Monthly Words: October 2018

Monthly Total: 27405

I realised, looking back at Weekly Words this month, that I should pay a bit more attention to my spelling. It’s not that typos are the worst thing in the world, it’s just that I know I can do better, and that typing “mean” instead of “meant” for instance can totally change the context or destroy the meaning of a sentence.

It’s also that it can give me stupendously high hopes that I somehow magically wrote more than I did, such as this gem: “13/10/2018: 10475”. One of those numbers is not supposed to be there. I think it’s the zero.

I mean, I’m fairly sure I didn’t write 10k words in a single day. I know I’ve written 7k in a single day, but that was the day, except maybe a few hours between waking and eating lunch beforehand.

This month, it was all about the werewolf reboot, which means that October is the first time since … Nanowrimo 2016, wow. It’s the first time since then that I’ve spent a full month dedicated to working on one project.

Which is not entirely accurate, because this month I also tinkered with some other projects and discovered that not having A Project was actually a great feeling, and the second-to-last week of October was really, really bad in terms of getting writing of any kind done … but still. I discovered long-forgotten emotional highs that trick me into thinking that there is a meaning of life and that I’ve found it; I then discovered that, upon losing this euphoric miasma distorting my perception of reality, I no longer fall into an inconsolable slump as I used to do when such occurrences would … occur … which suggests personal growth of some sort, and being a writer I am all kinds of about that. I took care of myself health-wise, and have recently started an actual diet-type thing that seems to be … well, in terms of weight loss I have no idea because we don’t have working scales at home (which might be a good thing), but I know that I genuinely feel better for doing it, so I’m saying it’s working.

Most importantly for my writing, though, I have finally come up with a sentence to explain why it is that “just write it” doesn’t quite work for me, nor does “I need a plan”. What I need is to “just write it” – and fix it up as I go.

And this is with regards to the zero draft stage, specifically. (From now on I am going to consistently refer to the first produced writing of a story the “zero draft” rather than the “first draft”, as it gets confusing otherwise.) I am, I think, what is sometimes referred to as a “discovery writer”; I have a broad idea of the story and premise and maybe some scenes that I want to fit in somewhere, and hopefully some characters that I give something resembling a fuck about, but everything else I pretty much just come up with as I go. How it all fits together, sub-plots, plot hooks, supporting cast – and sometimes even changes to the foundation of ideas that get me started on a story. So “just write” doesn’t work for me and my process, because I often get started writing well before I have anything resembling a plan – and that’s just how I like doing things. Most of the time at least. Mark and Jessie is sort of an exception, and that’s why I hate how it turned out so much. I need to write my way to a good idea, and then be able to go back a few sentences and re-word things so that the idea links in more strongly. I have to be able to stop and start a bit at the beginning.

And letting myself do that is the only reason why I’m still writing this werewolf novel. I would agree that stopping and starting is a great way to make sure you never get anywhere – if you have clear ideas on where it is that you’re going. If you have a pretty clear plan, even if it’s only a broad plan and the little details haven’t been worked out yet, then even if you go off on tangents during the writing process you can 1) write your way back to the plan and 2) iron out all the kinks in revision. But if you don’t have a plan, then stopping and starting is inevitably going to be part of the process, because it’s how you link your ideas together more strongly. It is, in effect, making the plan as you write, instead of doing it beforehand.

Because when you’re coming up with a plan for a story, you’re going to change things, go back and work in your new and better ideas when you come up with them, and in general restart and reboot and reimagine your writing plan in numerous ways, all before you even start “writing”. The only difference between “pantsing” and “planning” is whether or not your planning phase coincides with your zero draft phase. For me, it does, because I have done the long planning phase before. I did a 15-year-long planning phase. Guess how well that turned out. If I had been writing and letting myself stop and start as I went, things might have gone better for me. Also if the story hadn’t been unwritable because I kept shifting the goalposts for myself, but my point is that I thrive on making up a story as I go. I won’t even bother starting on a story unless I have some kind of premise, obviously, but I don’t need – or want – much more than a premise, a couple of ideas for how it ends, some characters, maybe a twist – because any more than that and I start over-thinking, over-planning, and for that reason alone I need to get to the writing part real quick-like.

For this realisation alone, this month has been a good one writing-wise, because this exact moment is one that I’ve been hoping for for a very long time: the moment when I figure out how I write, and specifically how I get myself to write instead of just making plans about what I’m going to, hypothetically, write at some point. How to break my habit of over-planning.

And now that I’ve found it, I aim to enjoy it.

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