In case you did not know, I spent at least 20 minutes for the past two weeks working on my story in some little way, whether by writing an actual scene idea, world-building, or plotting. This idea came about quite unexpectedly and was not as easy as it may sound.
Since I graduated from Iowa State University I’ve semi-regularly kept up with my writing buddy I met there. We are each other’s main inspiration to keep going. We cheer each other on and are there to offer an ear or advice when the other is going through a tough spot. She’s done a good job keeping up with her writing throughout this time. Me not so much. I’ve jumped around from idea to idea and also managed to recycle characters and revise plot so many times I’ve realized I’ve been going nowhere.
So at the beginning of my spring break two weeks ago when my friend suggested we Skype everyday of my spring break, and subsequently hers, I was all for it as a personal goal of mine was indeed to write a little bit everyday and I knew almost certainly that I would fail if left to my own devices.
In today’s post I wanted to share some updates on my writing as well as some of the lessons I’ve learned (or relearned).
1) Getting started is the hardest part.
This is something I’ve long known and still somehow struggle with. I often still find myself needing to trick myself into doing stuff that I need to do, whether it be homework, exercise, or even reading. I tell myself “I’ll just do 10 minutes” and usually once that allotted time is nearly up I realize that it doesn’t seem so hard to just keep going.
Some days it was really hard to get myself to sit down at my desk and log into Skype. I’d feel tired all of the sudden or my parents were about to start or movie or go out and I’d get FOMO. There would be some reason that made writing the least attractive option on my plate. But because my friend knows me, she’d never let me wiggle out of our daily session and even if it was painful I could always end the session glad that she forced me to it, even if I didn’t get much done during it.
2) Twenty minutes is not enough.
Some days it took about 20 minutes to get back into the head space I was in the previous day just so that I could move forward. These were the saddest days, particularly when I was often lazy enough to say “Hey, I did it, now I can go do something else.”
This is why I now add writing tasks to my sticky notes to-do list wall alongside my homework tasks, so that after I write during my allotted time for the day I spend separate time thinking about what I need to do next so that I go into writing the next day knowing exactly what I need to do.
But 20 minutes is still not enough to get much serious writing done because I’m unable to reach a state of flow that results in stronger writing. I’d say 20 minutes works for doing specific tasks that aide essential to proper writing, like plotting scenes or world-building, but not for diving into a story and living in it the way I need to in order to write really well.
3) Sometimes you have to give up and wipe your slate clean to move forward.
I think I mentioned this in my last writing post, but I honestly believe that the only reason I’ve managed to have some good progress this past week is because I let go of old characters and ideas to approach the blank page with an open mind.
One thing I have not mentioned online yet is that I had to do this AGAIN. Until three days ago I’d been working on a gothic-inspired of story without knowing where it would go, only about the two main characters and how they’d meet. I’d run into the same problem of not knowing why the protagonist is important or what she’d need to do.
Then I decided that I’d start from scratch again with specific genre in mind: a detective story. Detective stories are plot driven in a way that I’ve struggled to do with my fantasy-steampunk ideas so I decided to start with the goal in mind that my protagonist would help solve a mystery/crime. Since then I’ve managed to envision the protagonist, how she needs to develop as a character throughout the story, and create a mystery that she needs to solve which will help her grow in a way that makes logical sense.
I’m confident that my story is fun and interesting enough to get me through Camp NaNoWriMo this April so I’m going to spend the rest of March dedicating at least 20 minutes to planning for April. I know the main thing that my protagonist needs to do and how I want the story to end, so I just need to work on the plot of how she will solve the mystery.
I will hopefully have a post on Camp NaNoWriMo April come up this week before I get started. I do not plan on setting a 50k word goal and I have a few different plans in mind for how I’m going to go about writing with my hectic work schedule so I want to do share my plans in case they interest any of you who are similarly busy but would also like to attempt Camp!