If You Do Not Make The Time To Write

This post is approximately 500 words, and it has something for writers and data geeks!

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The Summer of 2018, I started to get worried. I was 2 1/2 years and 170,000 words into the book. Writing wasn’t starting to feel like the all-consuming (in a good way!) thing it had been. I talked about this back in my October 1 Writing Update, and how I felt I was getting back into the rhythm. I had decided to make the time to write because I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t been. As you’ll see below, it still took some work.

This is going to sound weird, but sometimes I had to remind myself that I was writing a book. How does a person forget about 170,000 words? Sigh.

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To fix this, I needed to 1) have a reminder and 2) shame myself a bit. A daily alarm or BUJO had had limited success: I’d just snooze away the reminder or turn the journal page. I’m a visual guy, and my memory is heavily dependent on reminders right in front of my face. In late June, I started tracking my daily writing in a notes widget on my phone’s home screen.  Now, several times a day, I could see how much I was writing. Or as was the case for a long time, how much I WASN’T writing.

Because I’m data guy, I turned my tracking sheet into a chart (but just for this post). Correction, an embarrassing chart. These are all the days my fingers were typing away.

 

writing chart

For many, if not all of the people reading this, that four months from June to October is an unacceptable amount of time to lose. Yeah, I agree. Sometimes family stuff and work stuff and brain-wiring stuff just get in the way, and those four months were chock full. But, these things happen to everyone. We adjust. We find ways to get our rhythm back, especially when it comes to things that are important to us. Like a 170,000-word book. Sometimes, less important things get put aside, for good or ill.

I absolutely love seeing those giant spikes of activity. Those are the kind of days where you’re living the dream, and it’s more play than work. But what’s more important to me is the consistency. Sure there are gaps of a few days here and there when I’m not writing, but the habit has been reformed.

Remember how I mentioned the importance of that visual reminder? Well, it helps not only with fingers-plus-keyboard, but it keeps the idea top-of-mind, as my marketing friends like to say. So while I might not be writing daily, I’m thinking about the book more regularly (which the chart doesn’t show). Learn more about the importance of that here: Writing is Pre-Writing and Moving Full Speed At The Starting Line.

As writers, we’re responsible for most of the motivation here. Sure, we might have friends and family cheering us on, but they can’t put our butts in the chairs. If we lose our momentum, we need to get it back. Perhaps a visual reminder like mine will help you. I continue to use it, even if I’ve gotten out of my rut. I’d rather minimize the chance of future ruts. I’m sure you would, too.

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

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Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

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Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do.

jump around.gifThis month, I’m finishing up the final chapter and the epilogue, and then the mid-draft is complete. I’m now using this term instead of a numbering system for drafts because I’ve discovered I reaaaaaally don’t edit in a linear fashion. I read and edit. I jump around. Re-read and re-edit. I jump up, jump up, and get down. Some parts of the book have changed twenty times. Others have been touched once or twice. While it would be easier to tell someone, “I’m working on the third draft or eighth draft”, it’s just not accurate. I have the first draft, mid-draft, and final draft.

Once I finish the mid-draft, I print the beast: 374 pages of 12-point Arial font in MS Word. Thirty-seven chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. If I keep my head down, and don’t write too many blog posts, maybe I can get this to the print shop before Christmas. This would allow me to start reading it over my holiday vacation, and hopefully, I’ll enjoy myself.

That is, until I whip out a dozen colored pens and start marking up the crap out of it. Call it my New Year’s Resolution.

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No no no: fuchsia is for typos, magenta for grammar, and rose for verb tense conflicts.

But it’s also the draft where I can hand a completed copy to a trusted reader or three. I’ve shared the beginning chapters with nearly twenty people now, but no one has read the entire thing completely. I’m asking a lot, so we’ll see if their enthusiasm wanes explodes with delight! As I mentioned in a recent post, That Time I Shared My Writing #2, I’m extremely grateful for my trusted readers, and I’ll take any feedback they have, even if it’s, “You lost me on page 1.”

After all of that, we’re on to the Final Draft, and then, maybe after that, I can start looking into literary agents and publishing. In a serious manner, though, not in the I’m-unmotivated-to-write-and-need-a-distraction-so-I’ll-daydream-and-do-“research” manner.

That’s the plan.

