First Half of a First Draft

This is my phone lock screen. A constant reminder. (Credit- Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist)

My spec is coming along. I finished the first half of the first draft on Saturday. Which was right on schedule- a feat I accomplished by using my normal brain dump method of writing. I got to class and Michael said we each needed to read our first five pages out loud. Talk about locking up. I write quickly and freely because I have trained myself to do so. Part of that is assuring myself that NO ONE gets to see first drafts. Even if I want someone to see a first draft I do at least a little editing, as a way of keeping that promise to my sub-conscience so that it’ll cooperate when I sit down to write.

The sudden knowledge that I had to read five pages of a first draft out loud to a roomful of people who at least some of which of far more experience (and one of whom is a professional tv writer), and the fact that mine isn’t a sitcom so I don’t get that fast feedback of laughs, made me want to hide. More

Page by Page

Finished my first page-by-page of my spec! It has a LONG way to go but it feels good to get this far. I’ve always goofed around at scriptwriting but having the structure and deadlines of a class is helping me get through the slumps. I have to write it, because I have to turn it in or look lazy. That’s a stronger motivation.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

I’m taking the spec writing class at iO with Michael McCartney. Who, by the way, is such a great teacher.  He really cares about us and what we’re doing, he isn’t all burned-out and cynical like some of the teachers I’ve met in Chicago. Michael gives us “art” homework, related to out scripts. He also gives us “commerce” homework, which relates to turning this into a career. Another thing I appreciate. It’s one thing to teach me how to write a script. It’s another to help me learn how to talk to agents and what to do once I have one. The goal of the class is that at the end of the 8 weeks I’ll have the 2nd draft of a spec script, as well as have started reaching out to targeted agents to build a relationship. More

Recap: FAILED

My quest to write 1,000,000 words in a year is over.

I’ve not updated my blog in two weeks because I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but today I finally faced the facts. I am too far behind.

The pace I was writing in Nov was doable, and had I done that from the start I would have easily made it. However, the first three or four months I consistently did not make weekly goals. Part of it was the fact that it didn’t feel real, part of it was the very difficult transition to writing a significant amount every day. It was a hard adjustment.

Now, however, as much as I am screaming at myself to not give up, I can’t do it. To hit my goal at this point I’d have to write about 4,800 words a day. Every day. Until mid-March. On top of a full time job, a (hopefully) part time job, class, and life. While I think that’s a reasonable word count for a professional writer it is not for me if I’m working 40-60 hours a week. Especially with no break days.

This experiment, failed as it is, has taught me so much about writing and, more specifically, myself as a writer.

  • I do better with multiple projects at once, that I can switch between.
  • My productivity is uneven. I get more words done in four days of writing with three off than I do if I write every day.
  • Journaling/morning pages are exempt from that rule, and something I need to do every day. For my mental health if no other reason.
  • I am capable of turning out large numbers of words in a day, that the hurtles are mental only. That 1,100-1,300 words in 30 minutes is a reasonable goal, and that I can do that about 4-6 times in a row before there is a noticeable slump in my speed. That there’s no point going on after that, it’s best to leave and come back in a few hours. Do another 4-6 sets then.
  • I work better out in a coffee shop or even a fast food joint than I do at home. I do NOT work well on planes/buses/etc.
  • Music is useful for focusing, but if it’s Top 40 stuff I’ll end up singing along instead of writing. Best bet is either film scores or heavy rock.
  • I write fiction best in the late morning, afternoon, or evening. Early to mid-mornings and late nights are better for non-fiction.
  • Reading before I write is hit or miss. It might inspire me, but it also might depress me with the difference in quality. Votes still out on that one. However, reading the same short piece (one by Anne Lamott) about writing before each session is grounding and puts me in the mood to write.
  • My writing style is a reflection of what drove me to embrace improv. I enjoy chasing the unknown. More experiments with plotting have left me just as frustrated as before. I want to chase the story. Maybe I have an end scene in mind, or at least a theme, but the actual events are best found in the moment.
  • I enjoy both writing and editing. I’ve found that most people claim it’s only possible to like one of them but I truly look forward to both. I love creating stories, and I love tightening what I’ve written. I do find editing to be more overwhelming and thus more difficult to work on for long lengths of time.

