Category Archives: Keep Going

Still behind and slightly worried

I seem to have some sort of mental block with this novel. This is the third time that I’ve attempted to write it, and I’m having only slightly less trouble writing it this time than I have in previous attempts. Part of my problem is that this book is primarily about how we see people, and how our perceptions change once we get to know someone, and I’ve never been very good at slowly changing characters’ minds.

Another problem (and probably the main problem) is that this book has a lot more dialogue than any of the others that I’ve worked on. I don’t dislike dialogue as a whole, but the dialogue in this book is more difficult because one my characters is one of those peppy people who can talk to anyone and is always giggly and happy (or at least almost always is), and that is so completely not like me at all. I was at my boyfriend’s house all day on Saturday for a family get-together, and I was extremely proud of myself because I spoke one time. That’s how much I hate talking to people. I’m not good at it. In a work setting, it’s different. I’m considered loud at work because I’m the one who gets people attention and tells them what to do. When it comes to personal situations, though, like with friends and family, I clam up. It’s not that I don’t like people – I just don’t know what to say. Which makes it extremely difficult to write about a character who does know what to say.

That said, I’m working on it. I’m currently at 21,464 words. I’m about 10k behind where I should be for Camp NaNo and 17k behind where I should be for my personal goal of 60k. But I’m also further into this draft than I ever have been with a draft of this novel, so I’m not completely devastated about that. I wrote a little over 3k yesterday, and I’ve written about 1,500 words today and still have a little over four hours before I have to leave for school, so I’m hopeful that I can get closer to where I’m supposed to be. If I write about 3200 words a day, I can still hit 60k by the end of the month. I’m not entirely sure that’s going to happen, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility, so I’m going to go with it.

I’m not going to let myself get distracted anymore. I read and reviewed four books and a short story in the past two weeks. While I’m happy I got some more reading in before school, I should have been focusing on reading AND writing. I’ve finally finished all of the library books that I had out, so at least I don’t have to worry about finishing them before their due date anymore.

In vaguely related news, my first day of grad school is today. I have classes Mondays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 pm. I already have the syllabus for my Thursday class (Planning and Organizing Instruction for Secondary Education, for those who are curious), and I’m already freaking out a little. Two tardies (15 minutes or more) equals 1 absence, and 2 absences mean that the highest grade you can make in the class is a B, which is the lowest grade you can get and still pass, according to this program. If you get lower than a B, you have to retake the class, and you can only retake two classes before they kick you out of the program. And, okay, sure, I never got lower than a B+ in any of my undergrad classes, but I’m sure their standards are higher in grad school.

My main concern is actually getting to school. Most people with jobs go to the same place every day and therefore know how long it takes them to get to school from work, so they would know beforehand if it was possible for them to get to school on time or not. I, however, don’t have a normal job. I’m at a different school everyday. Some days I’m five minutes from home. Some days I’m two hours from home. Some days I get done at noon. Some days I get done at five. It varies that much. I’ve already talked to my team lead, who agreed not to put me at middle schools on the days I have school (since middle schools don’t usually get done until 4, which means I almost can’t get out of there before 4:30 or 5), but there’s only so much she can do. Thursday, I’m going to be way up in the mountains. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get from that school to my school, and that’s without factoring in traffic. That school day ends around 3, which means that it’s possible that I won’t get out of there until 3:30, which would only give me an hour and a half to get to my school before I’m late. I’m hoping that that school will get done early, but I’m still freaking out that I won’t make it to class on time.

Oh, and one of the textbooks that I bought from eBay probably isn’t coming. It already charged me $40, and now it says that the member is not longer registered with eBay. Since I already paid, the only thing I can do is wait a week and see if the book still shows up. If it doesn’t, I can get my money back. Of course, I don’t have a week because class starts today and I probably need to have read something by the next class, so no matter what I’m going to have to buy another copy just in case. I guess it’s better to have two copies than none, but it’s still a pain in the ass, especially because now only the expensive copies of the book are available.

And now that I’m done freaking out about something that I can’t do anything about right now, I’m going to focus more on writing. The plan is to at least finish this chapter and the next chapter before I have to leave for school.

