A link to a wonderful writing post by Sean Ferrell that made me cry. (Thanks Maisey for the link!)
I think all writers will understand exactly what he’s saying, will all have had those moments of feeling small, powerless in the face of our writing when it’s not going well.
Because a writer is someone who
tries to hollow out a part of themselves so that they can give a home to people who don’t exist in a physical sense but exist in a very hard and uncomfortable emotional sense. It’s not easy giving them a home, a safe place to be themselves, and it will often destroy us in the process. I think it’s supposed to. After completing a book you won’t be the person you were before trying to write it, not if you’ve done it right. There’s real fear in that, and we’re all small before that task, to clear out enough of yourself so they can move in, and to do it not with accolades or rewards but for the honest truth that it has to be done and who else will do it. You’re supposed to be scared. The fact you are feeling small means you’re in the right place: it means you care. If you didn’t care it would have no power over you.
He goes on to talk about overcoming the “feeling small” by just writing, by holding our noses and letting our first drafts stink.
Showing up, and finishing it, that’s all we need to do. The rest is what rewrites are for.
Timely for me today, as the write-a-thon is not going well! I have my characters, people I like who have a lot of past history and present relationship blocks. I have a setting I love, based on the small Australian country town A and I are hoping to move to. I have something resembling a plot.
And it’s not working.
Instead of the 5,000 words a day I hoped to write, I’m averaging 1500. Okay, I did have some more good insights into my heroine’s relationship block yesterday. But still, there’s too much description, too many secondary characters. Heck, I’m nearly finished the second chapter and the hero still hasn’t appeared, though he’s just about to.
This is going to be the longest novella in history, or I’m going to have to do a lot of darling killing in the edits.
Actually, at the rate I’m going, this may not be anywhere near done in time for the New Years Day deadline. Also, I’ve been suspecting I have a little too much internal conflict for even a longer novella. Maybe it will end up as a full length story for next Valentine’s Day!
Anyway, I’ve made an early New Year’s Resolution. A thousand words a day, or equivalent in planning or editing.
I read this post yesterday. (Now you see why my word count is less than sensational, I got just the teensiest bit distracted!) Sure, he’s blogging and writing non-fiction, not fiction writing. Plus, writing is his full-time job. But 300,000 words a year! Isn’t a number that big so sweet?
It’s a word count that I know totally isn’t going to happen for me, not next year anyway, with the Day Job and the Mother-in-Law and everything else. But I’ve tried aiming low, and it’s got me small results. I’ve tried aiming unrealistically high, and it’s paralysed me. 6000 words a week, fifty weeks of the year, sounds a reasonable goal, especially if I’m gentle with myself when I don’t make it.
Even more so when I factor in the other not-actually-writing-but-writing-related stuff.
I did this course with Kitty Buchholtz this January, and it was so good I’ll probably do it again next January. One of the tools she gave the class was an Excel spreadsheet for counting all that other stuff. As well as word count, we could give ourselves points for everything writing related. Because focusing on word count as our measure of progress is not just meaningless, it’s demoralising, if we’re editing or planning or workshopping writing.
The only trap there was- I still do need the word count! I managed some months where I met my targets, but did very little actual writing or editing. But I do need to start keeping track again, to keep me at least a little bit accountable and aware of what I am and aren’t doing.
Anyway, looking back on 2011, I feel even though my submissions total was a big fat zero (apart from my NV entry), I’ve done a lot. I hope I’ve learned more, especially about deepening emotional conflict, and story structure. I’ve started several new stories I like, and I’ve worked on editing several of the old ones. I have more ideas than I’ll ever have time to write.
So how was 2011 for you? Where have you made progress? And how do you measure your progress?