Sketchbook #39

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

When it comes to creativity, January and December are never great months for me. I spend December—what little isn’t taken up by holiday prep and recovery—in full planning mode, which is good, but it does turn into an excuse not to do the actual work. And January… despite my enthusiasm going in, it always takes me a bit of time to find my rhythms again. Add to that the one-two hit of the new year and my birthday, and I’m suddenly questioning everything.

That’s actually why I’m working on this post right now, when I’d already blocked out this time for writing fiction. I need to step back and take an objective look at some of this stuff, and talking it out here always seems to help me clarify my thoughts. (If you’re not here for my creative-process rambling, consider that your warning. I won’t feel bad if you skip this post.)

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 4

Writing

The other day, Terry Rossio tweeted something, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:

(If you’re on a reader that doesn’t show embedded tweets, here it is for posterity: “The key to writing productivity, maybe, is determine how many words can you do without feeling burned out? Better to do 200 words every day that seem easy, rather than 2000 words and need to recover, because you might not recover.”)

[EDIT: The day I posted this, Rossio went on to say some incredibly offensive and irresponsible things, also on Twitter. So: half-decent writer, but ignore everything else he has to say.]

That is the problem I’m having with NaNo this year, and the reason I’m thinking about maybe not doing it again next year: I’ve been writing at a pace that just isn’t sustainable for me. If I’d been able (or willing) to write every. single. day, I’d be fine, but… I can’t sustain that, either. I seem to be at my best writing around 2 hours or 2000 words a day—whichever comes first—and writing 4-5 days a week. More than that, and I start to risk burnout, and I don’t want to go down that road again.

If circumstances were perfect, 2000 words/5 days a week is enough to survive NaNo. They just haven’t been perfect this year. This is a me thing, rather than a NaNo thing. I’ve committed, so I will do everything in my power to see it through—even if it means pushing myself too hard, even though there are literally no consequences to not hitting 50,000 words.

There’s a week left. Do I take the loss?

I’ll push through. Looking at my previous graphs, I’m almost exactly where I was last year, and I survived that. I’ll try to get some writing done over the weekend—even a few hundred words will ease the pressure next week. And I won’t say for sure that this is my last year doing NaNo, but… it might be. I’ll see how I feel about it next year.

… and you’re probably wondering how the actual story is going, too. Right.

So far, I’m really happy with it. I’ve been trying to make this particular story work since my first (recent) attempt at NaNo in 2016, and for the first time… I think I’m on the right track.

I did hit my first real snag this week: my ensemble cast has to be in the same place at the same time very soon, but I’m having a hard time actually making it happen. I know what the problem is—I didn’t spend enough time building up why they need to go, and some of my cast aren’t well enough developed yet—but right now it just feels like the characters would rather just sit around in their separate groups and talk about how awful everything is.

Anyway! I’m doing what any good NaNo-er would do: making a note in the text to fix it later, and skipping straight to the good part. There will be death and destruction. Probably not an explosion, but I’m tempted to see if I can fit one in. Either way, it’ll be fun to write.

That should be enough to shake me out of this funk and push me through the next week.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 2

Writing

… and I’m back on track!

I mean, I’m still behind the ‘official’ target for NaNo—after that one terrible day last week, I wound up taking the weekend off entirely—but the last five days have been really good. I’ve been meeting my personal goals, and today I closed out the first act.

So far, the story seems to be working. There are a couple of scenes that I already know are going to need a lot of work in revisions (it’s not that they’re bad, they just don’t quite feel like they’ve been earned), and I’m a little worried that my pacing is off, but I’ll deal with that later. (It might not even be an issue. The pacing always feels distorted during the writing process, when it sometimes feels like a scene drags on for days, because that’s how long it’s taken to get it on the page. I won’t know for sure how it reads until it’s done.)

Next week… will probably be ok. Not great. I’m probably not going to be able to get much writing done over the long weekend, which means I definitely won’t be catching up to the targets anytime soon, but I won’t fall much further behind. And, assuming the rest of my writing days go as smoothly as this week (which they should… my outline seems solid enough to carry me through), I’m still hopeful about the rest of the month.

Sketchbook #37

Photography, Writing

It’s been two months since I did a general update on how all my creative projects are going, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. And since this day is already shaping up to be kind of awful (they’re rebuilding the balcony below mine, which means noisy generators and sawing through concrete, I’ve got my first serious cold of the season and so my attention span is pretty much nonexistent, and they’re going to be testing the fire alarms at some point today, and that’s always a joy), I’m going to try to make it quick.

When I did my last update, back in August, I was… going through some stuff. I was trying to figure out how to consistently create work—fiction or photography in particular—and get feedback, and not turn the entire thing into a chore.

I’m still working on that. That’s pretty much the driving force behind my reboot—and that’s going well. Still a process, of course, but I really do feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

One thing that’s come up in that work (and I touched on this the other day, but I think it’s relevant here, too), is that my long-term creative goals aren’t nearly clear enough, and that’s making it difficult for me to move forward. Especially in photography. I have some solid medium-term goals for my writing (querying agents, publishing), but when it comes to photography, I know more about what I don’t want to do than what I do want. And when I try to think long-term—five or ten years—things get really vague. I know that I want to be able to support myself through my writing and photography, but beyond that…?

