Slogging Through Chapter 21

I’d like to say that Chapter 21 is complete, but it isn’t.  It’s only about half way done.  I just haven’t had a lot of time to write this week, even on lunch, because of computer problems at work and the resulting stress that falling behind at work generates at home.  I really should just sit down and finish Chapter 21 this afternoon.  But I’m feeling so mentally exhausted, I don’t know if it will actually happen.

Wish me luck.

Dropbox

Dropbox has been great tool for me.  It’s a very simple, intuitive program that allows you to save your stories into an online server and pull them up from anywhere.  It allows me to share my stories between my writing tablet and my home computer.  My writing tablet is a great tool for reasons I won’t go into again, but my home computer is superior in some ways.

For instance, the word processor on my tablet doesn’t have a spell check, and my home computer runs Microsoft Office Word, which does have a spell check.  When I’m writing on my writing tablet, I’m usually doing first drafts.  But the tablet has a very small screen, a small keyboard, and a built-in mouse on the keyboard pad that I sometimes accidentally touch and end up writing sentences where I don’t necessarily want to write them.  In comparison, it’s easier for me to revise and edit on my home computer, because the main monitor is about three times as large and having a second monitor means that I can do research without having to tab away from the page I’m currently on.

Dropbox has allowed me to change the same version of my document between my writing tablet and my home PC.  One of the reasons I was hesitant about writing on a tablet is because they’re very portable, which means easily stolen, and the thought of losing all of my writing was just terrifying to me.  I’m also really bad when it comes to taking manual backups.  But it’s very easy to just upload a copy of something into Dropbox, and then download the copy onto my home PC and save over whatever version I have.  This means that the same version of my story is in at least three locations, two physical and one server, which is comforting to me.

I also discovered another nice feature of Dropbox the other day.  When I was writing a chapter on my tablet, I had accidentally opened up the Dropbox version rather than the version saved to my tablet’s SD card.  I’m a compulsive saver, so I had been hitting “save” every few minutes.  But when I uploaded the version of the story from my tablet’s SD card into Dropbox, I accidentally replaced the new version that I had been working with the old version that I had been working on yesterday.

Panic.  I had written an entire chapter and then saved over it with an older version of my story that didn’t have that chapter.

As I was sitting in my PC on despair, I discovered that Dropbox has a nifty feature where.  When I open my Dropbox folder on my home PC, I can right-click a file and then click “view previous versions.”  It then pulls up a folder called “revisions” on the internet, which has all of the previous versions of my story that I’ve saved to Dropbox.  In this case, it allowed me to load up the version of my story with the new chapter that I had actually been saving into Dropbox all along and had accidentally overwritten.  You can only imagine my relief.

So now I’m even more happy with Dropbox than I was in the first place.  It’s an amazing tool and I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without it.

Chapter 20 Complete

I missed a couple of updates on my chapter progressions while my power and internet were out.  I’ve been trucking right along because writing has been the most interesting thing in my life lately, especially with my internet crapping out and removing all of my other relaxing hobbies.  I love being able to check books out of the library on my tablet, but… yeah.  Need to have internet for that.

I finished chapter 19 yesterday but I didn’t really feel like posting about it.  I wasn’t sure whether I was going to keep the new version, or try to fix the old version.  I ultimately decided to keep the new version.

I was supposed to meet with my small writing group this morning, but it didn’t work out.  So I ended up having a couple of extra hours today in which to write, and I’m very excited to say that I finished chapter 20!  I’m just amazed at how much progress I’m making.  Here I was thinking that a chapter a week was ambitious, but now that I’m sitting down and writing regularly, it seems like I’m actually averaging about two chapters a week.  Admittedly, my chapters are pretty short.  But I still think it’s awesome.

When I was reviewing my outline after wrapping up chapter 20, I realized that I had skipped a couple of things that I had intended to put before this point.  The writing just moved me along to where it is now because the story arc was interesting.  But I do want to put those plot points in.  When I was thinking about whether they will fit in later, I realized that they will actually fit better later.  And this is why I’m not a strict outliner.  Sometimes the story takes me and runs with me, and if it’s better than what I planned, I’m happy to let it do so.

In Late, Out Early

After several days without power, internet, or both, I’m back!  I didn’t get as much writing done this time as last time.  I did, however, handwrite a blog entry, which I’ve typed up below:

In late, out early has turned into one of my mantras.  It basically translates into “hew your scenes close to the conflict.”  When I start a scene or a chapter and I find myself frustrated with how it is progressing, or failing to progress, it’s usually because I violated this rule.  It never hurts to step back and ask myself, where is the conflict in this chapter?  Where is it really?  If I discover that the start of the chapter is nowhere near the conflict, it’s time to scrap it and start over.

This doesn’t mean that every chapter revolves around a fight scene.  Sometimes the conflict is character versus environment, or character versus self, or character versus circumstance.  It really depends on how the scene is supposed to be moving the story along.

Just yesterday, I was writing a dialogue scene between the two PoV characters.  It was flowing along marvelously, and it pertained to something I had recently researched so I was interested in where the conversation was going.  But when I pulled up what I’d written today at lunch to continue where I left off, I hated it.  It was an interesting conversations, and the characters were great.  But it was two or three pages of text that didn’t do anything.  There was no conflict or conflict resolution.  All it did was establish that I had researched something and knew what I was talking about.

I had to scrap it.  I never really fully delete anything, but I excised it from the manuscript and put it into my wiki instead.  And then I thought about where the conflict was, and I started the chapter over where I should have started it in the first place.  The dialogue would have led me there eventually, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as clean.  The death of that dialogue hurts in some ways, because it was good and I spent time writing it.  But the story’s better without it.

