16 November 2014

Making Word(s) Count

Sunday mornings are my favorite writing time. The house is quiet. The coffee pressed. A fire dances behind its glass cage. The sun filters in through windows, brightening walls. My headphones are bringing me songs to make me think, to make me feel, to make me sway my head or tap my feet. Sunday mornings feel like they are made from time so full of potential.


That's how many words I've written in the first half of November. I'll be honest, not all of them have been easy. In fact, some of them have been pretty damn painful. But I've written every single day. Some days it's in the 500 range, others it's as high as 3,000. I usually build myself in 2-3 days of extra words so that if something comes up, I can take a day off without falling behind. I haven't had to do that yet. Taking a week off to write and run away to the Pacific was certainly a good choice. The last couple years my schedule didn't allow me that luxury.

It's amazing what you can do if you give yourself the time. November teaches me that lesson over and over again.

I know there are entire chapters written simply for word count. It's highly unlikely they will make the first round of edits as I start looking at words with a critical eye and I'm completely okay with that. I look at this month as more of a brainstorming/practice time. When it comes time to edit, that's when I'll dig through to see if there are any hidden gems. And the truth is, if the only new scene I keep is the one in which Holden figures out what Jezebel's name is, I'll be satisfied. This latest version is hands down a million times better than any other version I'd written before.

I have no idea what the rest of November holds for me. There will be more words. More surprises. More challenges. And I will welcome them all.

Sometimes the most important part of writing is walking.

02 November 2014

Starting Over

There are so many reasons to love November. The extra hour, birthdays, Thanksgiving, the first chills of winter with their excuse to build a fire, NaNoWriMo.

I set out on my first NaNoWriMo journey five years ago yesterday. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. I only knew that my writing life had stalled and I needed to do something to kick it in the ass.

It worked.

I wrote some 53,000 words. Some of them brilliant, some of them terrible, all of them worth it. That first manuscript is tucked in a filing cabinet and will likely never be revisited. It was an exercise. It served its purpose. It taught me I could do it. Maybe someday I'll dig it out and see if there's something in there worth mining for, but I doubt it.

The next year I started a very different kind of story, featuring two characters who came to me quite clearly, Holden and Jezebel.  They demanded their story be told.

I love them both so dearly, but I have struggled and struggled to get their story right. I know who they are. I know what they mean to each other. But how do I wrap that up in a strong plot? How do I tell their story?

I write and I write and I write about them and I study the craft of telling stories and every time I think I want to give up and lock their manuscript up in the filing cabinet with that first novel, I come to the same inevitable conclusion.

I can't.

In July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and other than a few chapters from Holden's point of view, I wrote the entire month about Jezebel's history, where she came from, how she got to be the way she is at the start of their story, about where her journey needs to take her.

I spent October taking a novel writing class and working through some of the issues of my manuscript. As each day passed and the start of November grew ever closer, I struggled to know what to do about NaNoWriMo.

Write something brand new? Take the month away from Holden and Jezebel?

Or keep telling their story. 

There are so many problems with the existing manuscript, the one that has evolved countless times over the last four years. I've often thought it would be easier to start over from scratch.

Yesterday, I did just that. I started over. I wrote three scenes containing 100% new words, 2,901 of them. There are some pretty big changes and there are some subtle nods to the original. The only thing that hasn't changed is the friendship between Holden and Jezebel.That will always be the core of both their stories. One can't exist without the other.

Today begins another writing day, one that I hope will be as productive as yesterday. I'm nestled into my favorite writing chair with a mug of coffee, a fire burning, an emotionally evocative soundtrack, and an extra hour of morning.