Running through Mud: An Update on my Current Project

It has been a little over two months since I’ve started blogging again; that isn’t to say that I had completely stopped, but there is a difference between shooting for two blogs per week and blogging when the muse strikes.  Setting myself to a schedule has helped my productivity, both in terms of blogging and in terms of writing, and has helped me think through a number of critical aspects of the writing craft.  In this time, as you may recall, I have also used Facebook Live to share some of my work, and have spoken at the Community Writers of Santa Cruz gatherings.  However, as I sit here, thinking of my next scene, I wonder just how productive I have been.

In terms of my current project, Their Sharpest Thorns, I am in the early stages of my fourth act.  I came into this month having written 65,511 words, and have since added 12,266.  Through dumb luck and a little bit of wordsmithing, I ended last night with 77,777 words in the project.  Having set my sights on 20,000 words for the month of April, I have come to the realization that I may not hit that mark; right now, I’m far off the track, but I have been known to pull 2,000 words on nights where I’ve been less than inspired.

Some of this stunted production does relate to the blog.  The blog has helped me get back into writing, but anything is an improvement in production when you’ve set your book aside for weeks at a time.  Nevertheless, when I devote 1,000 or so words to a blog, it is not the same as devoting 1,000 words to my book, and that’s time spent away from my book that I have no way of retrieving.

I can say that a part of this stunted production is that layoff.  When people ask me how I write so much in a month for NaNoWriMo, the answer is frequently “it’s easy.” It isn’t quite easy, but writing is about rhythm and momentum.  Writing 1,667 words nightly, as I do in November, is much easier than writing 1,667 words one day, and then waiting a week to write 1,667 more.  Furthermore, the muse is more likely to strike if I am already in the habit of writing.  My exhortation to those of you who write, whether it is poetry, fiction, or non-fiction: write daily.  It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about writing, whatever you write about will help you create that writing momentum to push you to that next milestone.

Of course, part of this grind relates to the need to produce good writing. Good writing has one voice – or, at least, one voice per narrative focus.  If you look at examples from your lit class, William Faulkner bounces back between Benjy, Quentin, and Jason Compson in The Sound and the Fury, with the last section being a third-person narrator who does not closely follow one character.  There may be four narrators within the story, but the voice only changes when it jumps narrators.  By continually writing on a project, your project will be shaped by the same voice, and will have better cohesion in terms of the mood that you have set for your piece.  Furthermore, by writing every day and exercising your literary voice, you are allowing your literary voice to evolve naturally.

Finally, some of the stunted production relates to where I am in the novel. When I began this novel, I had a basic outline and an otherwise blank canvas.  Now that I have devoted nearly 80,000 words to this story, I have run out of outline and I am working with a world that now has rules, no matter how vaguely defined some of they may be.  It is far easier to write from the standpoint of everything goes than it is to write from the standpoint of “I must anchor this to the world that I have created.”

As I sit here, with not even one new word introduced to my novel today, I wonder if I will resign myself to missing my first NaNoWriMo challenge (my goal is 20,000 for the month) since I began engaging with NaNoWriMo more than seven years ago.  No.  As long as there are hours left in April, I will continue to pursue this goal.  That being considered, it will be one white-knuckler of a ride from here on out!

Image Credit: User: Canon EOS-1d Mark Iv via Max Pixel – Creative Commons Zero License

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