So the project has been very useful. I may try it again one day. Maybe. But for now it is over. I will keep posting my word counts every week, just not against where I should be. Both for the accountability and for the knowledge of the ground I am covering. I want to keep tracking my word counts, I just know they aren’t going to hit 1,000,000 this year.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and hopefully big things will be coming soon! I am going to be putting more time into editing my novel Raising Trouble, since I won’t feel guilty for not using that time to work on my goal. And I’m going to finish my current novel, Avon, pretty soon. Also, I’m getting back into fan fiction as a way to get some feedback and do some shorter pieces. When I get something new up I’ll put a link on here.

Lots of changes, and yet my focus is the same. Writing, acting, creating. Failing forward. Which this failure has been.

100

My 100th Post.

Thank you. Anyone reading this- I appreciate it.

I’m shocked to realize I’m at 100 already. This is the fifth or sixth blog I’ve started and none of them have gotten anywhere near to this point. It’s… crazy.

Here’s to the next 100!

Recap: Week 32

One Million Words Challenge

Week 32

So, more words written. Yet not enough.

I truly do not know why this is so hard. I’ve got plenty of time. I don’t have writer’s block (not that I believe in it anyway), when i sit down I can put words out.

I just… don’t. I want to. I know I need to. I ought to. But I don’t.

I’m hoping NaNo starting tomorrow (midnight tonight, actually) will be a shot in the arm. That I can do a double NaNo, plus my MPs. That would get be headed out of the hole.

That makes me dizzy. I think that is part of my issue. I get started thinking about how hard it’s going to be to catch-up and then I eat candy corn and take a nap. Candy corn being my writing snack of choice. I need to horde up a little before it’s gone for the year. More to the point- I need to get over myself and get to work.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,242
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 969
  • Blog 185
  • LCFF 2,926
  • Notes 915
  • Total 13,041
  • YTD 439,719
  • Where I should be 613,760

Ways I Stay Motivated

wpid-IMG_20130702_162825.jpg

I set a lot of goals for myself. Getting the motivation to complete said goals is not always easy. So I thought I’d share my methods in hopes that at least one of them will be useful to you.

  1. Take a class
  • This is the number one way for me to stay motivated and finish what I start. I love taking classes. I’ll take a class on almost anything as long as I’m even remotely interested, and I’ll do the homework, study, whatever. I don’t know why this is such a part of my identity but it is. And it’s not that I like sitting in classrooms, I don’t. I’m a kinastadic learner and I want to move around. In a class.
  1. Join a group
  • Similar to above. Less structure, perhaps, but still getting with other people to do something. If I have to explain was I wasn’t there, or know that everyone else is doing X without me, it puts a lot of pressure on me to show up as well. Gets me through those days where I wouldn’t do it if no one knew that I wasn’t. Going to an improv jam, a write-in, or a church small group keeps me on track with my goals.
  1. Make a chart
  • I love charts. I love making them and filling them in. Colored ones. With markers. The physical sensation of coloring in a square gives my brain a little reward rush. Then I hang the chart where I can see it all the time, which motivates me to do the work so that I can color in the next section. Electronic charts don’t work though, I want to feel it in my hand. (Jerry Seinfeld seems to think work along the same line)
  1. Write it down
  • I suppose this is a subset of above. If I write something down and look at it regularly I’m much more likely to do it.  Reading them regularly helps me to remember them, and then to actually do them.
  1. Make it part of something else
  • This one is suggested by almost every person who teaches habit forming. I use it to motivate myself to do something. Multi-tasking would be another word for this, bad rap that it’s gotten lately aside. If I have things I need to do but am lacking motivation to do I try to find a way to combine it with something I like. I try to convince myself- “You don’t want to go running? But if you do you can listen to junk music guilt free” or “Aren’t you going to finish that knitting project? You can watch Ocean’s 11 again at the same time….” Things like that. It works quite often.
  1. Remind myself about what I want
  • Credit for this brilliant idea goes to Justine Musk, here. The idea felt selfish to start with but by the time I finished her article I was sold. I try to use this on myself and the more I remember it the more I get done. What do I WANT? Really want? OK, what should I do in light of that? Maybe I don’t feel like writing, but I want to be published so I write anyway. I tell myself I don’t want to run, but in reality I just don’t feel like running.
  1. Actually want the end result
  • Of course, that supposes that what I am aiming for is what I want. I pruned my goals list earlier in the year because I picked it up, read it, and realized that I didn’t want half the crap on there. It was on there because I wanted to want it, or because it sounded good (not that anyone else ever sees the list), or because I felt like I ought to want it. It is very difficult to be motivated over the long haul when the thing you’re striving for isn’t something you actually want to reach.

