Category Archives: Writing Endeavors

Novel Progress 3.18

I have had a superb writing month.

In my last writing update, I talked about being stuck in the third chapter of my book, and about wondering when it’s an appropriate time to modify writing goals if the original goal just isn’t working. In the month since then, I finished editing chapter three and it’s currently my favorite chapter. Once I let myself focus on the story instead of the word count, it was much easier to approach the work and make productive progress, and in the end I was only 30 words short of my original 10,000 word count, which is about 970 words more than I was afraid I would end up with. In addition, I worked through most of chapter four (of nine) as well.

Chapter four is one that still had some narrative holes this time around. When I opened up chapter four this month, it had 8k of 10k words, which meant that before final edits, I had some more writing to do: my first substantial writing jog on this project since I started working my way through my manuscript in chronological order. It was a nice change to get back into pure creating, though it does mean that even though I’ve gone through the entire chapter once to do a rough edit and fill in the missing content, I will have to go through the whole thing one more time as a whole.

It should maybe feel like a lot more work since I’ve only had to edit the last three chapters without generating new content, but this chapter was written more recently and thus was more polished to begin with. I approached it just as rigorously as the first three chapters, combing through sentence by sentence,  but overall there were just less edits to be made. Also I had good notes already in place for the content that needed to be added, and it was nice to have a little change of pace with the project. I have more editing ahead of me on the final trek through chapter four, but I know I’ll be getting back to writing in section five again. The alternating is keeping me on my toes. Figuratively.

So, where do I stand.

Right now in section 4 I need about 500 more words, but I’ve got the basis of the missing part worked in so it should be easy to work in those last 500 words as I expand the new content a little more. I’m pleased with about 2/3 of the chapter at this point, but I’ll read through it all (making any more minor changes along the way, of course) so that I have a good lead-in to edit the last 1/3 that still needs some work. I’m planning to finish with the 500 missing words today, and from there I expect the editing and final read-through of this chapter will take only another day or two.

But I do have a busy week outside of my manuscript so I’m not giving myself an exact schedule to follow. I find that exact schedules make me feel boxed in and when I fail them it sours the whole project so I’m trying to keep myself going at whatever pace feels the most productive on a day-by-day basis.

It’s always exciting to reach the end of a chapter and feel like there’s a whole new section complete, but chapter four is especially exciting to me to finish because it’s so close to the halfway point (half of nine chapters is 4.5, so halfway through chapter five I’ll hit it). I’ve been over and over the first three chapters of the book in the last year and a half, and it’s so exciting to put them on the back burner, safely out of the way, and to move into the second arc to the story (each group of three chapters has its own arc inside the main plot).

One more thing I want to talk about in this update: reading for writing.

For several weeks as I struggled through the end of chapter three and then changed pace for the new arc in chapter 4, I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. This has been the perfect book to read at this point of my own novel, especially as I’m getting back into the writing parts of it rather than just the editing. Atwood’s prose is so… visceral, colorful, metaphorical… She uses so much imagery and makes such unique connections that reading her work inspires me to add to the atmosphere of my own manuscript. I know I tend to err on the side of writing action and inner conflict, so reading something so sensory has been a great reminder to describe things a bit more and pull the reader into the world of my story. Different things help me with different aspects of my writing, and often I don’t know how they’ll help until I’m in the middle of them. This is part of the reason I try to read so widely– it’s surprising what can motivate you.

What do you read for writing inspo? Or have you had any writing break-throughs lately? I love hearing about the ups and downs of everyone’s writing process!


The Literary Elephant


Novel Progress 2.18

I can’t believe it’s been a whole month and I’m still editing the same 30 pages of my book. But I don’t want my slow progress to start holding me back from updating again, and then from making any progress at all, so I’m going to talk a bit about what’s holding me back in these 30 pages and why I’m not letting it stop me.