I guess I’m still going through some stuff.

The Black Sun (round 1 edits): Finished!

Writing

On Monday, I finished the first round of edits on The Black Sun.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but this was a new experience for me. Historically, my “edits” have been closer to “full rewrites,” and so overwhelming that I often couldn’t bring myself to bother. (This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the stories, as much as my own perfectionism. The steps I’ve been taking to overcome—or at least work with—that have done wonders for my writing process.)

For the first time in years, I wrote a first draft that I was truly happy with. The first draft of The Black Sun wasn’t perfect, but I could see the story I’d set out to tell. It felt like the story I’d set out to tell.

The past few months have been a learning experience for me, as I figured out how to actually edit a story rather than start over from scratch. But the first round is done. I’m still in love with the story and the world, and that in itself is a small miracle.

I’m going to let the story rest for a few days, and devote my time and energy to the new Violet Lane outline. And then I’m going to read through The Black Sun again, fix any continuity errors that were introduced in this round of edits (I know of at least one important one), do a little more fact-checking.

And then it’ll be time to send it to my beta readers. (That’ll be its own adventure.)

The Black Sun (draft 1): Finished!

Writing

On Monday, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be meeting my self-imposed deadline to finish this story, despite the commitment I made last week. It wasn’t that there was a lot of story left to go, just… the story that was left was a bit daunting. This was the final set piece, the ultimate confrontation, and I knew it would be draining. And it was.

But I did it. The first draft of the story I started during NaNoWriMo is finished. The final count is approximately 76,000 words, which is just about perfect. (Though I already know that this is going to be one of those cases—rare for me—where the first draft runs a little short, rather than long.)

(And, yes: this means that I wrote 50,000 words in November, and then it took me two entire months to write another 26,000. But whatever. December and January are awful months to try to get anything done.)

Normally, this is the part where I’d say that the story isn’t perfect, but it’s solid, and I can definitely turn it into something good. And that might be the case (it’s probably the case), but I’m not going to say it. Not yet. I’m not in a good place to make that assessment right now.

But it’s done!

Now, I’m going to step back from this, take some time to figure out how I’m going to approach rewriting the 2016 story, and then… we’ll see.

I was a lazy writer this week. Next week will be better.

Writing

I have been so lazy this week.

I intentionally took Tuesday off from writing (I had reasons. They were good, and I stand by them), and my schedule on Wednesday meant that my head wasn’t in the game, and I’m not writing today because (apparently) my brain just doesn’t work that way on Fridays, no matter how much I want it to.

So I only wrote two days this week. But they were good days! I really feel like I’ve found my writing groove again, and the story is flowing perfectly.

I’m down to the final stretch in the draft I started for NaNoWriMo, and I’m making a firm commitment to reach “the end” by next Friday. It might be tricky (there’s a lot going on in these final chapters), but my writing time is completely clear all next week, and as long as I sit down and do the work, I can do it.

I’m also hoping to start the serious plot and character work for the rewrite of 2016’s story. I’ve still got that one giant plot hole that I need to sort out, but if I’m very lucky, making sense of my characters will help with that. Maybe.

I hope.

Anyway! That’s the plan for next week: finish this draft, and get my plans in place so I can jump straight into the next/previous project. This is entirely possible, and I am definitely not overreaching.

Really.

It’s been a good writing week! Finally!

Writing

I am officially back on track with my story! My writing sessions still aren’t quite as long as I’d like, but they’re perfectly reasonable, and the words are flowing nicely again.

And it’s not a minute too soon—I’ve reached the point where everything is falling apart (in the best possible way), and I’m feeling really good going into this last stretch. It’s a fun story to write.

Mostly. I’ve still got to learn how to really write an action scene, because there are a lot of them coming up. They don’t have to be perfect for this draft, but I’d like to be able to write these scenes without getting too caught up in fight choreography or logistics. I’ve got some studying to do over the next few days.

Still, I should be able to finish this draft by the end of the month.

Plus I think I’ve figured out how to fix the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2016! I’ve always loved the premise, and I know there’s a solid story there, but the draft I wrote initially… isn’t it. It’s got too many characters and points of view, my evil organization is vague and unfocussed, and I hand-waved my way through too many of the details. I’ve known (almost from the minute I finished writing) that the next draft would need a complete rewrite, but the idea has been daunting, and I haven’t really known where to start.

But I’ve stripped the idea down to the most bare-bones concept, tried to remember what exactly I wanted to accomplish with the story, and spent a bit of time brainstorming… and I think it’s paid off. I’m throwing away or reinventing half of my characters, dropping one timeline, the core plot is entirely different, and one huge plot thread is still missing, but… I think this is the story that it’s supposed to be.

I’ve got some character work to do, and then I think I’ll be able to start outlining the new version. If everything goes well, I should be able to start work a few days after I finish the current project.