Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Two Status Update: WOOOO

After nineteen months and numerous starts, stops and re-starts, I am proud to announce that the first draft of Book Two is DONE.
How did this happen, you ask? Well, last December, I was completely at an impasse. I had been writing and plotting and outlining and doing all kinds of stuff non-stop, but it just didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. There was even a point where I thought, "did I really say that this was going to be a series?" So when 2014 rolled around, I made myself a goal: I would do whatever it took to get the first draft finished this year.

The first step I took was to contact Indigo, a local editing company that my friend and fellow author Courtney Pierce had recommended (thanks Courtney!) I met with their sci-fi/fantasy editor, Susan DeFreitas, who I remembered seeing at a Willamette Writers conference in 2011. Susan was very helpful and had some great ideas, and I came out of our meeting feeling energized and re-inspired (thanks Susan!)

So, I went back and read through all of my old unfinished drafts, and it turned out that one of them in particular made me think, "hey, this one has potential." At that point, I made a firm commitment to return to the process that worked so well for Book One, which was to just write something - anything - every day, no matter how bad or disjointed I felt it was while I was writing it. I told myself that I would write a minimum of one page (250 words) a day, and that if I could do that, I would meet my goal of having a finished draft before the end of the year.

I got a piece of paper and logged how many words I wrote each day. If there was a day that I couldn't write for whatever reason, I would make up for it on another day. The key was to average 250 words a day, no matter what. And wouldn't you know it - once I got on this path, it got easier and easier, to the point where I was averaging 300 words a day. Then 400 (which was the benchmark I used when I was writing Book One.) Then 450. Then 475. It was like an upward spiral that continually built on itself until I realized that I was going to be done ahead of schedule. Way ahead, in fact.

During this process, I did three things in particular that really helped me along:

(1) I put a gag on the internal editor, that little voice in your mind that says stuff like "that sentence doesn't sound quite right" or "that's a little out of character for him" or whatever. It was hard to do, especially with a second book, because you're thinking about all of the feedback and praise and criticism that your first book received. In fact, I had been trying - and failing - to silence that voice all throughout the entire previous nineteen months that I had been working on this thing. But what I discovered was that re-reading the draft after putting it away for a while was the key, because it made me realize that something that seemed really horrible while I was writing it wasn't that bad after all.

(2) On those days when I had a hard time getting started (we all have those, right?), I would just write the most ridiculous thing I could think of. It wouldn't have to make sense, or even be connected to the story at all. For example, if I had left off yesterday with Joel and Felicity fighting a shark-wolf in the jungle, I would start today off by having a fleet of giant flying purple microwave ovens swoop in and carry everyone away. Or Felicity would suddenly turn into Jean Grey from the X-Men and blow the place up with a blast of psionic energy. The point was to get the wheels turning and to just start writing. I knew that I wouldn't have to keep any of this nonsense, which freed me up and allowed my creativity to kick in. As an added bonus, sometimes I even ended up with something cool and useable that I decided to keep after all.

(3) I didn't stop to fix, edit or re-write as I went along. Instead, if I knew that something I was writing was creating a plot hole or otherwise didn't make sense, I just made a note of it on a separate document. My mantra became: just keep going. Because as I found out, you can keep starting and stopping forever, and in the long run it probably won't make a difference anyway. Previously, I had spent weeks - months, even - juggling stuff and connecting dots and fixing problems that ended up becoming moot or resolving themselves after I just kept writing.

So there you go. I know that what I have in hand still needs a lot of work - as any of you writers out there know, beyond First Draft Summit is an even bigger hill: Mount Re-Write - but I'm happy (and relieved) to have arrived at this point. I'll let you all know when you can expect the finished product.

Oh, and don't forget to come out to the Autism Empowerment Easter Egg Hunt this Saturday!

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