Writing

Novel Update – June and Six-Month Check-In

June

What Dreams is at 41,714 words, up from 39,013 in May. So… eh. About average, still not getting that monthly number up by very much. As with last month, I’ve done a good job writing on weekends, I even hit my weekly goal in one Saturday-Sunday stretch, but I hardly ever write on weekdays since I have multiple jobs every day now. I haven’t decided yet if I should keep addressing that as a problem, or just pour everything into weekends. I must speed up this process somehow.

For the moment, I’ve got a list of small things to do — “check these dates,” “fix this transition,” “make this chart” — and if it’s a weekday and I can’t muster the energy to write a scene, at least I can do one of those helpful things. And in June, I wrote a lot of little pieces and then seamed them together over the last week, and I actually think it turned out pretty good. So maybe there’s hope for small-chunk writing after all!

Barney Stinson writing quote

Six-Month Check-In

So, unbelievably, it’s been six months since the beginning of the year. I’ve gone up 12,901 words in that time, which for me is really quite a lot and I’m proud of it, despite being slightly froth-at-the-mouth-ish about speeding up. It’s just that this is at least a 100k book, so at this rate it’ll take YEARS to finish. More years than I’ve already spent, I mean.

The average is currently 2,150 per month. I’ve charted it all on a calendar (using monster and alien stickers for each day I write!) and oddly, my most productive time seems to be the second week of every month. No idea what’s up with that.

I’m currently working from:

  • An in-document outline that I make about ten scenes at a time out of my notes jumble/outline board/detailed outline document. My brain is a mess and so are my notes, but this way I can mastermind one section at a time, hopefully ensuring it makes more sense and fits into the rest. And the in-document outline is easy to look at and change. Best of both worlds, plotter and pantser.
  • A scene list I update as I go along, listing the plot segment/location, what happens in the scene, the word count, the page number where the scene starts, the POV, and notes/questions for editing.
  • A spreadsheet charting which days I worked and how many words I wrote each day.
  • The physical calendar with the stickers on it, just tracking when I worked on stuff without regard to word count. (I also write deadlines, plan rewards, and chart other projects on this calendar.)

It sounds like a beast, and it is, but honestly I’m much more comfortable writing this way and it streamlines my process. Otherwise I sit down to write and I’m paralyzed for an hour trying to figure out what I’m doing and what I’ve done already. I’m a much more efficient writer at this point than I was six months ago — I’m writing about the same amount of stuff, but more quickly and less anxiously. Soon I’m going to add a Story Bible to the mix to keep track of spellings, cultural references, and scientific concepts.

I posted pics of a lot of those things in the posts I linked to, but of course I’ve changed things going along. Happy to post more pics or more details about methods if anybody wants them. I did have a request for more on “spiraling” a few months ago — I kind of write everything at once, or need to see everything at once while I write sequentially… That’s the reason I haven’t written the post, because I can’t figure out how to describe my brain. Working on it.

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12 thoughts on “Novel Update – June and Six-Month Check-In

  1. Just catching up on your blog, and I love this idea of calendaring out the days you’ve written and other aspects of writing your novel. I’ve never done that. Way to go with the ‘small-chunk writing’ and everything else you’re working so hard at! 🙂

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  2. Sounds like you’re a more meticulous planner than I am, but when you’re spending years on a project, it’s probably natural. I create a basic outline and see if my book follows that. I always keep in mind my planned ending and all the major scenes, but sometimes I’ll remove something that just doesn’t fit or add something that just works right. Today I added an extra quick action scene where one of the characters is running from airport security after sneaking into the cargo of a plane (to follow a dangerous suspect to his boss). As a vampire, she needs to make sure she doesn’t use her abilities in a way that exposes her kind to the world, but she also needs to escape. I thought it turned out pretty good.

    Anyway, it’s good to hear that you’re making progress, even if it’s not quite as much as you hoped. Two jobs doesn’t help, but you have to pay for school somehow.

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    1. Yeah, some of it’s anxiety management and some of it’s just that it’s a huge project. I cannot function if I sit down to write and don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing. 🙂 But there’s definitely something to be said for spontaneity and just adding or removing things when you need to.

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  3. Your writing process sounds a lot more organised than mine, Hannah! It’s an interesting question whether to do a bit each day, or “splurge” at the weekends. I remember reading an interview with Kate Mosse, who said it’s a good idea to write every day – even if for only 5 minutes – to get into the habit of making it a regular routine. But it sounds like you are effectively doing that anyway with your checklists and planning. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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    1. Heh, thanks. We’ll see how it goes. I can’t get much done in five minutes, so I’d much rather do a little chore that I might not do otherwise. My preferred structure is thirty-minute chunks, with five minutes to stare at the screen, twenty to write like mad, then five to finish off. I can string about three of those together over the course of a weekend day, and get about a thousand words. Can’t do any of that on a weekday.

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  4. Progress is progress is progress!
    I feel as though my current project is a beast that needs to be tamed – I’ve never worked this way on a project before and need to go back and do some outlining, naming, mapping, time-lining… ugh. All your tracking methods sound so awesome and helpful….

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    1. Progress is progress. 🙂 They are all helpful for me, but I imagine for others they’d be needlessly complicated. It all just depends where you are on the plotter-pantser spectrum and how you envision things, I think.

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