Novel progress: 2nd draft. (Writing updates!)

It’s been over a month since my last writing update post!

Work on the second draft of my novel continues, and I’m having to remind myself every day to be patient with this process. This part is truly fun and exciting, as I’ve said before. I want to enjoy it without stressing over the passage of time. It’s a weird clash: Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up….

Do you know that feeling? When your own impatience threatens your fun?

Earnest intentions to discipline myself have led to naught. Bizarre and unexpected things keep happening. Last week Sunday, I concocted an ambitious plan to start out the week’s writing, but the very next day, my plan was literally derailed by a tortoise. You can’t plan for these things. I couldn’t have seen the tortoise train coming, because it came out of nowhere.

(That would be a story for another time.)

Neither could I make this stuff up if I tried. Mark Twain’s words come to mind: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

That being said, there’s also an element of difficulty to this second-draft business, which balances out the fun element. It’s an old difficulty that carried over from the first draft to the second. I’m not complaining. We can’t have too much fun, now, can we?

Challenges are good. Moreover, challenges are necessary.

 

Favorite light: early-morning daylight. Beverage of choice: water.

 

Overall, work on the second draft is going well… just not as quickly as I’d hoped. I have to be patient with myself. The work will be done when I love it.

Mini writing update and SEASON’S GREETINGS!

Writing update: simply put, things in the world of writing over here have been phenomenal since I’ve fallen into the unexpected state of euphoria that is the second draft. Yes, the second draft, I’m finding, is like a state of mind. As I think I’ve said before, it’s also a lot of actual re-writing, and it’s more than fun. It’s all I want to do. I’ve yet to crack open any of the books I’ve been waiting to read. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d never leave the house.

I spent the first few hours of this morning writing, and then I went outside and took a bunch of selfies for my post next Tuesday because our houseguests are arriving on Sunday and today is my last chance to mug for the camera (the whirlwind starts tomorrow with cleaning and baking and such), so I’m later here than I wanted to be.

My plan to do some cardio in the garage today has been derailed on account of the probability that I injured my toe yesterday afternoon. Guess how? Getting into the shower, of course. I stepped over the metal threshold while I was lost in thought, and my left foot didn’t quite clear it. Not to brag, but it was a most epic of toe-stubbings. I actually smacked the front of all my toes against the threshold, but only the second-biggest one looks, literally, bent out of shape and brilliant with several of the wrong colors for a toe. I’m avoiding walking around today due to discomfort, so the only workout I’m getting is in my fingers as I write. PITY. (Not!)

But I digress. Returning to the writing update… I’m not holding myself to a hard deadline for this second draft, I’ve decided. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can while taking the time that I need. Let’s just say that I’m shooting for the end of January, but I won’t be concerned if it takes longer. I’m enjoying this part immensely, and frankly, I think I’ll be a little sad when it ends.

Seasoned novelists: do you experience this second-draft euphoria, too?

 

Nenette and the poinsettia, 2017

 

With love and thanks to all of you for being here! I hope this finds you well as we head into the end-of-year festivities. This is my last post before Christmas, but I’ll see you before New Year’s!

Writing and writing space updates! (REVISED office tour.)

Writing updates, in brief: I’ve been working through my second draft, mostly polishing, but also doing more extensive re-writing where I see the need. I’m loving this part. There’s nothing like a good chunk of time to clear your vision. 18 months later, I can really see this manuscript, and I’m going to town with it, just having fun. It’s exciting.

Office updates: I’ve got a bunch of pics to share for those of you with a penchant for seeing other people’s spaces. I get you. I’m one of you.

Main changes I made to my office since “office tour May 2017”: I snagged my old desk from its spot in the guest bedroom, added two small console/bookcase things to fit in the corner behind the desk, and acquired three more houseplants.

I loved sitting on the floor at my old German trunk, but the anti-ergonomic nature of that set-up became apparent. It was a matter of time, I suppose. I enjoyed it while I could! The books came up off the floor at the same time that I did (enter the small console/bookshelf things behind the desk). In the process of minimalizing, I removed the wall clock and the Luche Libre poster, and the only thing left hanging behind the door is my pair of boxing gloves (covered in dust, since I never use them).

About the houseplants: I’m up to five. I haven’t decided whether this counts as a minimalism fail. Does it? It doesn’t feel like it does. It feels like the energy within my ring of plants encourages my creativity. I would like to add one or two more, in fact.

Here’s the view from my window:

 

view to the front yard

 

…and here’s the interior:

 

looking in from the doorway

 

I keep the room neutral and plain. Only the plants add color.

