With my previous novel, I had no idea what the story was, but with the novel I’m currently writing, the story came fast, right after the title.
HOW to tell the story, however, was to be the trick this time.
Her point of view, his, her friend’s, his friend’s. Four points of view. Two? Down to one. Chronological order. Some other order.
Finally in October, there it was. One point of view. Some kind of associative order. But I had it. A hundred pages. Polished. Edited. Edited to within an inch of its life actually.
Yes, that’s right. I spent ten months writing a hundred pages.
I was hyper-aware of how little that seemed…
…And that, for my own sanity, I needed to make some horizontal progress.
So I thought, a 1000 words a day. 7000 a week. In 7 weeks I would have a completed first draft–by the numbers anyway. Stay with me-this is not as stupid as it might sound.
I managed to meet my goal for three weeks and hang on to it somewhat after that. And here’s the thing. It was so exciting. I knew, as I was doing it, that some of the writing was crap, but I also knew some of it was really good. And it was good because I had stumbled onto a way to silence my inner critic while I was writing, which was EXACTLY what I needed after so many inner-critic-critical months.
My IC had to sit this last bout of writing out because I DIDN’T CARE what the words were. I just put them down, let Word count them up, and at a 1000 I was done for the day. If you have trouble with your inner critic jumping in before the words can hit the page, try writing for word count.
You do so much to share about other writers, their inner struggles, their epiphanies. Thanks for sharing yours!
Love the IC, as in, love the acronym. Let’s don’t even allow it the full utterance of its name.
And, I’m sure your pages, crap or polish, thank you, too.
Thanks, Jodi! And thanks for your encouragement in this direction too : )
My life has been filled with interruptions to my own main events for a number of years. (So, therefore, those interruptions really were my main event, but never mind that.) I’m now slowly turning back to what matters. I think I’ve said this to you before, but I wanted you to know I’m an admiring reader of your blog who is inspired by what you say. I attempted to come to the Point Reyes bookstore when I read you’d be there, but once again, life intervened. So, reading your short, wise piece today, I thought I’d comment to let you know I’m out here, enriched by your blog; your guests; the thoughts filtered through both. By this time next year, I hope to have a history of deeper connections to things such as your blog and you, that have had meaning in my life these past years. Thank you for your work.
Katherine, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. And to leave such a thoughtful comment. Lately I’ve been so busy working on my novel that sometimes it’s hard to tear myself away to post here. Your comment makes me glad I did. And I look forward to meeting you in person one of these days. I loved the photo of you and your Dad on FB.
This is so exciting! I plan to get back to work after the holidays. May have to try 1000 words a day. Thanks for the inspiration.
It is exciting! I hope it works for you too!
So neat—kind of like Tiger Woods rebuilding his swing. There seems to be magic in that 1,000-word idea, four double-spaced pages. I generally do only three . . . But your point about quantity begetting quality, as well as an inspiring pile even if some of it is dross, makes a lot of sense.
It’s so interesting, Richard. My goal was to get the story down, and I only discovered as I was doing it that it was loosening up my writing, getting around not only my IC but also my inner control freak.
Well done! I have similar issues. I’d much sooner go back and revise than write forward, but I force myself to go on to the end of the first draft. The problem with too much early polishing is all that work makes it harder to cut scenes later. I tend to average 1K on a writing day, but I don’t worry too much if it’s over or under. My focus is on nailing the central plot and main characters and worry about the literary elements and subplots later. I always have a love-hate relationship with first drafts. It’s good to hear you hit your stride!
Thanks, Sarah. I used to much prefer revising but with this novel and the last one, I’ve loved the creative first draft part–despite all the trouble I had with figuring out how to tell this particular story. But whether I’m creating or revising, my left brain wants me to follow all the rules. The cool part of this little writing-by-numbers project was that apparently my left brain became so preoccupied with meeting that 1000-word requirement that it forgot to bother me with all the writing rules I usually hear. Hooray!
Cynthia, I REALLY loved this response 😀
thanks, donna : )
It seems that, no matter how polished or successful a writer is, the whole “getting that first draft done FIRST” is a very common problem! Over the years I’ve read it, time and again, and hearing it from you clinches it that much more.
I know, for me, my biggest problem (when I’m actually writing that way—and haven’t done in years *sigh*) is, while I’m writing, if I realize an “edit” right away, I am compelled to fix it immediately because I KNOW it will slip into oblivion and I may not catch it later on. I also am TOTALLY IN LOVE
(accidentally posted lol)…WITH THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND REVISION. I love sculpting with them. I’m not the most self-disciplined person in the world, so NOT doing it is a challenge. I think that may be a big part of the problem for so many of us.
And I’m glad Sarah also mentioned how hard it is to cut something once we’ve “perfected” it in its way. I’m going to keep that in mind when I finally get around to actually WRITing my first draft! Right now the only things I’m writing are comments, tweets and future blog posts for when I launch (shooting for after New Year’s).
Btw, Cynthia, I have actually updated. You (and anyone else) may want to take a peek at my giveaways 🙂 You may want one! 😀 Thanks for another inspirational, insightful and informative post!
I wouldn’t say that getting the first draft done first is a problem; it’s more that getting the whole story down on paper is how I figure out what the story really is–even when I say, as in this case, that I knew what the story was. Only when I see it all on paper can I see what I truly have and what I need to do next.
My brain is always editing too…except it couldn’t while meeting the daily word requirement. I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t read over anything. It was just throw the words on the paper–which was a really good exercise for me.
Not only does polishing early on make it harder to cut stuff but it’s generally a waste of time if something’s not going to make the cut–another reason to get the whole story on paper first. During my ten months of figuring out how to tell the story I did learn how to be ruthless about cutting stuff–if it was boring or predictable or not serving this particular story, out it went, even some highly (glossy even) polished stuff.
Thanks for the heads up on your updates. I’ll be by : )
Actually, Cynthia, the way you just described this here, about pushing to meet the word count actually making it “impossible” for you to nitpick, that’s one reason I might consider trying it. I never wanted to do a “word count” or “specific time allotment” type thing ’cause I don’t like restrictions or something that will make me feel pressured, but I do like it in the way you suggest. Thank you!
And thanks for “liking” my updated post 😀
I know–me too, no restrictions or artificial limitations with writing…which is why I’d never tried word count before–who knew?
Love those bookmarks on your site. Looking forward to your official opening!
Thanks so much, Cynthia 🙂 I make them myself; it’s become a passionate hobby (over 3 years now!) I indulge in spurts, when there’s a need or I have enough of a batch worth it to take the trip to where I laminate them. I’ve made a lot for friends, customized with content they want, too. It’s become a “thing.” lol I was considering offering 3 custom bookmarks as occasional giveaways. Not sure I should! (I think the mousepads & notepads are really useful, too 🙂 )
Thanks for sharing this. It’s a GREAT technique! 🙂
Carol, thanks for finding this post and leaving a comment. It was fun to reread it as I sit here printing out a very-close-to-done draft of the novel in question. Happy writing.
Cynthia, I thought the same thing when her comment popped up in my email—to revisit. With you being nearly done, I’d say it’s definitely reinforcement to tell the inner critic to SHUT UP! lol Hope you’re well 🙂
: ) Hope you’re well too, Donna!
All the best with your novel. :star: