Friday, February 01, 2013

Work-In-Progress: January

The Goal: Finish a complete first draft of a novel by the end of 2013. 

January Progress: Well, it's a start. 

Here's the thing about writing without any kind of outline or earthly idea of what will happen next: halfway through the draft, you get a better idea, and you have to go back and delete a lot of pages. Better ideas are good - they lead to better writing, which leads to better books - but oh, is there any key more cruel than delete? (Or, let's be serious, cut and paste. I don't throw anything away, and have a very long document titled "outtakes" in case I want those missing scenes back.) 

What happened was this: by mid January I had 81 pages of my first draft. I have to hand in 100 pages to workshop on February 5th, so I was making excellent time. Later that week, I decided that alternating between two characters' points-of-view wasn't working, and that I should focus on the character I liked better. So I did some cutting, and some pasting, and some deleting, and then I had about 56 pages with a fair number of holes. Oh, and that February 5th deadline was still looming. So, I wrote. I wrote some more. I tried not to delete things. And then I wrote some more. Today, I have about 85 pages, and I'll probably be able to write a few more before Tuesday. If not, I think 85 is close enough to 100, especially considering all the thousands of words that are sitting in my outtakes file. Such is life. 

Obviously, I hope to make more progress this month, especially after all the brilliant comments and suggestions that I will no doubt receive during workshop. My loose goal is 50 more pages by March - I have a busy month ahead, which includes weekly writing for my nonfiction workshop, the month long visiting writer workshop, and my student workshops (19 of them in two weeks - help!). Oh, and a four day trip to New York for a wedding. 50 pages will pretty much be a miracle. 

Things that have helped my productivity: writing 1,000 words a day, at least four days a week (sometimes more, sometimes less). Waking up really early and getting them done before the sun comes up. Having a deadline and knowing it's pretty much my only chance for feedback until next semester. Writing about bees, which are exciting and interesting and serve as a perfect metaphor (thank you, bees). 

How are your 2013 goals going? Good, I hope. And if not, never fear - we have eleven more months to get it all done. This is only the beginning. Onward and upward! 

9 comments:

  1. Hmm, that's interesting how the short-term deadline of 100 pages leads to a kind of stand-off between the length and the quality of the story. I guess a science analogy would be that as we work to answer one question, we almost inevitably stumble across weird results that generate MORE questions. I think this phenomenon is a major source of struggle for us because we've got to decide what's worthy of our focus for any given day, week, month, etc. I tend to be brutally focused in order to meet a goal; otherwise I just get lost in a cloud of possibilities. But I do have a mental file of "weird results" to which I may shift my attention once I've reached a point where I feel I can do something with them.

    I love hearing about your works-in-progress. It's very inspiring! xoxo

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    1. I think the deadline is good, at least for me - right now I am interested in completing a "shitty first draft," to quote the wonderful Anne Lamott. The quality and the language and rich details will come later, when I start down the long road of revision. Luckily, I love revision!

      I'm glad you like hearing of my progress. I plan to write a formal report once a month (like this) and I'll probably complain/celebrate/cry randomly throughout the month as well. :)

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  2. I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to write a novel. Wonderful, too, but frustrating when you have to edit! It sounds like you are making good progress and keeping yourself on track. Great job!

    We are getting bees this year! Just ordered the hive and are going to a local beekeeper's meeting later this month. I'm excited :)

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    1. Yes! Bees are so interesting and fun! Much harder then chickens, but definitely worth the effort. Can't wait to read all about them!

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  3. Very well done. I keep telling myself that this will be the year I get started on my novel...and then not doing anything about it. You inspire me.

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    1. Thanks, Cee! Getting started is the hardest part. I know from experience!

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  4. You've been rockin' that word count! Woohoo! I miss the days of those kinds of deadlines--so stressful, but awesome in their own way.

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  5. January was quite a month for me! Completed the 30/30 Project for Tupelo, won 3rd prize in a contest (!!!!), and my chapbook went on preorder (!!!!!!!). Plus my favorite poet agreed to give me feedback on the first half of my manuscript. (And I am soooo excited to get those pages with handwritten notes on them. So. Excited.) It's given February a lot to live up to. :-P

    Good luck with February 5th. *Sends literary cheerleaders*

    Good for you for keeping at it!

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  6. I love that you're writing a novel. Hope we get to read it some day!

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