Starting blocks

Whew, I’ve been wearing my ‘parenting’ hat* all day and I almost forgot to write my weekly blog update! We couldn’t have that, now, could we?

Today, my kids were all home from school so it felt like part of the weekend. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… except that I don’t even try to write on weekends anymore. I figure that since writing has become my Monday-Friday day job, I should be fully present on weekends and not be an overachiever/workaholic** who disappears to spend time with imaginary characters instead of my actual family.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve spent the last couple of months creating an outline for my novel, and this week I was scheduled to start writing my new draft. Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve been hitting my goal of writing 1000 words every day and this draft is well underway! Even without writing today, I’ve got 4378 words done and I’ve finished the first section of the first chapter of my book.

Go me!

It wasn’t easy; Monday was a rough and faltering writing day, with heavy procrastination and stress before I hit my word count target. As the week went on, though, I started to build up some energy. Hopefully all my motivation and confidence is not going to be completely drained away this weekend, because I hate to think that next Monday morning might require another kick-start back into productivity. I’m super happy to have started this draft, but I don’t want my weekends to block my hard-earned momentum.***

On a slightly more disappointing note, I did virtually no work on my short story “Rabenmutter” this week. I had planned to fix this up to submit to a literary magazine’s contest by the November 30th deadline, but now I’m not sure that’ll happen. I know that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but you know how I feel about deadlines! We’ll see. Maybe I’ll find some time this weekend to polish the story’s language and fix up its not-quite-working ending.

*Not actually a hat.

**Yeah, fine, sometimes I still write on weekends too. But it’s usually before the kids wake up or when they’re playing video games. What can I say, my imaginary characters can be very compelling!

***Get it? Starting… block? Ok, it’s a stretch. But I got to use a photo of Usain Bolt, so that should provide inspiration to us all. Also, apologies for the wackiness of this post; too much hands-on parenting has a weird effect on my writing style.

Digitization

I’ve traded papers for pixels.

I spent this week transferring all the information from my dozens of index cards onto my laptop. Not only that, I’ve also reviewed and expanded each scene, making sure they all fit logically into the overall novel and refining and clarifying my ideas where necessary.

I do my writing with a fantastic program called Scrivener. Unlike Word, Scrivener lets me toggle back and forth between virtual index cards and the actual text of my book. Having already decided what happens and who’s present in every single scene of the book should make the task of writing this draft MUCH easier.

As you can see in the photo, I’ve colour-coded each of my main characters’ scenes, as well as the keywords for various subplots. I’m going to write this draft with alternating points of view, so these pretty colours are helping me keep track of what gets mentioned or written at different points in the story.

Now that my novel outline is fully, completely, 100% finished and digitized, I get to start writing this draft. Here we go!

 

Cards on the table

See all those index cards, neatly arranged, grouped and labelled? They represent my book. Every single scene in my novel is sketched out on those cards.

I’ve spent weeks laying out these cards, day after day. I’ve moved scenes around, adding and subtracting events and characters, shaping the timeline for various subplots. I’ve spent hours poring over these pieces of paper as I worked out the structure of this story, leaning over my dining room table until my lower back ached and my vision blurred.

Today, finally, I think I’m done.

(Yes, I’ll take that applause. Thank you!)

So what’s my next step?

Well, these old-fashioned index cards have been mighty useful for planning this novel, but I’m ready to rejoin the 21st century.

Monday morning, I’m going digital. I’ll be opening up a new file in my favourite writing program and I’ll transpose each and every scene into this digital framework. Then I’ll be ready to rock and roll and start writing.

You win some

Good news first: I finished the rewrite of my story! I even managed to keep it under 3000 words, which was my goal. Hooray! I’m very happy to have this new version done and sent off to my writing group so I can get their feedback next week.

This story (“Rabenmutter”) was first written back in the spring and it needed a major overhaul, with a bunch of new characters and even a new ending. After so many weeks of working on my novel outline, it was wonderful to spend a few days immersed in a different fictional world, playing with language and putting actual sentences together.

Which brings me to my second goal for this week; finishing the scene-by-scene outline for my book. Nope, that’s not done. I had really hoped to have it finished by the end of this week, but it’s just not there.

This is not a major setback; today was a totally arbitrary deadline. Still, I’m feeling a little down about not meeting this goal.

I know, I know: I need to take the time to get my outline done properly; I have to develop all the story arcs and resolve all my major plot questions and problems. The whole point of an outline is to work through all the tricky elements of the novel so that I can write my next draft with clarity and confidence. As much as I like deadlines, I need to be realistic, patient and flexible.

In summary: one writing goal met and one postponed. Onward!