Progress Update: My Novel and TWSO

Thank you all for bearing with me on my quick, brief posts. I like to check-in as much as possible, but nothing can take the place of actually blogging. I miss it and it’s one of my November goals to try and at least post two real blog posts for the month.

Progress on my novel has actually been quite good. I started writing in earnest at the end of the summer, had feedback, had to stop and research (see entry here and here), and then restarted again by September. When I started my writing program The Writer’s Studo Online (TWSO), the beginning of the class was about getting to know your writerly self and also how to incorporate writing as part of your daily routine (see entry here). Every day I decided to give at least an hour to writing. We were supposed to write reflections on why we wrote or did not write that day and since I’m big on accountability, I didn’t want to write about why I did not write that day. What an easy way to start a habit! My reflection and accounability turned into a modfied bullet journal of the types of writing I did for at least an hour.

My modified bullet journal for The Writer's Studio Online.

My modified bullet journal for The Writer’s Studio Online.

If you’re not familiar with the bullet journal, I highly recommend looking into it.The bullet journal was created by Ryder Carroll. Here’s his tutorial on how to set it up. I wanted to track my writing and also note what type of writing I was doing and I realized that I could modify the bullet journal format to suit my needs. The format is so fluid that you can adapt it to whatever is going on in your life. My add-in is the color coded graph on the left page. There are several types of writing that I do. For October, I spent a lot of time on my novel (purple) and homework (orange). Means I got a lot done on my novel and I also did my homework! The two weak areas of writing were blogging (blue) and book reviewing (red). Two blog entries and one book review for the month of October. I consider blogging and reviewing fun writing. Well, writing my novel is fun too, but if you’re a writer, you’ll understand what I mean.

The weekly entries on the following pages consisted of daily tasks I wanted to accomplish and eventually evolved into word counts for the day and also reflections of why I wrote that day or what it felt like to write. I also included pictures of inspiration I’d find during my morning walks on the nature trails since one of the settings of my novel is an enchanted forest.

Here's a glimpse of my daily journal entries from October. Pictures included from my morning walks.

Here’s a glimpse of my daily journal entries from October. Pictures included from my morning walks.

By the end of October, I tallied up my daily word counts and I’d written 11, 909 words! GO ME!

I also keep a desk planner too which I use for writing down class assignments due dates and discussion board topics I have to participate in as well workshop submissions and meetings. I would say my writing bullet journal was for the more minute details of writing and my desk planner was more school/assignment oriented. Even though I used my desk planner to organize my program assignments, I started noting my word count of the day in there too. It may sound like another step or repeating myself, but my desk planner stays open, so it’s a positive way for me to see my progress. Also, I’m a visual person, so I really love seeing my word count noted in my desk planner because it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

My end of October, beginning of November daily word counts in my desk planner.

My end of October, beginning of November daily word counts in my desk planner.

As you can see above, I was a rock star those two weeks. I finished writing a chapter each week. I made the commitment to write an hour a day. I didn’t think I’d get a lot done, but I found that if I blocked out the time and set a timer, I could get a lot done. Sometimes I went over an hour, but not by much because I have a family and a household to run. Sometimes I only had 100 words down because I was caught up in researching an aspect of a scene I was unsure of. Other times my fingers flew across the keyboard and I had 1,000 words done in that hour. When I reflected later about the experience, I realized that writing was less about reaching a word count goal and more about making time to write everyday. Not to say that I don’t like word counts, but I don’t get anxious or stressed out about them as much as I used to. (Which is why I’m not participating in Nanowrimo.)

With so much progress on my novel and also taking the lessons from TWSO to heart, I started November eagerly and with a mission to keep to my daily hour of writing. Then all four of my kids fell sick with hand-foot-mouth infection for a week. Then I was plagued with migraines for two days. There was no writing going on for a week, but I didn’t stress about it because I had done so well in October. When I started to feel better, I started setting my alarm again at 5am to get back in the saddle, so to speak.

The first morning back, I woke up to find that my alarm for 5am had been shut off and I’d missed my writing hour. I tried not to be too hard on myself, but it kept happening the rest of the week. Granted, I’d also been up late doing homework and getting my next submission ready for workshop, but I started to feel like I was in a slump. I couldn’t seem to find my rhythm and the month is already half way done! I kept thinking, “I’m still recovering from the sick week” or “It’s the weather. It’s causing my allergies to act up and hence the migraines” or “I’ve stayed up too late doing X-Y-Z. I just need to get up earlier next time” or–you get the idea.

Then I came across this blog post by Sci-Fi author Mary Robinette Kowal. I’m sorry to say that I actually haven’t read any of her books (which I am going to amend soon), but I love listening to her and the authors of the podcast Writing Excuses. I’ll admit, I started listening to it because one of my favorite fantasy authors Brandon Sanderson is on the show, but I realized that all the authors were worth listenting to as well. (Sorry Dan and Howard!)

MRK opened up about her battle with depression and how it affected her writing. I was very moved by it and also grateful that I haven’t struggled through depression. In the first half of her post, she clarifies the difference between Writer’s Block and the second half is about depression. I found that the first half is what really spoke to me and the second I sympathized with.

In the first half, MRK notes symptoms for when you sit in front of your computer and then you’re hit with Writer’s Block: drowsy, staring, restless, and dithering. I found that I was a combination of restless and dithering. I actually had Writers’ Block? But I know what’s supposed to happen next. I know where the story is supposed to go.

This is what she had to say for dithering:

Dithering [as in rewriting a scene over and over again]— You don’t believe the scene that you are about to write. This is probably related to your character’s internal motivation, or possibly just that a planned scene no longer fits in the novel. Much like “staring,” pause and think about what your character wants and how they can try to achieve that. Then be awful to them.

I thought, “Am I really dithering? Is the next scene not what I thought it would be? Or is it not needed now?”

Then I read what she had to say about being restless. I didn’t think I was, but after I read it, those Las Vegas light bulbs went off.

Restless [as in doing the dishes or the laundry instead of writing] — The next scene is hard and you are trying to escape writing it. By “hard” I mean, you are approaching a tense scene. It’s a scene that will be difficult for your character and/or difficult to write well. This one, you just have to power through. Remember, you can always go back and fix it later. Set a timer for fifteen minutes, start writing, and don’t let your fingers stop while the timer is running. Most of the time, you’ll get out of the hole.

Mary Robinette Kowal, the chances of you reading this is highly unlikely, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you for this. Because now it has a name and I know what to call it and how to proceed. /fangirl

In TWSO, I learned one of the biggest hinderances of being a writer is our inner critic. We tend to discourage ourself in many ways. Sometimes during the process of writing or even before we start. Anxiety and self-doubt are part of being a writer, but if you can recognize them for what they are, you can also set them aside and get back to work.

So, it’s time for me to get back to work. No more dithering (which is looking at my outline and notes several times) and no more restlessness (which was finding things to do around the house instead of writing).

This next scene I’m supposed to write was one of the original scenes that first came to me when this story was just an idea. The scene was so clear and vivid that I felt it had to be part of the story. I’ve been fighting with myself over having to write it because I felt it was too soon. Maybe that’s the problem. It’s not supposed to happen yet. This feels closer to the truth of the story, but it also means I have to really look at what should be happening next because now it’s different than what I had envisioned. And I’m okay with that. (Sorry for the vague description, but spoilers!)

So I will try again tomorrow (because I’ve used up all my writing time for this post). I don’t think my subconscious will fight me on this again now that I’ve come to this realization, but any positive energy, thoughts, or luck would all be welcome as I try to get back on track again.

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