 

where I write (same as before, except at an actual desk)

 

Nenette often naps on the futon. I can easily see her when I look up from my screen.

 

view from the desk, left of center – Nenette on the futon

 

Here’s a better pic of Nenette:

 

Nenette napping on the futon

 

To the right of the futon:

 

3 plants (Holder, Icarus, Barclay)

 

Behind my desk, right side:

 

another plant (Linden)

 

Behind my desk, left side:

 

another plant (Jerome)

 

Back of the door:

 

boxing gloves I love, but never use

 

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this. I love peeking into other people’s offices, so this was fun to do.

 

Milestone reached. (Writing updates!)

I’m alarmed* thrilled to be able to share this update on the state of my novel! IT’S DONE.

The first draft is done, that is. It was very nearly done when I posted about it recently. Now it’s done-done.

It ended up at 84,590 words. Remember how my targeted word-count crept up from 50,000 to 60,000 and stayed there for a few months before I realized that I was going to need more words? Not long after I raised my target to 75,000 words, I laughed at myself and ditched the insanity of trying to approximate a word-count. Yeah.

I completed the draft on Tuesday last week, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s 398 pages long, but it’s the word-count that lands it in the widely-accepted “standard novel length” category. To think that I’d started with the idea that I was writing a novella-length piece shows how stories can tell themselves, unfolding in their own time.

*Needless to say, writing “THE END” came as sort of a shock. I went outside to take a deep breath and also a commemorative selfie. Somehow, the sun and the breeze and the warmth heightened my sense of accomplishment. It was a beautiful day.

 

Nov. 21, 2017 – wind-blown and done with draft 1.

 

Neither was I expecting this dual sense of exhilaration and melancholy. I’m at a loss trying to explain where the melancholy part comes from. Maybe it’s just the fact of reaching this milestone after 18 months… to have exited that world.

What’s next?

1). The second draft!

I’m starting work on draft 2 this week. This will mainly involve combing through the book from beginning to end, smoothing out any technical inconsistencies, and deciding whether to keep the novel divided into sections. As of now, I’ve got the manuscript marked with parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, the latter comprising the (hefty) remainder of the novel, which makes no sense. I just got to a point where I gave up on sections. Now I have to decide whether I even want them… and if I do, whether I want to name them or just number them.

2). Reading!

I’m eager to catch up on reading. I’m looking at Matt King’s superhero trilogy (I have the first book; the second and third should arrive this week), Lee Child’s new Reacher novel coming in the same Amazon order (can you believe I didn’t run out and grab it on its release date?!), and another novel that’s been sitting here for what seems like a long time.

That’s about it for now. I’m thinking I’ll post pics of my office in my next writing updates post, because it’s changed slightly since the last time I invited you in for a look. I know that some of you are like me in that you enjoy seeing other people’s spaces.

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Above water. (On writing.)

Let me confide in you what it is to be a writer of a novel. You’re at the end of your book and terrified of what you wrote: a 350-page shit-storm. You laugh at yourself as you find a selfie that came out expressionless, crop your image into a head-shot, harden it with the angstiest filter you can find – the one that turns the dark bits darker and deepens the shadows in the corners – because suddenly, you need digital armor. It won’t help. You think, I had a moral obligation to write this, and it’s been 30-odd years in the writing that began, in earnest, 18 months ago.

 

Life in two minutes.

 

The drama, the irony, the cliché! You can look at this image once and never see it again, or you can look at it once and see it every day. It’s worse than a mirror, so you share it with the world… especially easy to do when the world makes no sense.

We all have a dark side. Most of us keep it hidden, because it’s our business and no one else’s. Artists tend to display theirs through their work, whether others can see it there or not. Art unravels from buried places, taking form in every medium and genre from comedy to Shakespearean tragedy, capturing curiosity and beauty in music, writing, visual arts, poetry, photography, dance, dramatic arts, and so on, and so forth. Products of our creation spawn out of our darkest secrets, reflecting them in worlds we create… and we do create them, because we can. We can create art that belies the angst from which it springs, art that makes people laugh, even. “Tortured artists” have the means to express what others need to express. Then a step further: everything is okay. But the world, we know, doesn’t need our reassurance. We’re talking to ourselves, but it’s not about us.

So if just one person can find something of value in our work… something that helps… it’s worth it, we feel. One person includes everyone. We believe.

Writer’s confessions. (Writing updates!)

I looked back through my planner and verified that I’m overdue for a writing updates post, as one of you wonderful and helpful readers and NOT AT ALL smart-ass people (who may or may not attend Tuesday/Thursday BodyPump) pointed out to me earlier this week, though not in a smart-ass way.

