totally ignoring

a) anything RTD says about the future of the show, his own brilliance, and the exact nature of the Doctor-Martha relationship;

b) all the inevitable fan-blather about whether this week's ep was better than last week's (or last season's) and whether some line the Doctor tossed off over his shoulder in a crisis means that Martha is Better Than Rose or that Gallifrey still exists in a pocket universe or that his brown suit got shrunk at the cleaner's, or some combination of all three;

and I will be much happier and more productive in the end, I am sure.

And now back to Day #1 of the Great Fast Draft Experiment, in which I have so far only managed to write 1,000 words in an hour instead of the 2,000 I was hoping for, and now have to catch up like whoa if I'm to make my quota.
I just wrote 1,119 words in 30 minutes.

...

Wow.

Mind you, what I've written will need plenty of revision to be any use. But I'm amazed and delighted to realize that the idea of doing Touching Indigo as a Fast Draft -- 5000 words a day for 14 days, adding up to 70,000 words at the end of two weeks -- is by no means as ridiculous as I'd thought.

I've been playing with the idea of Fast Drafting ever since I first heard about it, because I've been wrestling with the tendency to fiddle endlessly with my prose instead of making forward progress, and it seems to me that having a crazy-go-nuts quota like this might be the best way to break the habit. If I can teach myself to just get words on the page for the first draft and leave the fussing about finding just the right words and the perfect sentence rhythm for the second... I think that would be a big step forward, for me.

So. Here are my goals, which I am stating here for posterity and in the hopes of shaming myself into actually completing them:

1. To have a rough working outline for Indigo no later than March 31st.
2. To start Fast Drafting the novel no later than April 2nd.
3. To complete the first draft by no later than April 20th (giving myself Sundays off, and three extra days in case it runs over 70,000 words -- which it probably will)

This is either going to be the most fun I've ever had writing a book in my life or the stupidest thing I've ever done. Stay tuned!

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