Revisions are just a wholly different beast than writing new stories. It’s hard to feel like I’m making progress because I’m losing perspective. I made several lateral revisions today — I didn’t feel like they made the piece better or worse necessarily, just different. It’s a whole different skill set to work on, it feels like.
That’s left me feeling kind of listless this week because I’m having trouble figuring out how to mark progress. Anyone have any tips?
Bit of a slow week. I did some revisions on a short horror piece about sirens, but it’s still not sitting right. I can’t tell if it wants to be longer or not. I also added (and then subtracted) many words to a short story about memories. I’m not entirely sure where it wants to go, so I’ve been playing around with different structures, but this is one that might need to go back to scratch and be rebuilt from the ground up. I really, really like the idea though, so I’m reluctant to let it go.
I’m finding that many of my stories right now are about memory and narrative, and they have a tendency to take a dark and twisty bent.
Lots of reading and thinking this week and not as many new words as I’d like. But then again, maybe that’s what revisions feel like? I don’t know yet.
Short update this week.
Not as much added to the novel word count this week — up to about 16.5k words. Mostly worked on revisions this week and doing some reading.
I’m working on getting up the courage to apply to a writing workshop this year. I mean, the worst (and most expected) thing would be that they just say no, right? And on the flip side, maybe I would get into a writing workshop! But to get the application together, I need to get some of my shorter pieces written/revised/polished, so that’ll be my main focus for this month.
Had a pretty decent week. There were definitely a couple of days where I could have done more, but I was feeling meh and didn’t. Also lost almost the entirety of one day to some of my other obligations coupled with a doctor’s appointment.
I’m running into that old adage “kill your darlings” for the first meaningful time. If you aren’t familiar, “kill your darlings” means you shouldn’t keep something in your writing just because you like it or think it’s pretty. It should serve a purpose. (Then again, sometimes it’s okay to leave something in because you like it or you think readers will like it or it’s pretty. Like all writing “rules,” it’s open to variable interpretation and application. Really, I think it just means that you should be critical of your own work and not be too precious about it.)
There are bits that I wrote in the previous iteration of the fairytale novel that I think are clever or well done (if I do say so myself), and I don’t want to let them go. I keep trying to wedge them into the new version, but sometimes they just don’t fit. There is a (jerkbrain) part of me that thinks I just won’t be able to write anything as good/clever as the bit I already have, which is just not a productive mindset to have. Every week, a new jerkbrain tactic. I’m not trashing the bits though. I’m just putting them in the Graveyard to reference later and sigh wistfully over.
Even still, I’m up to 15k in that project. So, that’s good.
I did not do any work on my short stories this week, besides noodling on a couple new ideas that I’m excited about. I need to work on the tendency to chase after the shiny new things instead of working on what I have in front of me. Part of it is because it almost feels easier to write something new than fix something that already exists? I suppose a lot of that is because I have more experience writing new things than I do with revision, which is another set of skills. And as we’ve discussed, the only way to get better at something… So that’ll be on the top of my list for things to focus on next week.
Had a much better week this week. I chalk it up to getting those processes back in place. Setting a flexible schedule each morning is very helpful for me — it clarifies what I should be doing at each point in my day so that there isn’t any effort/willpower wasted trying to make those decisions.
I’ve also added a bit of meditation to my mornings. I’m not entirely sure if it’s helpful yet, but I’m giving it a shot. Right now, I’m using Headspace.
I realized that part of my listlessness and task avoidance was related to feeling overwhelmed by all the moving bits of all the stories I have kicking about. And then I though, why the fuck am I trying to hold all of it in a nebulous mass in my head? Dumb. I’ve always been a proponent of writing things out, but for some reason I hadn’t applied that to my projects yet. So I wrote it all out on Post-its and tacked them to the wall next to my desk. Immediately, I felt lighter and more collected, just having everything laid out explicitly.
I had a good plotting breakthrough with my fairytale novel project. As I suspected, it strips everything back all the way near to the beginning. I have a tendency to let the scope of my project get a little out of control, which is what happened here. It resulted in extra large events carrying my characters from reaction to reaction, which then led me to lose sight of what their agency and motivations. So I ruthlessly narrowed it down, and it feels much better.
I actually, surprisingly (yay, growth!), don’t feel particularly discouraged about that; I’m more optimistic and excited about heading in the right direction now. Plus, as Sanderson says, every word is valuable. Added about 5000 words to the rewrite.
I also made some progress with one of my short story revisions.
All in all, quite a good week.
Not very productive this week. I worked on plotting for a couple short stories, started season 11 of Writing Excuses, and wrote a poem. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting the requisite structures back in place — the inertia is no joke. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly, but that’s kind of difficult too.
Episode 11.04 of Writing Excuses was about Newton’s Laws of Writing (or, rather, Howard Tayler’s Laws of Writing). They are:
- A word count at rest tends to remain at rest. A word count in motion tends to remain in motion.
- Word count equals motivation times focus.
- Writing is its own reward.
- Sanderson variation: Every word you write is worthwhile.
For the last couple of weeks, my word count has been at rest. And I’m starting to think that, while breaks work well for many people, they don’t work as well for me. At least not right now. I get kind of drifty and mopey and self-flagellating. MRK mentioned that sometimes the easiest way to get out of a funk is to simply start small, because it doesn’t end up staying small once you get going. Maybe three sentences. Maybe 250 words. But just starting there and letting it build. And, of course, the gentle reminder that time spent thinking about your story is still work towards your story. It’s not always just the new words (though those are obviously very important).