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Already behind but still not worried

Yes, it’s only the fifth day of Camp NaNo August, and I’m already behind where I’m supposed to be. According to the NaNo calendars I’m using as my background, I should be at 8,065 words today. Since I’m aiming for 60k this month instead of 50k, I should really be at 9,670. I’m actually at 6,511. I’ve written the prologue and chapter 1, and I’m at least halfway through chapter 2, probably a little more. According to the Camp site, I have to write 1,611 a day to finish on time. I can do that easily if I actually focus.

I generally get like this when NaNo starts. For the week or so beforehand, I’m excited to start working on this new project. Then the day before and the day it starts, I panic and realize that I haven’t planned enough and that nothing I write is good enough, and I drag out the writing process. I sit at my desk with my coffee, but instead of writing, I watch TV. I watch movies. I play games. I read blogs. I start making notes on other novels I want to write in the future. I pretty much do everything but write.

Most of the writing that I do have so far is based on the chapters I already had from previous attempts to write this novel. The first time I tried to write this novel was NaNo 2008. I wanted to try pantsing a novel, so I wanted to start with a character and just see what happened after that. I ended up with four characters (which eventually evolved into three), and I had an overall outline in my head before NaNo even started. I got about 10k in and then quit. I tried writing this again back in August 2010. In order to prepare for NaNo, I was going to try to write a novel over the span of August and September. I got about four chapters in before I gave up.

Now I’m more prepared. I understand most of the characters. I have a clear view for the first several chapters at least. Now I just have to deal with the fact that it’s never going to be as great in my head as it is on paper. The rational part of me knows that that doesn’t matter, that it’ll get better when I edit it and that my second draft is always better than my first, but the other part of me is still afraid to keep going. I think part of my problem is that I’ve now done a bit more editing with Tilt, and I don’t want to make it harder for myself later. Both Tilt and Learning to Lie had to be completely rewritten, and I’m afraid that most of Degeneration will be, as well. I already know that The Story of Em will probably need to be tossed, or at least reworked, if I want to make it a completed draft. Part of me just wants to slow down a bit with this one and see if perhaps I can actually keep the first completed draft of this one. Obviously it will still need editing and reworking, but I shouldn’t have to redo the entire thing.

I think that’s throwing me off, though. I should just write. If it ends up needing tons of editing later, that’s fine. Editing Tilt is actually proving to be rather enjoyable. I have tomorrow and Wednesday off work, and possible Tuesday, as well. I forget how slow the first few weeks are. My plan tomrrow is to get caught back up with where I’m supposed to be. That means a little over 5k and 4 chapters (since I wanted to write at least 1 chapter a day). I’d rather keep up with the chapters than the word count, but I’d be happy either way.

And tomorrow, the TV stays off.

Editing and preparation for Camp NaNo

Camp NaNo starts in less than an hour. I’m tempted to stay up and start writing exactly at midnight, but since I have to wake up around 5:30 tomorrow for training, I probably shouldn’t. I am, however, tempted to wake up at 5 instead and write for a little bit. We’ll see how I feel in the morning. I might just go back to sleep for an extra half hour. At the very least, I’m bringing a notebook and my notes for chapter 1 with me so that I can write at work.

Just the returning photographers are going to training tomorrow, and there’s not really anything that they can tell me that I don’t already know. I mean, I worked a job already yesterday, so it’s a bit late to try to train us. The only new thing I noticed was that there’s an extra alignment line thing that shows us where to crop the bottom of the picture to. They could explain that in an email. They don’t really need to call us all in and make us sit there for eight hours. But whatever. That’s why I’m bringing a notebook. The notebook will also be useful when they make us sit through that incredibly boring sexual harassment video that they make us watch every season, even though corporate only demands that we watch it once a year.

I’m a bit worried that I haven’t prepared enough for Camp. There are still a few details I’m not exactly clear on, and I haven’t decided exactly how to deal with the fact that the last like eight chapters of the book switch back and forth between Samantha and Chloe and completely ignore Natalie. Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure what I want Samantha’s relationship with another side character to be.

On the other hand, I also have descriptions for all of the main characters and several of the main side characters. I understand their motivations and know what they want and what they’re afraid of. I have an outline that summarizes all the major events by month. I have another outline that breaks up what will be in each chapter. I have another outline that just lays out all the important dates and what days of the week those events occur on. I asked two different Facebook friends for help on what two of my characters would be doing for their senior projects. I have plenty of information to draw on. I’m way more prepared than I’ve been for novels in the past. I’m just nervous, I guess.