First, a brief reminder for those who don’t know: I’m aiming for a sci-fi/fantasty story with nine chapters of 10,000 words apiece. I haven’t quite written 90,000 words yet,  but I was getting out of order and saving things in tiny separate pieces because I didn’t know where exactly to paste them in and it was time to go back to the beginning, smooth things out, put everything I had together and fill in the empty spaces. I’m calling it the “final run-through” just to force myself into finalizing it as much as I can, putting in everything that needs to be there instead of getting distracted working on whatever seems the most fun at the time and verging into chaos again. I’ll probably still do another read-through of the whole thing when I reach the end, just because I am making a ton of changes this time around. But I mentioned in my last progress update that I was working on the third chapter– and I’m still in the third chapter, a month later.

Because of the structure of my book, with its nine chapters (further divided into smaller sections, for anyone who’s worried about unreasonably long chapters), the main plot is divided into three separate arcs. So in this third chapter, I’m reaching the end of the first arc, the first third of the book. It’s been largely a set-up arc, introducing readers to my world and characters. Two major things are happening to my main characters in  the first two chapters, so this third chapter is all about bringing the pieces together, the motives, the problems, to get them where I really want them for the meat of the story. There’s a lot of characterization happening, a lot of mystery being solved in why this world is functioning the way it is, some politics and alliances and obstacles being levered into place. I believe there’s plenty of action to keep the pace rolling, but especially in this third chapter there’s a higher level of introspection, decisions that need to be made and accepted on a personal level, resolutions made. And I just kept trying to rewrite the slow parts to make them work, to build up the conflicting emotions that are forefront at this time, and in the end it just wasn’t working. It didn’t flow with the charm and surprise of the first two sections.

So I’ve been doing some cutting. Some compacting, really. I’ve been removing whole paragraphs to replace them with singular, to-the-point sentences that better fit my book. The problem with doing this is that by winnowing down my content this way, I’m not going to hit the 10,000 word mark. That’s why my progress has been so slow and reluctant this month, because I was so determined to hit that goal, when it just wasn’t working with this chapter.

Now I’ve accepted that my chapters aren’t going to be of uniform length. I already knew that to some extent, because I went over the 10,000 word mark for the first two chapters, but I didn’t think with as much as I like to draw things out and say every relevant detail that I would ever have a problem with too-few words. And I think in the end I won’t be short of the 90,000 word range, even if I have to let a couple of chapters fall below my original target goal. Which is why I finally decided that the consistency of the story is more important than a word goal I set before I was this sure of my content. 90,000 words seems to be a general target range for my genre, so once I had those nine chapters planned it wasn’t an arbitrary goal, but I think the important thing now is to let the words fall where they will, keeping an eye on that final word count goal without being too inflexible about each chapter.

I am more than halfway through the third chapter, and it’s going faster now that I’ve got a system of sifting through it. I’m getting excited about the project again instead of dreading trying to work on something that just wasn’t working. By the end of this chapter I’ll be a third of the way through my book; all the important characters will be mentioned, important places will be visited, key terms linked to their objects, major conflicts noted. I feel a little as though I’m checking these things off a list as I’m editing this chapter, so I hope they read like they’re appearing naturally, that the bones of the story won’t show as much to someone who’s got a better distance from the story. But as long as I’m working on it so closely, looking at each sentence individually to make sure that everything is strong enough to hold up in the final work, I think it’s best that I can see the underlying structure so clearly to keep an eye on how things are moving along.

For my fellow writers:

How do you know when it’s time to modify a goal? How do you know when to trust that the story is strong enough to stand in its own way instead of sticking to the constraints of your initial outline plan? How do you make it feel less like failing if you do have to change a goal?


The Literary Elephant

Novel Progress 1.18

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you almost don’t even want to try for it? Because there’s that chance that you won’t get it, that you’ll give everything you’ve got and you still can’t get it, and that’s worse than dreaming forever without following through.

That’s how I feel about writing a novel.

