Waking up from writing

This summer I was tasked with rewriting one of my old manuscripts. For those of you who have read my drafts along the way, it was yet another rewrite of Kricket. I have no idea what draft number I’m on with this thing. I wrote the first draft in 2010, and it’s been a pain in my ass ever since.

My publisher and I decided it was time to revisit this story, which I shelved in 2015 after splitting with my agent. My wonderful editor sent me the suggested changes at the beginning of this summer. One of the suggestions was to rewrite it in first person. I agreed with her assessment and got started.

As I rewrote it, I found plot problems and fixes everywhere. I ended up scrapping about 75% of the original book. Meanwhile, my kids were home all day and we had company in and out all the time. It was nearly impossible to get it together.

And then I was given a deadline. Obviously I needed that to happen so I would get my work done. But I still struggled with time management because it was SUMMER. I plugged along as best I could, but I couldn’t really hit it until school started back on September 5 (which was only a half day because of course it was). Meanwhile, my deadline was September 12. I wrote when I could, but progress was slow.

My editor took pity on me and granted my request to move the deadline to September 19.

I spent every day from September 6 to September 19 doing nothing but writing except when I slept. Before this writing frenzy, my personal word count record for one day’s work was 2,000. Now that record is 6,000. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I went days without showering, I didn’t cook, I didn’t grocery shop, I didn’t clean (but I don’t do a lot of that anyway). I did enough laundry to keep us in clean underwear, but I cut it close more than once. I didn’t have time to obsess over daily news. It was glorious.

The manuscript is out of my hands once again. I don’t know if the overhaul puts the manuscript where it should be. I only spent two days on plot editing, so it could go either way.

I emerged from the writing frenzy on Monday night to an unexpected sadness. I had to get back to my responsibilities again. I had to grocery shop, answer emails, and get back in the gym. I started reading the news again.

It’s easier for me to live my life in fiction, constantly thinking about my story instead of reality. I have to walk out into the sun sometimes to exercise, to see friends, to help my kids with homework. But I think it’s time for me to spend more time in my world of make-believe.



One scene at a time

I have recently recommitted myself to my writing after a prolonged break. And by break I don’t mean that I wasn’t writing at all. I mean that I wasn’t working on a specific project for very long, and I wasn’t writing every day.

For me the only way to get a book written is to write approximately 1000 words a day. That is about the length of one of my scenes. I have tried different methods in the past. At my personal busiest I tried for 500 words a day. The problem with that pace was that I couldn’t make progress fast enough, and I sometimes didn’t complete my thought before finishing my daily quota but I would walk away anyway because I had other shit to do. I’ve also tried for 1500 words a day. Though it’s not a ridiculous amount, I found myself burning out quickly, and it needed to be 1000 or 2000 to get my scene lengths right.

A scene a day is the best way for me to keep my forward momentum without stressing myself out and giving up. I love writing, but it can become just another responsibility if let it. And who wants to be stressed out by his or her art?

It takes me about an hour to write 1000 words. But that is the actual writing of words that I keep and don’t delete. I’m usually “writing” for more than an hour. But this gives me time to write blog posts, edit what I’ve already written, grocery shop, cook, do laundry, exercise, pick my kids up from school, and read. The other parts of my life demand just as much attention.

As part of my renewed commitment, I’m learning how to say “no”. I have a big problem with over-planning, as any of my good friends can attest. It’s tough for me, as I’m very social and I feel a responsibility to volunteer for school activities.

Books don’t write themselves. And I can carry ideas in my head forever without using them. But any writer can tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than failing to get words down on paper. So I’m going to keep going now. I’ll go scene by scene.

Lost in a World of My Own Creation

The experience of writing a book is different for each person during each manuscript. I am currently working on my fourth novel-length manuscript. The common thread I have found in each experience for me is a tendency to become so submersed that I don’t lose touch with reality, but I try to detach from it. My brain functions in the novel world at the same time as the real world, how much in each one depends on the circumstances of each world. I have to decide who needs me the most.

If I get stuck in my writing, I become depressed. If I become depressed, I get stuck in my writing. When I’m stuck I imagine my characters exactly where I left them (standing in a kitchen, asleep in a stranger’s bed, lying in a pool of blood, etc.) until I get back.

A lot of people obsess over their work, though. I’m sure we writers aren’t as special as we like to think we are.  

Writers are easily distracted, self-centered, impulsive messes. We can’t help it. Please be patient. Some writer you know might have some serious shit going down in their other world.

I Was Content Once

The year was 2007. My first child had just been born. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel any pressure to figure out what I had to do next. I spent my days loving him, tending his needs, and I was happy. It wasn’t perfect or simple, mind you. New babies are scary. Plus we moved from Arkansas to Michigan right after our son was born, and that wasn’t easy for me, but I am extremely adaptable. Maybe I had the opposite of post partum depression. I remember talking happiness with my cousin Chris and telling him that true happiness was indeed contentment. This contentment lasted for probably about three or four months. I am so wise.

My mom used to accuse me of wishing my life away. I’ve noticed my son does it, too. He told me lately he couldn’t wait to be big. I remember feeling that way. It makes me sad for him.

Even at this stage in my life, I’m constantly pushing myself do more, look for something else, accomplish something, because honey, it ain’t enough like it is.

I’m working on a writing project that keeps providing roadblocks. I take it as a sign that my skill is lacking, though overall it is a good piece of work. My confidence is on a precarious perch.

I decided to start writing again during my brief spell of contentment. I decided it was a good time to give my life-long dream a try. Why not? Now as I bang my head repeatedly against the wall, I only wonder why.

I’m pushing myself toward success and my goals aren’t realistic. But I wasted so much of my life afraid of failure.

My worry is how my discontent and the pressure I put on myself affects my family. But if I don’t apply the pressure, who will?

How do people find it within themselves to just be? I had it once, but it slipped away.