Is November Over Yet?

At the suggestion of an accomplished writer friend, I picked up Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It’s a fast read and provides an incredibly useful way of developing characters. I created charts for my protagonist, antagonist, and an important secondary character. Following Dixon’s advice, I looked for what each character wants, why she wants it, and what is keeping her from getting it, both on an external and on an internal level. I discovered a couple of important things about my characters, and I saw where in my book I could focus on or enhance each character’s GMC. This is a brilliant tool, one that I will continue to use as I write.

Okay, let me be honest about something: I made those charts weeks ago. In the fury of NaNoEdMo, my blog has fallen to the wayside. I knew this might happen – I warned you – and indeed it has been hard to do much else aside from getting in my editing time each day.

When I very first decided to become a writer, I also decided, in all my fervent naïveté, that I was going to do it “like a real job” and write for 8 hours a day. My mentor (fighting the urge to laugh, I’m sure) told me that none of his successful writer friends wrote for more than 4 hours a day. Since then, that has been my goal.

Starting slow, a little at a time, is the way to build a habit. If you want to get up an hour earlier, begin in 15-minute increments. My sister told me that meditating for 5 minutes a day is better than half an hour once a week. This is how I began writing – one sentence at a time, ten minutes at a time – and it worked. I got up to an hour a day, and then an hour and a half.

But as I immersed myself in my NaNoEdMo, I found I was stuck in my pattern – after an hour and a half, it was like my brain shut off. It was a challenge to push myself for longer.

I became, dare I admit, a little burned out. I was afraid I couldn’t keep up the pace for an entire month, let alone my whole life. The charge of the early days in November, when I was writing more than the allotted hours, faded. My minutes dwindled until I was writing for only an hour some days, only half an hour, and once or twice even skipped a day completely. I discovered if I did two hours a day I could have a day off per week, but I couldn’t keep it up.

So I gave myself a break. Let my mind relax. Considered the possibility of not meeting the 50-hour goal. And then I jumped back in. Yes, I’m caught up. I am actually 20 minutes ahead. And I am determined to meet that goal.

I’m glad for the push that this has given me, glad to see that I can do more than I thought. And I will be glad when November is over!


A Belated Thanksgiving Post

I am grateful for…how much my life is filled with love. The people around me. The opportunities I have been given, most especially, being able to write and be a writer. I am grateful that I am a writer – that I was born with this inherent creativity. I am grateful for everything that comes with it, even the suffering of being an artist, because it also comes with the ability to see the world the way I do, and share it with others.

Omit Needless… Chapters!?

We are eight days into the month of November, and I have done 15.5 hours of revision. This is 2.167 more hours than the requisite, if I am following a plan of doing 1.67 hours per day. I am trying to rack up extra now, knowing that I may need to skip a day or two around Thanksgiving, and I don’t want to be in a stressful crunch at the end of the month trying to make up hours.

I am following several famous pieces of advice. From the writer’s bible The Elements of Style, “Omit needless words.” Brilliance! Show don’t tell at its most succinct. I have been omitting needless words. Paragraphs. Pages. Yes, I have been omitting needless whole chapters.

My first step was to get rid of the first 50 or so pages. At my draft 3 critique, I asked my readers what they thought of my mentor’s suggestion to delete the first few chapters. General agreement ensued. Not everything, my readers said, but definitely a trim. One person’s favorite scene took place in the original chapter one. But I looked at the repetition, at what was necessary, at what would serve my story – and I went ahead and chopped, chopped, chopped.

Thus the second piece of highly-touted advice, this from William Faulkner: “Kill your darlings.” Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch spoke the original phrase “murder your darlings” when he said, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”

So here I am, killing them one by one. It is hard – nearly painful. All the work and time that went into 50 pages of writing! I rewrote that original first chapter at least 20 times. But, it’s part of the job description.