The Novel: The Real Writing…Doesn’t Begin

This was not a very productive month. We only wrote about 3,000 words total.

Ironman was working full force on a side project and I, well, I have no excuse. I was in a massive slump from the time I got back from Spain until my birthday. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t work on my short stories or on this novel, or even do any journaling. I barely even read anything. I’ve been wasting time on the internet and mindless shows on Netflix and tossing and turning all night with self-loathing over said time-wasting.

Actually, I did start working on this novel. I was the one wrote those 3,000 words. And then I looked back at them and got really down on this project. The words looked so lifeless and boring and ordinary. I wasn’t letting the reader into the mind and heart of the protagonist at all. There was no tone, no voice, nothing that in the language and descriptions that made this book special or even interesting. So I pushed it aside. It was too disappointing to look at.

It’s hard to remember at times that this is only a draft. Writing isn’t magic. It’s hard work and revision. But it’s really easy for me to give up when my writing doesn’t look the way I want it to and know that it can if I put in the effort.

We are getting back on track though. My co-author wrapped up filming on his first six videos and has set that project aside until the fall semester. He is now back on this project in full force, which is good for me because I need someone pushing me and holding me accountable, but also because I need his particular skill set. We each bring specific and complementary strengths to the writing process, so having him there to unstick the parts the bog me down and to breath life into the parts that I can’t seem to is invaluable. And the weather has warmed up. I know this shouldn’t matter, but that deepest part of winter in the second half of March when you think spring is never, ever going to come is absolutely intolerable and really does affect my mood. But now I’m spending more time outside, did some serious spring cleaning, and I’m feeling great.

We also spent some time last week talking through the plot and characters more. They’ve gone through so much evolution since January 1 that I realized another part of my problem has been that I didn’t know exactly who they each were anymore and what their story arcs were. This meant that when I sat down to try to write a scene, I couldn’t even begin because I didn’t know who I was writing for and what I was writing to. That feeling of being lost has been largely cleared up and I know where the story is going when I sit down to write now.

So, even though I feel a bit bad about having essentially wasted the last month, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I can’t force the words to come, though I can force myself to be more disciplined in my writing practice. I can make sure I’m setting aside the time to work and getting rid of distractions. I can remind myself over and over that it’s OK to not be perfect on a first, second, or even third draft. And I have someone helping me with those reminders and pushing me toward this accomplishment. Next month, you can expect a much better report than this one.

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