I always knew today would be a day off. I had managed four solid days of writing matching my longest continuous spell so far. But what I am becoming more aware of is that writing stamina is very much like physical stamina. When I first started back in the gym (a cycle I am repeating right now after a long break) I was weak as a kitten. I kept thinking I should be able to lift more, workout longer. But it all comes with repetition and consistency. It is about training to be stronger. Obvious right? Well so far writing is similar in ilk. Every day it is tough – to stay focused, to keep ideas flowing, to remember it is a craft that takes a lifetime to learn, to sit and type when you have worked 11 hours, to believe what you are writing is worth it, to have faith you will finish. Every story has a beginning, middle and end – so does every writer’s story. I am at the start of mine, and I have to embrace that while still pushing myself forward.
The mental strength to write every day is not quite there yet, but it is greater than it was two weeks ago. I take that in, acknowledge it and then keep moving. But even a rest day doesn’t mean no learning. I read more about the process and took design inspiration from all around me. No words today, but plenty of knowledge.
Rolling Word Count: 5,190
Quote for the Day:
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway
Every time I take a day off from writing, intended or otherwise, I hit my word target easily. I can feel the renewed spark for writing, without the loss of familiarity with the process. Given 2-3 days that dips in drastic fashion. Today was an easy day. I had two scenes to write which involved an angry confrontation and my protagonist accused of something he didn’t do. A minor character had to overcome a drawback in their personality to assist our youthful hero. It was a scene that showed the affection growing between the two, the ‘why’ behind a disturbed young character and to provide a false lull to set-up the next chapter.
Originally none of that existed in my outline but the story required some dramatic lift to fit the tempo I desired. Once I have a scene (or scenes) clear in my head like that 500 words is easily reached. You have a clear path to where you need to go, with the focus more on the nuances of interaction rather than joining the dots. Even though the scene was written quickly I had a gap between where I ended up and how I wanted to progress the next chapter. I needed a bridge and didn’t have it. Still, tomorrow is another day.
Rolling Word Count: 5,709
Quote for the Day:
“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.” – Andre Gide
I am collating these days into one because they were like one long, long day in relation to writing. I managed 79 words over four days – and it was a productive four days! I have mentioned before that I cannot allow word count to drive my writing but rather it is a tool to measure and prompt me. The more I write the more I understand there is no magic in numbers, they tell nothing about the process but how far you have come. Even then they are a falsehood – the 500 words I write now will not all survive the re-write so how much have I achieved numerically? The importance really lies in how much further I have come in my story, and as a writer.
I mentioned last week that I was reading ‘Storyteller Tools’ by M. Harold Page. I took time during these few days to make a dent in the book while also trying out some of the techniques he speaks of. Mr. Page talks about conflict between characters and goals, and putting these together in a diagrammatic form so this becomes a visual guide in your writing. He also uses a series of questions (QABN) to tease out charcter, chapter and outline queries and aid in clarifying your story to yourself prior to time being spent on abortive writing. The techniques appeal to me strongly as they allow you to be creative while providing a frame work for your story. They also use visual aids as quick reference points which, as I mentioned in previous posts, I find to be beneficial during the process of putting them together. It really is well worth a read if you are open to new approaches to your writing.
My original outline is based on a writing book which itself was based on John Truby’s ‘The Anatomy of a Story’. I know, it sounds slightly suspect, however it did have some great advice om plotting out your story. The only thing was it recommended 17 separate plot points that I found myself adjusting my story too much to fit. It meant I had key points but little time had been spent on getting from one point to another. I find the ideas Mr. Page has lend themselves more to giving you a framework to find those paths while leaving you free to develop your outline as you see fit. I did want to show my conflict diagram but by the time I blurred out key elements of the story it wasn’t worth posting. Mr. Page provides examples in his book that you can view or you can find examples he has done of outlines and conflict diagrams on his website here.
Just to note that I follow Mr. Page on Twitter (hence how I found out about his book), but beyond that I am getting no benefits for promoting his book, nor has asked me too. I have just found it to be an eye opener, and an excellent tool for me personally to further my story.
I also started putting together my next vision board which I will talk about in my next post. Here is an image from it to give you an idea of what I am looking for inspiration on.
Rolling Word Count: 5,788
Quote for the Day:
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” – Samuel Johnson
Surely I couldn’t be rusty after a few days on not writing. But I was and the time it took me to hit 300+ words today was longer than it takes me to usually write 500 words. They were rough too, nothing that made me think ‘maybe you can write’ and I had an idea what I was going to write about. But days like these will always be there and recognising why they are happening – if you are lucky enough to know why – is all part of the learning process.
It was a step forward in finishing the first chapter which is looking like clocking in around the 5,000 word mark on its first pass. I may break it up when I start a re-write but I am along way off getting to that stage. So for now, I can say I will finally have a first chapter I like, not love – just yet – but like.
So at Day 21 this is where I am sitting against my overall, albeit numerical, target:
I found the spreadsheet above at Justin McLachlan’s website here, which has changed a bit in the year or so since I discovered it. Of course the spreadsheet appeals to the engineer in me but it is a means to an end. Thanks to Justin for putting it together.
Rolling Word Count: 6,098
Quote for the Day:
“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.’” – Ernest Hemingway