Hopefully something on that list was useful. If it wasn’t at least you have a few more insights into the backwater parts of brain.

Recap: Week 12

One Million Words Challenge

Week 12

This week was a bit of a let down after last week. Started out strong, lost ground at the end. Ended up going a bit more into the hole, only a few thousands words but I was trying to avoid making my problem worse.

In other news, I may have found a place to stay in Chicago! I’m hoping it works out.

Started knitting again too. I haven’t much in a long time, I’ve been writing. But I need some other outlet besides just staring at the page. Too much of that and I get a little crazy feeling. Working on a hat right now, getting back into it with something easy.

 

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 384
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 184
  • Black Dog 8,704
  • Total 16,076
  • YTD 168,141
  • Where I should be 230,160

 

Recap: Week 10

One Million Words Challenge

Recap: Week 10

OK, so I’m not doing so well at this. I know this is my common theme but it’s still true. I’ve been neglectful of my writing, and I am falling further behind. I’m still committed, still going to keep striving forward. I will do this. It’s just harder than I imagined.

Writing is fun for me. And reasonably easy.

Not this past month. It’s been hard to hit the totals this whole time, yes, but over the past month writing has been incredibly difficult. I’m struggling to write anything. I’ve journaled almost daily my entire life and last week I only wrote once. The words are stuck in my head. Additionally I feel scattered, distant, lethargic. My mind hops from one thought to another with no connections or warning, it’s hard to hold onto a train of thought. I can’t finish books, follow movies, have long conversations. It’s like the part of my head that keeps my attention in one place has been removed.

I have dealt with this my whole life- ADD, ADH, any set of initials they can throw at someone to say that their brain is active have been thrown at me. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to help myself focused, how to pay attention, how to help myself stay on track.

But lately none of my tricks have been working and it’s frustrating. I feel like if I just had more discipline I would be OK, but I don’t have the discipline to get disciplined. Plus, discipline had never really helped me. I do best when I’m playing. Competing or taking a class work too- when I can convince my brain that something else is going on it will cooperate. I’m a loner, but I need people to stay on track. If I didn’t have such a busy summer ahead of me I’d form a writing group in the area, the closest ones I’ve found are over in the city. Still, even if I’m going to be moving soon it might be worth driving over for one even just for the next few months. I know from past experience that it does help to talk to other people and to feel like I have to keep up.

Also, re-reading The Artist’s Life reminded me about the idea of filling the well. Cameron talks about how if we do nothing but draw from our mind it will eventually run dry, especially during a very productive stage. It made me think- I’m demanding that my brain give me 3,000 words a day but I’m not giving it much to work with- few books, few movies, few events or fairs or new things to look at. Plus, I adore improv but I often feel mentally tired/drained after, as if it has sucked off my top level energy. The same energy I need for writing. So I’m writing and acting and creating and I’m not putting anything back in. And that is undoubtedly part of the problem.