My goal for the month is 60k or a finished first draft. I’d like the finished draft more, but I would also like to bring my total word count for 2012 up to 300k, and 60k this month would do that. That’s a little more than 1900 a day, which isn’t horrible if I actually stay focused and write at least one chapter a day.

I originally wanted to be finished with the first round of edits for Tilt before Camp started, but it looks like that’s not happening. I am pleased with what I’ve done so far, though. I’ve made markups of the entire manuscript, and I have a new outline of each chapter with notes for things to add and things to delete. I started trying to type up the changes as I went, but once I hit chapter 12, I ran into bigger problems, which led to a lot of shuffling around and major rewrites, and it was just easier to read the whole thing and tag problem areas as “delete” or “expand” and just deal with it later.

Tilt now sits at 96,575 words, down from the 101,478 words that it started at. In case anyone cares, that’s a net decrease of 4,903 words so far, and I’ve just finished fixing chapter 18. There were originally 39 chapters, but I’ve made notes to delete four of those. I’m on page 94 out of `189 (1.5 spaced, Garamond size 11 font, 0.7 inch margins, in case anyone’s curious). I’ve also just wrapped up December 2010. This means I’m pretty much in the middle of the novel no matter how you want to look at it, which is pretty exciting. I’m rather pleased with the draft so far. It doesn’t feel quite as…stifling…as it was before. April talks to people. She’s not just shut up in her room for half the book. Quite an improvement.

I’ll probably still end up making changes during August, but I’m going to try to focus more on writing Keep Going. I’ll finish editing Tilt in September. Then I’ll probably work on editing Degeneration. I’ve also been coming up with more ideas for the short story I wrote for my thesis class that I’ve always wanted to rewrite as a novel. I’m starting to see that world more clearly, and I look forward to getting more notes down on paper for that one. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be writing that one for NaNo this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I should simply try to get some sleep so I can wake up early and write tomorrow morning…I mean so that I don’t fall asleep during training.

So much to do, so little time

Whenever I actually sit down to focus something writing-related, I’m reminded of how little time I have left before the summer is over and I have to start work and school. I have just over two weeks before training starts and five weeks before school starts. I’m trying to get ahead of my 52 books challenge, since I probably won’t have time to read much for fun during the fall, and I want to write the first draft of Keep Going (and find a new title for it), and I want to start editing Tilt Your Head and Smile and Degeneration.

I’ve decided to see how much of Tilt I can edit before Camp NaNo starts again. I decided to print draft 2. I’ve made some notes on the copy I have saved on my Nook, but it’s not the same. I like making edits on a hard copy. I have the notebooks I’ve already designated for this novel, the fine-tip Sharpie pens that my boyfriend got me for Christmas, and the sticky notes that my boyfriend’s mother got me for my birthday. I also have my soundtrack for this novel and my Script Frenzy mug full of tea. I should be all set to edit now.

Most of the editing articles I’ve seen advise against making line edits until you have the overall plot down, but I can’t work like that. I can’t see a mistake and then not fix it. I’m making notes as I go so that I can keep track of all the scenes and characters and whether or not they work in the novel. I’m also making notes of things that I need to add. I already know that I need to include more interactions between April and those close to her, so I’m trying to find places to insert those scenes. I’ve never had to make big edits like this before, so I’m a bit worried. In the past, I’ve just thrown the entire draft out and rewritten it. I don’t really want to have to keep doing that, though. From what I remember about this draft, I’m fairly happy with the overall structure of it.

I’m also happy with the outline I have for Keep Going. I’m planning on 33 chapters, including a prologue and epilogue, although I doubt I’ll refer to them as such in the novel. I’m a bit uncertain about the end, as the events of March 2009 are told pretty much exclusively from the points of view of Chloe and Samantha, but there’s not really much I can think to do about it at this point. I’ll just go with the outline I have and worry about it later. Either I’ll think of something to add involving Natalie as I’m writing, or I’ll try to fix it when I’m editing.