But I know that’s not a helpful way of thinking, or of potentially succeeding at my goals. So here I am again, committing to monthly progress updates (whether anyone else is interested in them or not) to hold myself accountable, to push forward and find out whether writing is a dream I should keep chasing.

So here’s where I’m at:

Between my busy fall job and the holiday season, I started back at the beginning (as I’ve done a hundred times before) with the intent to revise, edit, finish writing in missing pieces, etc. all the way through to the end of my working manuscript. My book is divided into nine sections that’ll be about 10,000 words each (further divided into chapters within the sections). Currently I’m trending toward running closer to 11 or 12 thousand words per section, but I think at this point that’s the preferable way to skew. I want to hit the end without being short on anything, then do one final sweep to take out anything that doesn’t belong.

Right now I’m very happy with the first two sections, and working hard on the third. I’ve never been this excited about the progress I’m making, the changes to the story and the way it’s all turning out. I wish I could share a few excerpts here, but I just don’t trust the internet enough with something I hope to publish at some point. But I think the very fact that I’m ready to share parts of it, that I can read back through what I’ve edited and think, ‘Wow, I wrote that?’ is a great sign of achievement. I cannot wait until I feel that way about the entire book, and send it out into the world to try my luck with publishing.

But I’m not getting ahead of myself this time. I’m a big believer in goals, but I don’t want to fall back into the trap that brought my progress to a halt last year: failing to meet my goal meant I didn’t want to post a progress report, and when there were no progress reports to keep me motivated to work, there was less incentive to make progress… It was a vicious cycle in which I accomplished very little for too many months.

So right now I’m working in section three of nine. I’m expecting to take about two weeks to pick it apart and stitch it back together in a way that’ll satisfy me. This isn’t a goal, it’s an estimate based on the time frame of the last two sections I edited and the current state of section three. I’m hammering out small details in my editing, but I’m also still asking myself the big questions, ‘What themes am I reaching for here,’ ‘What’s the point of this character, or this event, or this chapter?’ I have an ending in mind, but I haven’t written as much of the plot in the later sections so I want to make sure I stay on track with the purposes of the novel and make sure everything is staying together cohesively.

I don’t know if anyone’s actually curious about my novel-writing endeavors, but I think it would be kind of cool to have some record of my working on it in case it ever does turn into the biggest accomplishment of my life.

Also, updates help keep me on track. I’m aiming for one update per month, and I think the more I get into it, the more I’ll share details about it, and about my process. Right now I’m going through sentence by sentence, changing everything that just doesn’t excite me. Making sure every word is relevant to the overall story. Culling adverbs. Streamlining dialogue tags. Adding sensory details. Cutting redundancies. There’s a lot of set-up in this first third of the book, but by the end of section three, everyone important is introduced, all of the fictional elements specific to my novel’s world are named and explored, the settings are covered, etc.

Oh, it’s a superhero book, by the way. New heroes, new monsters, new plot. New Adult age range primarily, but I wouldn’t say it’s inappropriate for younger audiences or too immature for adults. It’s also an exploration of soul mates– whether they exist, under what conditions, how important they are (or aren’t) in the grand scheme of things. It’s a nice balance between fast action and introspection (at least I think so); it’s got a strong female lead with an admirable sometimes-partner in a world turned upside down by man’s quest for immortality. I’m hoping it’ll be pretty good, in the end.

But I gotta get back to section three now.

Any other writers out there? How long have you been working on your projects?


The Literary Elephant


Writing Update No. 6

Since my last writing update I’ve accomplished: the piano accompaniment of the Cheers theme song. Just kidding. I mean, I did learn to play that song, but I also have some notable writing progress to report–just not as much as I was pushing for.

In my last update, I said that I wanted to push myself to finish all of the new-content-adding that I had left of my book, tens of thousands of words that I would then only have to edit down. I did not accomplish that goal. I did, however, make some solid progress on the new content. I’ve written the rest of section four, and a good chunk of section five, as well as some more pieces here and there to fill in gaps I left in the chronology.

