Archives for category: Goals
Perfection in a coffee cup; or, the way I like it by Daniel Lestarjette
Perfection in a coffee cup; or, the way I like it, a photo by Daniel Lestarjette on Flickr.

The vacation from writing is over. Actually, it was probably longer than it needed to be. On December 1st, I was going to keep plowing away with my editing but I read a Post-NaNoWriMo pep talk that compared my 50,000 word feat to a marathon and said I needed a break. I took the advice to heart and let the laziness ensue. But, just like taking time off from running, the longer I went without it, the harder it was to start again. I missed writing. I missed waking up each morning, excited to write or dreading it. I missed that purpose and that sense of accomplishment.

And if I’m being honest, fear, was holding me back. I am terrified of editing my manuscript. Simply because 146,068 words is extremely daunting. It’s a lot of material and I don’t know where to start.

Then I discovered Scrivener. It is a book writing software and it is simply amazing. It’s making my editing seamless and almost easy. I am in love. It took me 3 hours to do the basic tutorial but when I was finished, I just sat staring at my computer wondering why nobody told me about this software before. I’m not trying to sell it, if you’re curious, go check out the website. I am just that proud pet owner showing you the weird pictures of my dog dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween. You may not want to see my pictures, but I’m going to show you anyway.

These are my 3 favorite features of Scrivener. (Although there are many more amazing ones.)

1. Easy Organization: Imagine writing a novel in Word, or Googledocs, Pages or whatever word processing software you use. Sometimes you skip around, it starts getting longer (imagine you’re working with a 500+ page book) and you have to start using the “Find” feature to jump to places where you want to write. Things get lost. Things get out of order. You begin to forget to connect parts of your story because they are buried. Scrivener allows me to divide my book up into folders and documents which can be visually organized as an outline however I want: Books, Parts, Chapters, Scenes within chapters. All I need to do to go to those chapters is click on the folder in the bar off to the left. In addition, each of these folders and files can be visually seen as index cards on a virtual cork board where I can add notes describing the scene or can leave a watermark with the status (First Draft, Needs work, Finished, etc.).

2. Notes, Research, and References: Along with the organization you can attach files, pictures, url links, videos and references to the documents. Sometimes I gather visual cues to get my mind in the right place to write a certain scene. I can click on that index card or file and see those pictures. Or I can read off to the side notes I’ve left myself about what needs to be worked on or find links to references and background research that I’ve collected. Because I am writing a trilogy, this ability to leave myself notes is vital because I can remind myself about clues that I need to leave. And overall it just makes my editing better because I can taunt myself into producing a better novel through rude messages about poor writing, inconsistencies in my characters and holes in my plot.

1. Snapshots: This may very well be my favorite feature. Before I change anything when editing a scene or a chapter, I can take a “snapshot” which just means that the program saves my original document and puts a time stamp on it and the new, edited document becomes is a completely separate file. If I decide I don’t really like the changes I made, I can go back to the original document or I can pull up both documents at the same time to compare them, Scrivener shows me, through colored text and lines crossing through words, what it was that I added or took out. It’s brilliant.

[FYI: Scrivener was originally written for Mac and that’s the version I use.  The Windows version might be a little different.]

So now that I have the tools to edit, I need the goal. And here it is.

I will have a 100,000 word second draft completed by February 1st. And then I’ll pass it on for peer review.

In the meantime, I’ll post another excerpt from my book as soon as I have something decent edited.

The end by Alexandre Moreau | Photography
The end, a photo by Alexandre Moreau | Photography on Flickr.

The other night I found myself lamenting that it had been so long since I’d worked on my book. Moments later, when I was calculating just how long it had been, I realized that the date was December 1st, meaning it had only been one day since NaNoWriMo ended and I declared myself a winner.

Writing is no longer in my heart. It’s in my blood. A necessity approaching eating and sleeping. I thought when I posted The Doldrums that I was just days away from a month long vacation from writing. A well needed reprieve. But simply the act of putting my feelings and frustrations into words and posting it on this blog revived me and I found myself wanting to write even more.

NaNoWriMo enabled me to write the ever elusive words “THE END” on my first novel but it also taught me a few other things about myself and writing along the way.

1. Goals need a finish line: I’ve never been fond of goals. I am an all or nothing kind of person. If I want to do something, I am determined to do it. If I don’t want to do something, even if it’s a worthy goal, I don’t even try. But NaNoWriMo opened up my eyes to the value of well-defined goals. You may not be exactly where you want to be when you finish, but you’re closer than not starting at all. I have been working on my novels (I’m already 60,000 words into the second one) for over 4 years. I’d always planned on finishing, someday, but I had never actually envisioned the finish line. In my last week of NaNoWriMo I was forced to do that. I had to sit down and think there has to be an end to this. I’m beginning to wonder if I ever would have gotten there if I wasn’t forced into it. If you’re a writer, set well-defined goals.

2. Blogging and practice make perfect: Starting a blog while trying to write a novel in 30 days is very near insanity. Until I started blogging I didn’t understand that blogging itself can be a very serious form of writing. It’s intense and it takes time. Time that could be spent getting my word count. But, there were two benefits. I was publicly accountable to everyone reading my blog and that accountability motivated me on the bad days. (Failure is not an option, although it should be, see above point.) And, as I’ve mentioned, one of my posts pulled me out of a slump. Writing in any form begets more, and hopefully better, writing.

3. Perfectionists and first drafts don’t dance well together: I am a recovering perfectionist. It is something that I will struggle with my entire life. I began to fight it when I realized perfectionists can never be happy because they will never be perfect. When I started writing years ago I was naive. I wanted to write my manuscript perfectly the first time. When I wrote “THE END” I was absolutely certain that it would be my one and only draft. But, that’s arrogant and limiting. Critique and input from other people doesn’t make your work any less valuable, it just allows you to pull more from yourself. NaNoWriMo lends itself to fast, not necessarily good, writing. It’s about filling the page and ignoring the inner editor. My manuscript is a mess. Plot holes. Weak characters. Ridiculous scenes. My new adventure is tearing that manuscript to shreds and making it even better.

4. Failure is an option and an opportunity: I recently read blog posts by two people, here and here, who participated in NaNoWriMo and didn’t “win.” Neither of them is a “loser.” On the contrary, they are both moving forward with lessons learned, ideas, and novels in the works. I recognize that it is a very distinct possibility that I would have lost NaNoWriMo too, if I hadn’t cheated.  Oh, the lessons I could have learned from that!

Writing is a sleep depriving, heart racing, frustration inducing and euphoric journey and I hope that I never find “THE END.”

A new well-defined goal will be coming soon, so stay tuned.