Hence, this is a writing updates post.

As for the post that was going to happen today: I shall regale you with the latest on my minimalism journey somewhere in the first week of November. I do have minimalism updates!

The writing, then. It’s been trucking along. The end is nigh. I’m spending more time than usual strategizing before I put proverbial pen to paper. This last week, in particular, has been a challenging one… the process of writing has felt like an arduous slog through mud. I haven’t had blank-page syndrome, but it’s been difficult finding my groove.

The great thing about this is that I realized why; this is useful for future reference.

We’ve had houseguests. When they all went to lunch without me one day, I got some good writing done, and I had a mini-epiphany: I need to be alone in order to talk to myself, and I need to talk to myself in order to find my writing groove. I’m sure some of you fellow writers can relate to this.

I have a big ol’ chart with ever-changing notes jotted all over it, but in my head I’ve got a mental flow chart of variables that’s always better than any I could scribble out, because my thinking is a million steps ahead, always, and not lateral, as is the nature of thinking. It helps to pace around and talk myself through it.

(Mind you, I’m not complaining about the houseguests.)

In related writing and minimalism news, I found this t-shirt at Target. It was an impulse buy, but I couldn’t pass on it. It’s minimalism news because when I got home, I pulled another shirt out of my closet and put it in the Goodwill pile. Replacing, not accumulating.

 

When you knew better than to expect otherwise.

 

Right?! But mostly, the shirt had me at the font.

 

September writing updates!

I last came to you with an official writing update on August 4. It’s one month later, and I’m back to report my progress, as promised. This is where I fill you in on big-project writing developments, with numbers and everything. (SNOOZE-FEST WARNING for those not interested in dry details.)

So let me tell you where we stand.

Last month’s challenge/goal: to “control the pace and manner of unraveling” in this final stretch of the project.

This month’s challenge/goal: having gotten a grip on last month’s, I’m now focusing on creating and sustaining the tone and mood I desire for the completion of the story. At this point, I want to demand more from you, the reader. This means that I have some intensified atmospheric building to do. In other words, I’m ramping it up.

(When I started this project, I had no idea that I was essentially writing a mystery novel, of sorts. But here we are.)

Last month’s completion status: my word court as of August 4 was 56,952. My goal word count, I said, was “a moving target.” I was done trying to nail down a goal word count; I speculated that I was between 80% and 90% finished.

This month’s completion status: I’m back on the word-count train! Surprise! I didn’t think I’d bother with this nonsense again, either… but I did some projecting, which is much easier to do at this point, and I came up with a rough estimate. I believe I’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of 75,863 words. This means that the project is about 84% complete. (I will not be changing this word count goal again. It’s a rough estimate, and I’m leaving it at that.)

Breaking it down: I currently have 64,462 words. Roughly 2,137 of those words belong in future chapters (I tend to write ahead a little bit, now more than ever), so about 3% of my 84% completion is made up of future content.

Looking at just my current, finished work, I’ve got 283 pages, and I’m on chapter 26.

I’m also projecting that I’ll have this first draft completed by the end of November.

 

manuscript, 84% complete (minus 3%) (Sept. 5, 2017)

 

So that’s where we stand! Thank you for reading and for sticking with me, as always.

Writing Q and A: habits, music, status. (Writing updates!)

My last writing update post was on 30 June, so it’s time for another one, I reckon!

Every writer’s habits and rituals are personal, right? And, for many of us, in flux. Things flow and evolve. We go with it.

I still wish I was a writer who could stick to a schedule. The best I can do – more importantly, what works for me – is to protect my optimal writing time. Currently, that’s one full weekday (Mondays) + all early mornings. The rest of the time is for flexible writing, meaning, I can write around going to the gym Tuesday-Saturday, as well as occasional appointments, errands, and lunches.

At this point, there’s never a day that I don’t write at all. I write something every. single. day.

Speaking of which! My Tuesday/Friday blog-posting time here in TALC has officially changed: I’m now posting within the mid-morning to noonish window.

With all of the above, I’ve started off this mini writing Q&A. I’m happy to answer some of these recurring questions:

Q: Can you multi-task while writing?

A: It depends. The deeper I get into a writing session, the more scarce I am on social media. When I’m in a “deep sleep” stage of writing, I’m completely incommunicado.

I can’t be off-line, though, because I refer to the dictionary, and I’m always researching something or another.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing?

A: Not usually, but sometimes.

When I started working on this novel, I’d listen to certain songs to invoke a memory of a time. I haven’t done that for a while. Now, I can write with music playing on a low volume, choosing music that creates a background soundscape.