But the biggest step forward these past couple weeks is that I’ve started having someone read through it all for me. Which meant going back to the beginning (again) and making sure each section was ready to be read. This pushed me to make some hard edits I’ve been hesitating about, and to actually come up with a finished project as far as I could at the time. I’ve printed out the first three sections for my reader to review, which is my first time printing any of it at all and means I’m pretty happy with where those parts stand. I’ve only talked through the first section so far with my reader, and we’ve got plans for the second section chat coming up, and by the time my reader is done with the third section I’ll have the fourth section done with its final round of edits and ready for printing, and the same for section five, at the rate I’m going. That’ll be more than halfway through the book, which is exciting, and while I still have some work to do on the latter half, I do have two full sections of those remaining four done except for a final round of editing, and most of a third one written and saved but not all put together in order yet. It’s all on the near horizon, though. The end is in sight. Originally, I planned to finish a full solid draft before I started sharing it with anyone, but one day last week I decided all of a sudden that I was ready to start collecting second opinions, and that maybe if I had any major problems in the part that was finished it would affect how I was carrying out my work with the rest of it. Although I’ve only talked with my reader about the very first section, about 12,000 of my eventual 90,000 words, a lot of my big questions about what was working or not have been answered positively from the content and layout of that section. I’m pretty confident that with all the editing I’ve been doing as I go, I won’t have any major changes left to make at the end of this draft.

My goal for next time: by the time I update again in a couple of weeks, I want to have finished editing and printing sections four and five. How much I’ve gone through with my reader by that time will depend on my reader’s schedule, but I think there’s a possibility of getting through all or most of those sections with my reader by then. I also want to keep moving forward into section six, which is really the biggest empty gap I have left to fill. After that the end will really be in sight.

My eventual goal: I started working on this book at the end of last June, and I want to be finished with it before I hit the year mark. I feel like that’s a reasonable time frame, and still an attainable goal. Since I’ve been working so slowly, aiming for quantity and quality at the same time, and have been dealing with various other events, I think that by the time I get through the whole thing once, and have my reader get through it, all I’ll need to do are some small changes at the sentence level, and maybe give the completed product to a second reader after those, just in case.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I’m going to be focusing on sections four, five, and six, the middle third of the book, for next time. If I can get close to finished with that (which is already almost halfway done), the biggest writing tasks remaining at this point will be complete.

I feel like I’m a little all-over-the-place with my writing right now, but it’s like when you start cleaning your room and at first it just looks messier but then in the end it all comes together. Everything is a mess, but I can see how it will start coming together, and I’m going to keep pushing myself to work hard and finish within the deadlines I’ve set.

Is it normal to really only have one full draft before I’m finished? (Is there any such thing as “normal” in the writing process?) Do you edit as you go, or finish a whole project and then go back and make changes all at once?


The Literary Elephant

Writing Update No. 5

Last time I updated about progress on my novel, I talked about working on other writing exercises outside of my manuscript. This time, I have to admit I’ve been doing that again. Part of the problem was that my reading slump eeked into my good intentions to catch up on my writing.

My goal for this writing update was to be able to say I’d satisfactorily finished section 4 of 9 of my book. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it did turn out to be a productive switch), I had barely started working on section 4 when I decided to go back and make some further changes in section 3. So I’ve re-edited section 3 (again), but made no further writing progress in the half-written section 4.

However, during my trash-writing/slump/blocked days in the past couple of weeks, I did an insane amount of non-manuscript-related writing. I was turning out thousands of words per day, and while it was first-draft stuff, the ideas were flowing, the words were flowing, and I didn’t hate what was coming out. It made me more confident about moving forward with my novel, and it reminded me that all the careful, slow attention of editing can be put on hold while I work on finishing laying out my content.