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As I was re-reading my one- and two-year anniversary posts (links below), I saw that I’d described some things I’d learned. Here are the big moments from Year 3, in no particular order:

  • I significantly under-described some scenes in the original draft. Or I decided I had plenty more to say. Candidly, I think some first-draft sections were glorified outlines.
  • Related to that, I finally found a consistent plotline that connected everything in a sensible way. Or so I think. Having not read it straight through myself, I guess we’ll see.
  • I’ve always been a huge gamer, and it’s been the bane of, well, many things. I think I struck a better balance this last year, and I often chose to game and write in an evening, instead of letting one monopolize my time.
  • I recommend connecting more with other creative people, even if they aren’t in your genre or medium. They’re as hungry for feedback as you are. I’m now exchanging time with a former colleague who’s starting a podcast, and we’re each interested in the other’s project.
  • No matter how many times I’ve lost my motivation or my rhythm, I’ve always gotten them back. Maybe I’m lucky. But also, I persevere when I can do nothing more than type with one finger or disparage every single word I’ve ever written ever. EVER. There will be black days, but man, there will be some brilliant ones, too.
  • And finally, one thing I re-learned. Writing can be your escape, your salvation, your energy, your love, your greatest hope. I do it because it’s all these things to me. After an extra-long workday, a gross commute, and a kid that wants to sit on my lap all evening to play iPad games, I can still be completely recharged by a couple hours of writing.

So, there you go. That’s what happens when a writer gets inspired and spends three years working on a project. There aren’t too many things in a person’s life that she or he spends this much time on, in my experience.

As much as it has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it’s also been one of the most wonderful and rewarding and fulfilling. Here’s to a great 2019. Good luck with your own writing!

–Mike

PS: Click these links to see where I was after Year 1 and Year 2!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

Writing Exercise #8 – Whimsical Horror

This is post is approximately 650 words, many of them silly nonsense, but limned with a sinister tone, I hope.

I like fun and I like whimsy, and I like them mixed with horror. In the appropriate proportions, of course. Without the proper balance, a story is either too dark or too goofy. It’s something I’m managing in certain parts of my current manuscript.

I think this penchant comes from fairy tales I read in childhood. They’re cautionary stories, of course: stay in bed, eat your peas, don’t lie! They all promise horrible fates to children who fail in some regard. Take Little Red Riding Hood, who was devoured by a slavering wolf before a woodcutter sliced open the beast’s belly to free her.

In deliberate contrast to the horrors of the story, the pages often featured colorful illustrations of cherubic tots venturing obliviously into danger. After a few similar stories, we all knew something bad was coming, despite the innocence of the art. And we loved it. As kids, we were practically watching them through half-covered eyes, gleefully anticipating their demise as we imagined their chubby little legs carrying them toward certain doom.  Continue reading

Tighten Up Your Writing #5

This post is approximately 500 words, and it argues in favor of using many words, even when a single one would suffice.

Recently, I was reviewing a passage in my manuscript that reminded me of a word I’d forgotten. I’m an English language geek, so I like collecting words, even if I don’t always put them on display. Rather, many are crammed into the attic in dusty boxes sealed with cheap tape (feel free to analyze whether this is a metaphor for my brain). In this case, I hadn’t used the term, but it did motivate me to reacquaint myself with it.

It’s a word I think many people will appreciate because it describes something we love: the distinctive smell that follows the rain. The scent is evocative, both to the head and the heart. If you’re like me, you take walks to fully enjoy the experience.

after the rain

PETRICHOR

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Writing Update: Oct 1, 2018

This post is approximately 400 words, which is about 4 words for every day since I last posted here.

This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said this: it’s hard to keep a blog going (especially for me, a person who likes unfocused research and differing outlets for creativity). Given the choice – as many writers are – I’d rather spend the time on the manuscript than the blog. Honestly, I didn’t do much of either kind of writing over the summer.

From a high school graduation and sending a kid to college, to lazy weekends at the lake, to re-discovering Warhammer modelling, to getting a wife and second son off to school, well, there have been a distractions a’plenty.

Work’s been crazy, too. Some of it good, some of it (checks Corporatespeak Thesaurus) sub-optimal. More on that for some future date. Beyond that, current politics in America are distracting as hell, but I’m certainly not touching that tonight.

That’s a long list of factors, and some would rightly name them excuses. But c’est la vie.

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An illustratration [sic] for the importance of proofing

This post is approximately 600 words, some of which are likely misspelled because that’s what happens when writers talk about typos.

Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a firm believer in self-flagellation. And I know there’s a special place in dictionary purgatory for self-proclaimed grammar perfectionists and those people who allow typos into published books.

Regardless of how much you’ve typed, or how fast you do it, typos are a way of life. When it comes to typing, I’m a cheetah with 30 years’ experience: bursts of speed followed by periods of rest and reflection. If I’m particularly inspired, I probably reach 120 wpm.

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Writing Update: Dec 12, 2017

This post is approximately 700 words.

On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.

Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself.  Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.

But at least I did some writing.

My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side Continue reading