That’s proving to be one of the difficult parts about writing a novel with three main characters: I have to keep up with what all of them are doing and come up with complete storylines for each. Chloe and Samantha are easy to figure out, as they’re really the main main characters, but I’m having issues with Natalie. She’s important, as Chloe and Samantha wouldn’t really interact all that much without her, but I’m not really sure what to do with her towards the end of the novel. I didn’t have this much trouble when I was writing Learning to Lie, as those three main characters were all doing pretty much the same thing, at least for the most part. They had their own motivations and back stories, of course, but they were all on a quest to find the truth, so it was easy to find things for them to say.

Of course, I also wasn’t as concerned with keeping the number of chapters for each character even. I knew that Kali and Loki were my main characters and that Melina was a main supporting character. I suppose there’s not really a reason I can’t treat Natalie the same way. Besides, their numbers of chapters are fairly close. Samantha has 13 chapters, Chloe has 11, and Natalie has 9. It’s not like the other two each have 12 and she has 5 or something like that. I suppose I could just stop counting chapters and just have each chapter be a month and then have the scenes switch points of view.

I need to stop worrying about a novel I haven’t even written yet and start working the novel that actually needs to be edited. I can’t just keep writing first drafts – or even second drafts, for that matter – that don’t go anywhere. Getting the first draft on paper if, of course, important, but that only matters if I actually do something with the draft after I write it. I wrote the first draft in two weeks and the second draft in four. Hopefully I can at least get the first round of edits done in two weeks.

“Afternoons and mornings, I threw them all away…”

My summer is coming to an end, and I suddenly feel as if I have wasted all of my time off. I got a text from my team lead today seeing if I was coming back to work in the fall. I, of course, am coming back. It’s the only job I have, and it’s not exactly like it’s that difficult. Besides, it often leaves with free time between classes, so it’s actually a great job to write at, especially now that I have my Nook and can write/edit while away from my computer.

I also got into grad school. I found out a few days ago and am waiting for my admission packet to show up in the mail. Classes start August 20. I’ll be working on my Masters of Arts in Teaching degree with a focus on Secondary English … which basically means that two years from now, I should be certified to teach high school language arts, assuming everything goes to plan. I’m excited to be going back to school, although I’m starting to realize that I’ve decided to take on rather a lot this fall. I’ll be waking up around 4-6 a.m., working from 6 a.m. until 2-4 p.m., and then I’ll have classes three days a week from 5-8 p.m. Plus, there’s NaNo in November, and I have already volunteered to help the Atlanta MLs run the Adopt-a-Newbie program. Fortunately, work tends to slow down towards the end of October, but still…I’ll be rather busy.

That’s part of why I’ve been working on Keep Going so much. I still don’t really like that title, but I’m going to keep it for now, if only because it’s less pretentious than its original title, Ascendance. I’ve been trying to learn from my mistakes, and I think I finally know what I should be doing. I always start out with these great ideas for what my stories should include, and then I get to writing and forget about them. I’m hoping that having a more detailed outline will help with that. My current outline is six pages and a little over 4,000 words long. I also have six and a half more pages of notes on events and characters. My outline is separated by month, with subsections in each month for each of my three main characters.

My next step is turn that outline into a chapter outline. A lot of it should just be copy and pasting from my month outline, but I’m also going to try to work on transitions and filling in a few of the plot holes that I still I have. Most of the plot holes have already been fixed, but there are still a few that I need to work on. Hopefully I can finish that up this week. I’m torn between waiting until the August edition of Camp NaNo starts and going ahead and starting now, before work starts, when I have more free time to write. I guess I’ll wait to make that decision until I actually have a finished outline.

[Subject title comes from the song “Time” by Chantal Kreviazuk.]

Older but not wiser

Today (yesterday, if you want to get technical, since it’s after midnight) was my birthday. I’m 23 now. Been out of college for a little over two years. Been out of high school for a little over five. It’s a weird feeling, especially considering I haven’t really done anything with my life so far and am still living with my parents, but I suppose this isn’t the place to complain about my life. It is, however, the place to complain about my writing, so I guess I’ll settle for that right now.

I still don’t have a completed outline for Keep Going yet, but I’m making progress. I understand the characters more, and I know what the overall plot is going to be – I’m just working on the details. It helps that I have two started drafts of this one already. I first attempted to write this novel for NaNo 2008. I hit 10k and stopped writing. Then I tried it again in 2010 as a sort of pre-NaNo exercise. This time I got to 4k and stopped.