So I have a new goal. When I first started going through my novel again this year, section by section, I thought every couple of weeks I would just move on to the next at an orderly pace and I wouldn’t have much of excitement to update, except “I reached my goal this week” or “I didn’t reach my goal this week, but I’ll keep going for next week.” And yet, here I am, deciding to go back to those awful cramming days from college when I’d wait too long to start a paper and then force it all out at the last minute, probably in the middle of the night. I’m going to stop editing for the time being. I’ve reached that middle section of my book that’s mostly only outlined, and I’m going to just sit at my computer and make myself type, even if it’s crap at first, because that’s what all those awful, slow, rewarding rounds of editing are for, right? So in the next two weeks, I’m aiming for 40,000-50,000 words. I’ll edit it down, but I want all the words to be there. I think even the editing will be so much smoother going if I’m less worried about lacking content I thought I would have by now.

It seems like an impossible task, considering how slowly things have been going this year, but I’m happy with the progress that I have made, and so I’m going to be ambitious and push myself to make a lot more progress. Middle-of-the-night paper writing in college was pretty miserable, but it won me some good grades; maybe that’s the way to go again, for now.

My goal for the next two weeks: to finish all of the empty spaces in my book, sections 4-9. Some of those parts are already written, but I’m endeavoring to write all of the rest now. Right now. Hopefully by the time I update again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to say, “I have a whole first draft,” and all that’s left will be editing.

I’m not usually one of those people who can force themselves to write every day. If I’m not in the mood for it, it can be painful to write anything substantial, and I don’t see much point in writing insubstantially. But for the next two weeks, I will be writing every day. Like crazy. (I’ll also be setting aside some reading time and reviewing time to keep up with my normal posts in the meantime). See you on the other side.


The Literary Elephant

Review: History of Wolves

I’ve recently finished reading Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, a new adult literary fiction book. This one is set in northern Minnesota, which is rare for a novel and personally interesting to me because I’ve been to that part of the state and have spent a lot of time in other parts of Minnesota, as well. Also, one of the cover blurbs calls the book’s pages “haunted,” which was all the encouragement I needed for a book about a teen finding disaster in “Nowheresville.”

FullSizeRender (7)About the book: Madeline (Linda) is a fifteen year-old girl (in the central thread of the book’s mixed chronology) struggling through school. She lives deep in the woods where even the snow plows won’t go, sometimes taking an hour or more to walk straight home from her bus stop after classes. Her parents live in a cabin on the site of a disbanded commune they once helped found and have a very hands-off approach to parenting. Then there’s the fact that one of the teachers who works closely with Linda is arrested for child pornography. But most importantly of all, the biggest event in her life is the tragic death of 4 year-old Paul, the son of the new neighbors who move into the fancy house across the lake from Linda. She babysits him all summer between ninth and tenth grade, and maybe she could have done something to save him; but the fact of the matter is that he’s dead by fall, and Linda will never be the same.

Linda states early in the book, during narration of her History Odyssey competition in middle school, that the history of wolves doesn’t really have anything to do with human history–and it doesn’t, at least in the way the judges mean. And yet, the wolves and the general wildness of northern Minnesota have everything to do with what happens to the humans in this book. Linda’s life, like the wolves’ lives, is about instinct and survival. It’s about the fine line between predator and prey.

“I wasn’t scared, though. I didn’t need to think of myself as a walleye drifting along in a current somewhere, just waiting for my hook. I was yearning for it.”

The thing about teenagers is that they’re eager for motion–their lives are on the verge of becoming their own and they’re waiting for something to happen that’ll tip them over the edge into adulthood. Linda finds herself inexplicably drawn to the story of her arrested history teacher and the girl in her class who spoke against him. She’s almost obsessed with the story, following their lives after everything happens at school and writing letters even years later. She was so close to it all, and there’s so little she has to be close to. The woods are isolating for Linda, and for everyone in her town.

“Heaven and hell are ways of thinking. Death is the false belief that anything could ever end.”

