What I’ve been up to this last week, the glamorless edition

This last week – well, what can I say? Last week I finished the first draft of a novel, and then the tide turned and life came back to normal.

As happy (and proud) as I am for finishing that first draft, a draft in and of itself is nothing. So far, I’ve accomplished putting words down. Good words, bad words, reams of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – at this point, it’s all the same. What needs to happen next is a clean edit and redraft. I need to take my collected notes and go through the novel again and write the fixed version.

Now, however,  is not the time for that. The last week reminded me of that more than ever. In the last seven days we’ve been to a funeral for my Gran, our youngest has broken her foot, and at one point three of us – two of us being the adults – have been down and out with a plague that just kept on giving. On top of all of that, we’re still working through arrangements and item weeding for the move in June. Because no matter what else is going on, the move in June is an immutable, unmoving point in our timestream.  Now is not the time for full immersion diving into a novel again.

My fingers – and brain – disagree. It may take me a few days to a week to get into a writing rhythm, but once I’m there it’s like a perpetual motion machine, demanding to be run and churned all the time. Breaking that rhythm means having to restart the whole chug from 0 again. I hate doing that extra work (hint: lazy), especially since it means I go from days of close to 2k output to days of 200 words. It’s not all about the word count, mind you, but the word count is a good indicator of progress and enthusiasm.

So for the time being, at least until the end of the summer, my writing plan is as follows:

  1. Use my new package of Field Notes to track novel ideas, edits, plot changes, etc. (along with everything else in life that I note). Probably better as a topic for another post, but I recently took the plunge and traded in my moleskeine addiction (often incompletely filled, mixed paper quality, but such nice binding) for Field Notes (consistently great paper, stapled, but durable).
  2. Work on cleaning up my short stories. Before I started working on the latest novel project, I wrote a bunch of short stories and stuffed them in a drawer to incubate. Time to clean these up, hatch them, and send them out to bite some editors.
  3. Keep writing every day if possible. I’ve been all over the map on this topic, I know. I recognize that even with the best intentions, I can’t maintain a writing habit every day (I might should mention that part of being sick? 2 day coma. Seriously. Surprised the kids didn’t call an ambulance.) But ideals aren’t about achieving, they’re about striving for something, improving yourself in the process. I know I can’t make the goal, but I’d like to try. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’m finally coming around to Jamie Rubin’s way of thinking on this, and I appreciate the work he’s done in automating progress tracking even more. If the system is automated and seamless, then it imposes no extra burden to monitor you’re writing and just becomes a background metric you can look to for inspiration.

This week, before the coma, I did manage to kickstart this. I took a story, dusted it off, wrapped it up, and sent it to Asimov’s. The rejection came in this morning, a form rejection (I know because I have copies of the same letter from past submissions), with one difference – no form tag line, but Sheila Williams‘ signature block instead. Probably just a sign of Asimov’s poor slush readers were trying to be nice, but I’d like to take it as a secret code that maybe the form letter was sincere. Of course, as soon as I sent the story out I realized I’d failed to sew together something in the plot like I’d intended, so I’m rewriting it before I send it elsewhere. But, it’s a start!