A current favorite is by Rachel’s: “To Rest Near to You.” It’s moody and eerie with voices whispering “I thought the sea.”

It’s perfect for this last stretch of the novel.

Other good background songs of the moment: “With More Air Than Words,” “Night at Sea,” and “Letters Home” (Also by Rachel’s, from their 1996 album The Sea and the Bells.)

I wish I could provide you with “To Rest Near to You,” but I get my music from Soundcloud, and you have to have a Soundcloud GO+ account in order to hear that entire Rachel’s album. Here’s their song “Stark Sea,” though, also on my current writing playlist:

 

 

I like this sort of music while I’m writing. It’s atmospheric without distracting my creative brain cells with melody that wants following.

And when I say I play the pieces with the volume down low, I mean very low. The planes taking off and landing at Sky Harbor are louder.

Q: Do you take breaks?

A: Yes. Many. I have to stop often in order to put distance between what I’ve written and what’s in my head from having written it.

There’s actually a pattern: on an average day, I go through three writing stages and two break stages, beginning and ending with writing. (I take smaller breaks within the writing stages, usually to eat. In the afternoons, I eat often.)

Q: Distractions?

A: I do get up to wander around the house. I have to unfold myself from the floor every once in a while.

Incidentally, I have Nenette, who is not a distraction. She’s the opposite of a distraction. She puts her nose on my forehead to transmit inspiration.

 

Nenette in her crow’s nest tree in the corner of my office.

 

These days, Nenette is apt to sleep on the floor next to me while I’m writing, but she still spends time up on her crow’s nest.

Q: Current project stage and status?

A: I’ve reached, as noted earlier, the final stretch.

Things are accelerating. That doesn’t mean that my writing’s accelerating, though. I have to focus now more than ever in order to control the pace and manner of unraveling.

As for current status, my word court at present is 56,952. My goal word count continues to be a moving target, so I’m just going to say that I’m between 80% and 90% finished.

That’s it for the monthly update! Thank you all for reading, once again. Happy Friday… or whatever day it is when you read this. =)

Another month has passed. (Writing updates!)

Is this going to be a regular thing, this monthly writing update posting? It’s been a month since the last time I sat here to write out loud to you my big-project progress.

Progress has been even slower than usual this last month. I’d say about an eighth of each writing session goes to research, which is par for the course, but it makes the writing seem slower, yet.

I tend to dream whatever I’m writing about at the moment; ergo, I’ve had some nightmares in the last few weeks.

It’s still strange to me that work can be so grueling and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, no. I’m everlastingly grateful that I can do what I’m doing – what I love – and it’s worth the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.

As far as word-count, I’ve altered my goal yet again. Surprise! Last time, I’d decided on 80,000 words. As of now, a target count of 70,000 makes more sense. This puts me at approximately 75% done, and I think that sounds accurate.

That’s right… this is my first novel, and I really have no idea what I’m doing. I never took a fiction class. Maybe I should have. Maybe it’s better that I didn’t. I don’t know.

I’m not going to concern myself further about whether this work is a novel or a novella in terms of word-count. This thing will probably end up being considered as a novel, regardless.

Thank you all once again for sticking with me throughout this process! Thank you for bearing with me as I present these reports. I know that they make for dry reading, but as I may have mentioned, writing them allows me to hold myself accountable while considering the situation in a big-picture frame.

Speaking of frames, Callaghan came in to hang out with me while I was working yesterday (I’d set myself a big deadline for late afternoon, and at some point, I realized the time and had to crank  it up), and while he was in here, he took my phone and walked around me taking pics while we chatted. I was at the point in my chapter where I could afford to talk while working… and he was at the point in his day, apparently, where he wanted to take pics and talk.

The lighting was poor (late afternoon daylight + the lamp sitting here next to me), and I wasn’t sitting still, so the pics are a little blurry. In fact, I didn’t even know he was stalking me when some of these pics were taken.

Beyond that, though, I do believe that the camera in my phone is heading for life support. Of late: my hair is dark, and it comes out light. There’s black lettering on a sticker, and the sticker comes out solid white. The sky is blue, and it also comes out solid white.

I’ve given up on trying to color-correct anything. Here, I just stuffed the pics into frames to wrap them up in neat little packages. (There.. that was my point when I said “speaking of frames.”) Does this mitigate the camera’s declining health? I may start doing this with all of my pics from here on out.

Yours truly, working and talking:

 

I don’t even remember what we were talking about here. (06/29/2017)

 

Writing update. (06/29/2017)

 

With that, I wish you all a happy weekend!