I liked the relationships in this book. They felt awkward and uncommon, not the storybook kind of love that lots of books seem to strive for. There’s something unusual in the relationship between Linda’s parents, for starters, apparent in the fact that they helped found a commune but also in how they continue their lives and behave around their daughter as she’s growing up. The relationship Linda sees between Leo and Patra (her new neighbors) is strange, as well. First, there’s the fact that Leo is largely absent although he’s a big part of their lives. Then here’s Linda’s infatuation with Patra. Linda doesn’t have many good adult role models in her life, and her respect for Patra, combined with Patra’s interest in Linda’s approval, leave Linda with an almost romantic attachment to Patra. They’re close friends in an odd way for young women eleven years apart in age and Linda doesn’t quite seem to know how to categorize her regard for Patra. Then in the latest parts of the timeline, Linda shows bits of her relationship with Rom, which is also an unexpected sort of love. Linda thinks he isn’t quite right for her, and maybe that’s true, but they make an oddly compelling pair. These relationships reminded me of relationships in reality–they’re often more one-sided than fictional romance, or crop up between the wrong people, or happen without intent from either party.

“It’s weird how joy goes through a grown man’s face, so that for a second you can see him the way he was as a kid: all smooth faced and unguarded.”

The narration in this book is always focused on Linda’s life and observations, but it skips around between years in her chronology to focus on different players and events. We mainly see Paul’s fate in the summer of Linda’s fifteenth year, but mixed with it we also see what happened earlier with the arrested history teacher and later the fate of Linda’s own family and childhood home after she’s grown up and tried to move on. The timeline skips around, and while everything connects, I did find the later details of Linda’s life less interesting until the causes and affects of Paul’s death become more clear in the fifteen year-old part of Linda’s story.

“Everything she did, she did when she should have known better.”

This quote (above) shows the aspect that reminded me most of Emma Cline’s The Girls. There’s that awkward period in growing up when a person starts to realize how the world works and that they have responsibilities in it but they aren’t quite ready or sure of how to handle things. There’s no smooth transition between cared-for child and responsible adult in reality–at some point, the child sees the burden of responsibility waiting there to be picked up, neglected and accumulating on the ground where no one else can reach this particular bundle. Stories like History of Wolves explore the possibility of a burden of responsibility presenting itself before the child is grown enough to spot the burden and lift it him-/herself. Linda might have saved Paul’s life, if she’d been a little more equipped to deal with that task. Sometimes in life we fail, and we blame ourselves even though there was nothing else we knew to do to prevent that failure. That is where the sadness resides in this book.

“Dawn is a free pass. I’ve always thought that. The hours between four and seven belong to a few fidgety birds and maybe a last bat charging mosquitoes.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I was in a mild reading slump with this book, so even though it was short it took me about a week to finish. I don’t think that affected my opinions of the story itself and I don’t think it was at all the fault of this book. In any case, while the plot moved slowly for me at points, I did find the emotions of the story particularly moving and I’m glad I finally managed to find my way through to the end. I’ll be interested to see what works Fridlund might publish in the future.

Further recommendations:

  1. Emma Cline’s The Girls would be a great choice for readers who find Linda’s character and situation compelling. This one is centered around a cult rather than a commune, but features the same sort of inquisitive, inexperienced girl who’s trying to find her way in life by following people who shouldn’t ever have been leaders.
  2. Alice Hoffman’s Faithful is a novel for the reader who devours stories of unstoppable tragedy and its aftermath. This one has the same gritty sadness as History of Wolves, with a bit more redemption discovered before the final page is reached.

What’s next: I’ve just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, a collection of retold myths about the infamous Odin, Thor, and Loki, among other mythological Norse characters. This is a book about power and destiny, rebuilt from the ashes of ancient lore and culture. I loved it, and can’t wait to share.


The Literary Elephant

Writing Update No. 4

Today I want to talk about trash writing. What do I mean by that? Well, trash writing is what I call the product of days when I write things not related to my manuscript or any other specific goals–writing that doesn’t even pretend to be good and isn’t intended for anyone else to ever see. Sometimes it isn’t even worth saving.