On top of all that I am putting too much pressure on myself. I want to write something good. Something entertaining, fun, exciting. I’ve forgotten that all first drafts are shit, and that my first million words are practice. Hopefully I’ll get something good out of them but if I don’t it doesn’t matter, I’m learning. I need quantity, not quality. I tell myself that but remembering to believe it is a little harder. Maybe with enough repetitions it’ll eventually sink in.

That’s a big part of why I’m doing the million words challenge. I want to learn to make myself produce work even when I don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or have nothing to say. One of my career goals is to write for a TV series and if that is my job I won’t have the luxury of waiting until I feel inspired or have a great idea- I will have to sit down and write on a deadline and make it worth reading. This is my deliberate practice.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 692
  • Brazil 4,505
  • MPs 6,804
  • Total 12,001
  • YTD 126,016
  • Where I should be 191,800

Recap: Week 4

This week is more of the same. “I’m behind, I’ll catch up, blahblahblah…”. Still true. And I made some progress this week so it’s looking better.

Four weeks. That’s a lot of typing. I mean, not in comparison to how long I have left, but a month is nothing to sneeze at either. Not at this pace. I’m turning out short stories and blog posts like never before. Didn’t post here this week because I forgot, but I have posts waiting.

Started doing Morning Pages again this week. It’s an easy way to add words, almost 1,000 a day, and I have found them to be immensely helpful in the past. Something about dumping words out first thing, no matter what they are, gets them flowing for the rest of the day.

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of Morning Pages you can read almost any of Julia Cameron’s books and get the full scoop, the most thorough being in “The Artist’s Way”. Basically, you sit down every morning, first thing, and write three legal pad pages of words as fast as you can. Don’t think, don’t edit, don’t try to make sense. If it’s something like, “I need to buy eggs. Call Amber. Oh, the new manager at work is a jerk, and I’ve got to buy that shirt before we run out. I could write about improv next week.” then you’re doing it right. Or it can be connected. Or fiction. It doesn’t matter. Just do it fast and don’t think about it. I get a lot of blog posts around the end of page two, as things I’m thinking about finally make it onto the page.

 

Here are my totals this week–

 

  • Journal 1,988
  • Blog 313
  • Letters 675
  • Fae 7,144
  • MPs 6,804
  • Total 16,924

 

  • YTD 60,702
  • Where I should be 69,160

Recap: Week Two

So far behind!!!

*runs screaming*

Actually, I’m OK. Yes, I am behind. More behind than last week. But I have written every day, and some days I did make up ground. Readjusting to this much writing has been difficult, and between work and volunteering and a large knitting project I’m finding time to be in short supply.

Of course, that’s a big part of why I’m doing this. To learn to make priorities priorities, instead of pushing them aside for the urgent and the now and the easy. That doesn’t make the words come out though.

Another priority that I don’t have time for is getting into shape. Which is why I’m joining the gym tomorrow. It’s on my way home from work, open 24 hours. No excuses. I don’t even have to go on my days off, just on my way home the five days a week I work. I keep putting off running and losing weight because I don’t have time, I’ll do it later. Well, later is here and I still don’t have time. Just going to have to do it anyway.

That seems to be the way it works.

 

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 2,593
  • Blog 2,279
  • Letters 1,278
  • Odd Town* 8,939
  • R&B** 1,051
  • Total 16,791
  • YTD 30,849
  • Where I should be 34,580

 

*Odd Town is a fan fiction story I started LONG ago and abandoned, half posted on the site. I still get almost weekly favorites and followers on it. I have no idea why they are so optimistic that I’ll finish it but I’ve decided to, just because of their persistence. Besides, I’ve found fan fiction to be a rewarding form of writing, with the advantage of immediate feedback.

**R&B is the working title for a short story I am working on that is set in NOLA.

I’m going to be reprinting Raising Trouble (my novel) on Thursday when I go over into the city. That will let me start the next round of edits. I’m also going to start editing my novella (temp/possible title Midterms) in the next week or two, I finished the first draft last week. My goal is to get both of those out to some readers the first week of May.

On that note, would you like to be an early reader on either project? If so, comment here and I’ll get the details to you.

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