So here I am now, trying to figure out which parts of each draft I want to keep and work into the new one, and I can’t help but notice that my writing was a lot better back then. I knew what the characters were doing with their lives. They interacted with other people. Sure, Samantha spent most of her chapter scowling at her boss and thinking of ways to kill him, but she was still out of her apartment. Chloe was at an acting class and then picking up her sister from school. Natalie was complaining about her English teacher (which was so not a passive-aggressive way for me to get back at my incompetent TA, no, not at all). Is it perfect? Of course not. I’ll have to take out Natalie’s whining scene completely and tighten up Chloe’s chapter a bit, but as a whole I still really, really like what I have.

The same goes for the version I started in 2010 (or 2009 – I honestly have no idea anymore). I like the opening chapter so much more for that one and will probably end up keeping that whole thing (except for the line about the Vikings game, as I have no idea what sport they play but I don’t think it’s played in March, when that scene is now taking place). That version opens on election night 2008, and that would really just require a bit of tweaking to fit with my new plot line – or at least the bits of one that I have planned thus far. The characters are amusing and interesting (at least in my opinion), and I think my writing there could actually stand up to some of the books I’ve been reading lately.

And yet the stuff I’ve been writing lately isn’t anything like that. The stuff I’ve been writing lately is pretty horrible. Yes, there are parts of Degeneration and Tilt Your Head and Smile that I like, but for the most part, they need serious work. As in I probably need to rewrite most of them, or at least add another 20k to each so that I can show who the characters are more.

I really just need to figure out what changed between then and now. I was a good writer a few years ago. Now I’m just mediocre, and I don’t really know what changed. I lost it somewhere along the way. Maybe I’m just trying to be too serious. The further I get into this blog post, the more I’m realizing that that’s it. Keep Going is about a group of roommates who get to know each other and confront their problems. There’s serious stuff happening in there, but I still manage to have fun with the characters.

I don’t do that with April and Adelyn. I think I put too much of myself in them to be able to distance myself from the novels and just enjoy myself. I was trying to show how much unemployment sucks with April, and I was trying to show why you shouldn’t automatically respect people just because they’re family with Adelyn, and somewhere along the way I got too caught up in the bad and stopped making the characters interesting. There’s divorce and abuse in Keep Going, too, but that’s not all that the characters are about. They learn about themselves and each other along the way.

April and Adelyn don’t really learn anything. Well, April learns that she could have tried harder and that she’s mostly to blame for her unemployment, but that’s about it, and even that I just sort of ghost over near the end. I rarely show her interacting with people. I just show failed interview after failed interview. I got so bored writing them, and then I wonder why it’s not fun to read.

I keep thinking about those writing classes I took in college. They all focused so much time and energy talking about what you were and weren’t allowed to write about. You couldn’t say that someone was a jerk – you had to show them being a jerk. So for the last two stories, I haven’t summarized anything. I showed everything that happened. My characters don’t just get up from the table and fix themselves a cup of coffee. They get up. They get a cup from above the sink. Then they pour themselves a mug. Then they add the cream and sugar. It’s ridiculous. I know I’ve talked about this before, but apparently I haven’t fixed it yet. It’s like I’m so afraid that someone’s going to read over my shoulder and tell me that there’s not enough detail, so I put in too much, as if that’s better.

It’s like I’ve forgotten that you can also get to know a character by listening to their thoughts. While it’s important to show that one character likes another character better and not just say it, it’s all right to say it sometimes, too. There needs to be a balance. I knew what that balance was in 2008. I just seem to have forgotten it. My boyfriend got me two writing books for my birthday – perhaps one of them can help me get back to where I used to be.

In other news, I got a huge ice cream maker for my birthday, so that’s pretty exciting. What’s not so exciting is the fact that Script Frenzy has been canceled. Most people probably already know that (I think I got at least three emails telling me that, not including the one they sent out to the MLs), but I figured I’d mention it. I decided to get a Script Frenzy shirt and keychain now, while they still have them. They came in today, which was a nice little birthday surprise. I’m sad to see it go, but it’s not really much of a surprise.