Why do I want to talk about trash writing today? Because I’ve been doing it when I should’ve been working on my manuscript, and I’m not (entirely) sorry about it.

Some days, I’m just really in the mood to write something that doesn’t matter. When there gets to be too much pressure on a manuscript I want people to read someday, but I’m still in love with writing. Those are trash writing days, and I’ve been finding them surprisingly useful.

I have hundreds of pages of this junk saved, small unimportant stories with plot holes and stereotypical characters and passive voice and and more boring backstory than action. I start with one character, or one plot point, and just see where it goes. With my manuscript, I have a whole outline and pages of notes to keep me on track with main points and significant characters and dates and whatnot, but when I break for “trash writing,” I don’t worry about those things. I just pick a starting point and go with whatever ideas strike me, at a much faster and more careless pace. It’s a bit like a self-prompt, I suppose. A purge of words and thoughts that I don’t have to think so hard about so that I can go back to writing more important things with renewed focus.

This kind of writing, while it doesn’t seem to lead to any direct progress, can be a helpful exercise when I just need to take a step back from the writing I’ve been immersed in more seriously. I can look at it more critically because it’s less important to me. If I go into it with the mindset that “this is junk” (although I save a lot of it in case any grand ideas or pieces for future manuscripts might arise from the muck), then it’s easier to see common problems that my writing has been sporting lately. Like using the same words or phrases over and over. Starting every paragraph the same way. Using the same sentence structure repeatedly. Adding too many commas.

It also helps me look at my characters more closely. In the short (usually 20-50 pages) segments of trash writing I produce, it’s easier to see when I’m providing too much or too little backstory, or falling into tropes. Oftentimes I plant the same characters I’m already familiar with from my manuscript or other projects into new situations (or alternative universes if there’s a lot of conflicting overlap and I can’t fit it logically into their chronology at all), and using them this way helps me spot problems with their habits or background or motives that I might not notice when I’m looking so closely at my manuscript. A lot of the lessons I learn from trash writing are things that can be carried over and applied to more important writing; lessons that help me become a better writer.

So my goal for last week was to go back through my already-written section three (of nine) and make edits, update the layout to match my changes from the earlier sections, and add in any extra ideas I thought seemed necessary. My ultimate goal is to work through each section on this same minute level, one at a time, and then give it a final read-through after all these revisions and edits have been made; this way, I’ll get a close look at each part, and then a broad look at the bigger picture. Did I reach my goal of a satisfactory completion of level three? Yes, but it took me an extra week because I spent several days writing trash instead of editing. Do I regret that? Well, considering I wanted to be finished with a full draft of my manuscript by the end of 2016, any delay is a little annoying, but no, I don’t think my trash-writing-vacation was a waste of time. Not only is it fun to pick a different genre and escape the headspace I’ve been stuck in while looking so closely at one part of my manuscript, but it reminded me why I love writing, and it helped me set the precarious tone in section three just right for my purposes. I came back to my section three edits with renewed vigor and worked all the way through easily, making changes that I was happy with when I reached the end and went back through again. I’m much more satisfied with this section now than the last one, and I’m excited to keep going.

About keeping going: my goal for the next two weeks will be to complete and edit section four. This one will not necessarily be harder than the last, but it will be different because I know this is one of the sections that I left only half-written the last time I worked at it. I’m very excited about the content that’s already there, though, after I left off at the end of section three, and I think adding the new content will also be more enjoyable than all these small edits I’ve been focusing on with previous sections in the last month and a half. I will still need to go back through the whole section to do those edits once all the necessary plot points have been included, but this should give me a variety of tasks for section four, which feels like a good place to be rather than the one-task rut I fell into with the last section. I’ll check back with you in two weeks and let you know how I fared.

How do you feel about writing outside of your manuscript? I’m not one of those people who can have two big projects at once (two manuscripts, say), but I definitely require a break from my big goals. Do you also save writing that you worked on for fun but don’t intend to share with anyone? Where do you stand on its usefulness?


The Literary Elephant