As for law two, my issue right now is the focus bit. I’m letting too many things distract me, and I’m being too lax with some of the rules that I know work for me.
So this week, getting structures back in place, and figuring out how to set some writing goals.
I spent most of the week reading and reflecting and figuring out how to actualize my plans for the new year. Finished setting up the new bullet journal. Did some more beta reading.
The short story intensive for this weekend got postponed, so I spent a good amount of the week kind of at a loss. My original plan was to kind of take it easy since it was a shorter week due to the NYE/NY holiday and since I was going to essentially have a writing jam this weekend. So that was just my general mindset the rest of the week. I did some edits on short stories and went through the rest of the feedback DVA gave me, so that was useful.
I still have trouble knowing what to do when I have some plot issues. My best (in my own opinion) stories so far are the ones that feel like they come easily and naturally. I tend to write relatively clean prose, so it feels like flowing. But I have a couple of story ideas that I really believe in that I haven’t been able to get into that headspace for. And when that’s the case, my inner editor comes alive and I spend time line editing when I should be pushing the story forward, writing from plot point to plot point. That’s a big thing I need to consistently work on this year.
Not a particularly productive week. Tooled around with outlining more. Worked on polishing a few short stories. Felt mostly bleh all week. That feeling where you know you should do more, where you even want to do more, but then you just… don’t.
It’s a stupid feeling really. Because it’s not like I don’t know what I need to be doing and it’s not like I don’t know exactly what’s happening. But even still, I let some of the structures crumble and I milled about listlessly. Drifting.
And I can rail at myself mentally, and I can scold and exhort. But the fact remains that I already made the decision at the beginning of the week (semi-consciously probably) that I wasn’t going to be super productive, and then I followed through on that decision.
I need to make better decisions.
But also, I suppose I need to have a little forgiveness for myself, a little grace. Because it’s okay to have a few off days here and there. It’s not the end of the world. And part of the whole not self-flagellating (as much) thing is also focusing on what I did manage to accomplish.
So, here goes:
- I figured out a couple major places where the plot of my novel breaks down, and I figured out a good fix for one of them. Unfortunately, this means some MAJOR rewriting, but I’m okay with that actually. Still excited about this story and these characters, and I want to make it work.
- I did a few readability passes and light editing on a few short pieces, and FINALLY sent them off to DVA to look at. I’d been putting it off for almost two weeks at this point under the guise of editing, but mostly it was because I still feel nervous about letting other people read my work. Definitely need to get over that.
- I got some good feedback and some great insights, and now I have a list of things that I want to add and play with to try to make those short works as good as possible. I’m pretty excited about them too actually. (This being proud of my own work thing is a little new for me. I’m literally realizing this as I’m typing it out because typing out that I’m excited about the stuff I’m working on feels… weird.)
Then, some not writing things:
- Play tested some Levelhead, which is the new upcoming Butterscotch Shenanigans title.
- Made six types of Xmas cookies and put together a few care packages.
- Restarted The Artist’s Way.
- Worked on the next episode of a podcast my friend and I are putting together.
That’s not a lot of things, but it’s not nothing.
I didn’t get that many new words written, lost to the fog of bad habit loops and dopamine fixes. But it’ll be okay. I will.
Next week is all holiday/family shenanigans, so I’m not planning to do anything too heavy. I’ll work on a few short story edits, do some feedback for DVA, and otherwise take most of the week off, I think.
Continued outlining this week. Although about halfway through the week, I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m outlining in part to put off writing new words on the project, so that actually needs to stop. There are no rules that say that I can’t do these things concurrently. I succumbed to the deceptive idea that I needed to finish outlining first, which I don’t think is a true thing for me.
So generally not as productive this week, which led to slightly less self-flagellation than what would have occurred previously. That’s progress, in a way.
I’m coming to slowly understand that holding yourself accountable (even if it’s just to yourself) is different than mentally tearing yourself down. That may seem like an obvious distinction to you, but I’ve struggled with it for a long time. The self-flagellation isn’t actually helpful for productivity. It was just a habit that I had been raised with and have had trouble shaking off. I imagine I never will entirely, but I can at least try to minimize it somewhat.
I did manage to set up my bullet journal a bit for the new year. I’m going a little more minimalist, I think, and trying not to spend as much time putting together monthly spreads with their lettering and flowers and whatnot. But who knows, that may fall apart immediately, and I might want to do the detail work again. We’ll see.
This next week, the focus will be on words again.
This week, mostly wrote some prelude stuff and little vignettes to get a better sense of the characters. Also spent a good amount of time just thinking about the story for my fairy tale project and re-outlining. Still have some more re-outlining to go, but I feel better about the project. My goal will be to have a full first draft done by the end of January.
Had lunch with my friend David, which was excellent. He helps to reorient me and also points out blindingly simple little things that don’t occur to me. Everyone needs a friend slash professional mentor who can do that. We’re going to do a little short fiction (stories from Inktober) exchange, so I have to make sure some of those are readable and more or less coherent in the next couple of days.
There’s a lot of social stuff happening this upcoming week, including my SIL Diana’s upcoming group gallery show! The dads-in-law are coming down to attend and to hang out, so that’ll be fun.
With all the stuff on the calendar, I kind of think that things will get accomplished in drips and drabs this month, with the furious writing in earnest mostly happening in January. I’m signed up for MRK’s Short Story Intensive in January (I think it’s sold out now, but you can wait list if you’re interested), and I am already nervicited about that.