Writing When and Where I Can

One of the hardest things about working full-time and writing part-time is just finding the time to write.  When I was in college, I used to have to spend between half an hour and an hour reviewing what I’d written so that I could get into the mindset of my characters.  If I didn’t have a chunk of a couple of hours free, I just wouldn’t write.  This isn’t a luxury I have any more.  I rarely have hours-long chunks of time just sitting around.

As I may have mentioned before, another thing I used to do was write in a specific notebook.  There were actually two notebooks, one with the character sketches and one with the story.  I would find myself wanting to write but then I would become frustrated because it’s not very easy to transport two notebooks everywhere.  I wouldn’t have them with me at all times.  So I would find myself writing when I had big chunks of time alone in my dorm room.  Again, not something that happens these days.

Now I have a writing tablet.  It’s a tablet with a keyboard attachment that I use solely for writing.  I’ll pull it out when I’m in the doctor’s office waiting room and write a couple sentences.  I’ll put it out when I’m waiting in my car and write a couple sentences.  I definitely take it to work so that I can write at lunch.

But most importantly, even if I don’t have the tablet with me, I can write things down on whatever scrap of paper I have handy and put it into the tablet later.  I used to think that writing the same scene twice was a waste of time.  But I’ve long since gotten over the idea that every sentence, paragraph, and scene I write has to be perfect the first time.  And when I realized that I can push perfectionism off to the second (or third, or fifth, or tenth) draft, and that there will be second, third, and tenth drafts, I realized that typing up a scene that I’ve already handwritten isn’t a waste of time.  Anything that allows me to convert more of my ‘wasted’ time into writing time is a very useful.

Chapter 17 Complete

I ended up having to cut my original Chapter 17 in half.  I always knew that a lot of action was going to happen in 17, but there ended up being even more action than I thought there was going to be.  As I was writing I thought that I wanted to delve a little more deeply into the pov character’s reactions to what was going on, and I think it was a good decision.  On to chapter 17.2, also known as chapter 18!

Keeping Things Straight

I’ve always been the kind of person that takes copious notes.  One of the things that has really improved my writing life is the little wiki program that I use to keep track of my book notes and story ideas.  I use a really simple free app that I found in an android store because the more complicated wiki programs really intimidated me.  I just wanted something that would work, not something I would have to spend valuable time figuring out how to use.

I used to have a little spiral notebook.  It was a huge distraction.  I would get upset at stupid things like not planning enough pages for this character sketch or that piece of worldbuilding, and then I’d have to re-write the whole thing or I’d end up spending time flipping around without being able to find the information that I was looking for.  With the wiki program,  I can add information in the right spot.  And even more importantly, I can very easily go back and edit information (like when I decided to make all the characters in my novel a little older).  I keep character sketches, lists, random thoughts, and my outline all in one convenient place.  And  use.

But like so many technology things, it’s a blessing and a curse.  I have days like today where I catch myself spending more time updating my wiki files than actually writing.  In a way even that is good because it gets me to think more about the plot and characters and the way things are interconnected.  But it’s also bad, because the time I spend doing it is time I spend not writing.  And it’s really bad when I pop into the wiki to figure out one tiny thing like a super minor side character’s hair color… and then spend twenty minutes updating character files and lose the flow of what I was writing completely.

Chapters 15 and 16 Complete

In bad news, I was without power since yesterday afternoon due to bad thunderstorms.  Also in bad news, the writing process update that I had planned on posting on Friday didn’t happen.  In good news, I have extended battery power in the keyboard for my writing tablet.  Since I had nothing to do yesterday and today but sit in the dark and babysit the generator, I managed to get TWO chapters done in two days.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been thinking about these chapters and chapter 17 for a long time now, since I’m about to hit a major turn in act 2 and I’m very excited about it.  Act 2 still has a long way to go, but since my original goal was 1 chapter a week, I’m very pleased with my progress.

Slogging Through

There comes a time in everything that I’m writing where I hit the middle and I have to make myself keep slogging forward.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a short story or something longer.  It usually hits about 1/3 of the way in.

I’ve tried to analyze what it is.  I’ve heard writers, usually on panels or podcasts, explain that it’s because the newness has worn off and the ending is very far away.  I don’t think that’s my problem.  The middle isn’t a boredom problem for me.  The middle is where the meat of the story happens, and even though I write from an outline, the characters still do things that surprise me.  And it’s not a shiny new thing problem.  Shiny new things crop up, and I either modify the idea and throw it in my outline, or I write it down and save it for later.

My wall usually arrives in the form of self doubt.  I catch myself thinking, what if this actually isn’t as cool as I think it is?  What if I’m wasting my time when I could be writing something better?  What if the ending sucks?  What if I hate it?  So I think my problem is a self-consciousness problem.

I’m not going to lie, there are a couple things that I’ve written that are completely cringeworthy.  I hold on to them in the hopes that, some day, I’ll be reading through my collection of works in progress, lightning will strike, and I’ll have the answer that solves all of the story’s problems.  For some of my things, especially my earliest things, I think they are probably just too bad to be saved.  But I can’t bring myself to throw them out.

Even considering the cringeworthy stories, that’s only some of my writing.  So when the story has stopped dragging me along, and it’s my turn to drag it along, I have to remind myself that the rest of my writing is actually pretty cool and enjoyable to read and why do I even care anyway because I’m writing this for myself.  It usually works.  Besides, if I stopped 1/3 of the way through every time I felt that way, I wouldn’t finish anything.

Chapter 14 Complete

Finished up chapter 14 this morning.  When I was writing it, it felt like a little bit of a longer one because I was feeling my way through.  But because I was mostly hand-writing it on lunches at work, that could just be my perception.  I still have to type it up, but it’s a lot easier to type up something you’ve already written than it is to create something from scratch.