The 100-Page Dash

Standard

Yesterday, I crossed the 100 page marker in my novel rough draft. Am I excited? Why of course. So excited I did a happy dance around the café for thirty seconds before sitting down to write again. Not really. I don’t dance in cafes.

But seriously, this was not “the moment” I was expecting it to be. Instead of being super happy, I got overwhelmed with how much of the story is left to be put on paper, and how much work revision is going to be. I have a list of changes a mile long and 100 pages into a rough draft, frankly, is barely a dent in all that must be done before this beast can see the light of day.

photo

Now, here’s the good news: I haven’t lost the passion for the story. I love where it’s going. I love these characters. And that, my friends, is great news, because it’s easy to get discouraged at this point in the game.

If you find yourself getting discouraged or bored in the midst of your draft, here’s a few things I’ve found helpful:

1) Stop worrying about the mistakes. Make the list and remind yourself you’re coming to fix those mistakes later.

2) Write the scenes you want to write. Skip to the ones that get you excited, then come back to write those “other ones” when your head is in a better space.

3) Be Disciplined. Don’t just write when you feel like it, because you know what? You never will. Write on a schedule and stick to it. The words will come again, and the joy will come again. Promise.

We’re in the trenches together. Keep after it!

Betsy

Advertisements

Don’t Look Back

Standard

jumpThis was me at the beach this weekend, and it was fantastic. One of the biggest things I have been learning in life lately is not looking back, and this plays strongly into writing.

Now don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of health to be found in evaluating prior decisions and sifting through where you’ve come from, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the kind of looking back that drags you down, the kind that pulls your heart to your feet and makes you feel like you’re slogging through concrete. You know the kind I’m talking about.

You fight this every time you sit down to write, right? At least I do. I glance over the prior day’s work before starting on the new stuff and think, “Gosh, that sucks. Who wrote that? Me?! And I want to be a writer? Who am I kidding?!” The urge to edit rather than create is strong every morning. However, I am writing a rough draft, and that is not an option for me right now, or I will never finish. How do I know? Prior experience, of course.

So, here is what I do every morning:

1) I look over the prior days’ work to reconnect with where I was in the story

2) If I see obvious spelling or grammar mistakes, I fix them, but I do not allow myself to fix things like a “stupid phrase” or a “cheesy word” that I think is silly. Silly is the enemy of success. Silly is the enemy of completion. I may be writing silliness, but I’ll be the judge of that at revision time

3) I start creating. Right away. As soon as I’ve finished reading, I’m typing. I’m racing to get to that cozy place where I’m insulated by the story again, caught up with my characters and able to tune out everything else, especially myself.

4) I write until I have to leave. I don’t stop partway through and evaluate what I’ve written. I just keep going. When it’s time to go, I pack up my computer, I get in my car and I drive to work. Am I thinking of the story? Yes, but I’m thinking of where it’s going, what’s going to happen next and how excited I am to return to it the next morning.

This is the only way I can see myself through to completion. No looking back.

The Success of Habit

Standard

I have wanted to be a writer for a very long time, but something has prevented me. For years, I have written stories in my spare time, spent vacations dreaming and scribbling away on plots, written character names on the back of school papers when I should’ve been doing the homework on the other side.

I wrote a short novella in high school, I wrote a full-length novel during college, and when I lived overseas for a year, I wrote a screenplay. Like many writers will attest, the desire to write is a compulsion, something we are not really able to control. However, the time to do it and the dedication to persevere is a constant struggle.

You see, in the past, I’ve felt guilty about my writing and frankly, a little ashamed, especially as I’ve gotten older. When you’re a kid, it’s one thing to scribble stories. When you’re twenty-two and still scribbling, you kind of hesitate to tell people your greatest desire is to be a writer, especially since you have nothing “published” at this point (which is the first question people always ask, right?).

At twenty-eight, I made the decision to go for this. I mean, really go for it. Shortly before my birthday, as often happens, I was doing some fairly intense introspection and realized the only thing that was keeping me from being a writer was me. Talent makes a writer, yes, but so does determination, and it was this will to fight, to push through in my writing, that I had lost somewhere along the way.

Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, my favorite screenwriters, put it this way: “Bad writers are bad because they stop too soon…the only quality, I think, that marks the writer as different from everyone else is simply an unwillingness to quit. Others give up when they learn writing is hard; the writer struggles on.”

So I write. It’s nothing fancy. Every morning before work, I simply go to a café around the corner from my house and write for about an hour and a half before heading into the office. Right now, success for me does not mean publication, success means habit. I will never be a writer unless I am writing. All the time.

This blog is a place to share the journey with others. Some mornings are frustrating and flat. Nothing comes or I don’t like where the plot is going, but there are other mornings that I remember why I’m doing this, and I just try to soak in the exhilaration and enjoy it.

I’ve put my hand to the proverbial plow. No looking back.