Writing Lesson #37: Writing Consistently is about Balance

Lesson #37 from finishing my first manuscript: Try to find that balance.

Accomplishing anything effectively is about balance. Finishing the first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento over the last few months was a bit tiresome. I had not met my monthly writing goals since the end of NaNoWriMo 2015, and I was constantly falling behind – according to my own exceedingly high standards. I just wanted it done, but I didn’t always have the motivation or the willpower to just sit down and write.

I became disappointed with myself for not trying harder to achieve my own goals, and then discouraged from writing at all. It was an endless cycle.

But, ultimately, I did finish the manuscript, albeit a bit hastily. My frustration pushed me to it, and I am happy with the current, non-revised result. I also know now that my approach for the second draft must be different.

Participating in NaNo over the last two years has shown me what is possible when I become singularly focused; I can churn out 50,000 words in 30 days from mostly loose ideas and half-finished outlines. But I can’t write 1,500-2,000 words every day – not if I want to share my time with the other parts of my life… Future Wife, friends, my dog, (also Netflix).

It’s about balance, and I think I have found mine. Expecting to write 2,000 words per day is unrealistic, but only writing 500 words in a week is unacceptable, for me. So, when I dive back into the second draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, I will know what my own expectations should be.

Balance in the Manuscript Void

Ever since shipping my manuscript off to my alpha readers, the real challenge has been in filling the massive void in my life with other writing projects. I figured that continuing to hone my writing chops on something other than WoEM will keep me sharp when it comes time to revise it again.

Enter: Five on the Fifth‘s Short Fiction Contest

Five on the Fifth is a great, relatively new online litmag specializing in fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. They publish five short fiction submissions on the fifth of every month. Go read them. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with one of the editors, but she doesn’t know I’m pumping up their site.)

Then, check out the link to their Short Fiction Contest. The deadline is August 31, and the word limit is 1,000-4,000.

I currently have about 1,000 words of a short story that’s been in my head for a few years. The story is set in the same fictional universe as The Warden of Everfeld, but in a totally different time/place (world building!). I plan to have it crafted and submitted by August 31, and (hopefully) published come November.

Nervous? You bet I am. This will be my first real submission to a real publisher. But I’m also excited to have my work critiqued by some real live writing pros. According to my new, balanced writing goals, this is the perfect project to flesh out in the next few weeks.

Anyone care to submit a piece with me?

Steve D

2 thoughts on “Writing Lesson #37: Writing Consistently is about Balance”

  1. First, I’m glad you stopped by my page because it allowed me to discover yours. I really enjoy the look and feel of your page – and also your writing style and voice. As for word count, I’m right there with you. Sometimes I produce more than expected and sometimes I crash and burn.

    For me, if words aren’t coming I shift gears. I still try to stay in that universe for a while though. So if I can’t make progress in my current timeline I jump outside of it. I have character sheets and separate files for most of my characters. Sometimes opening up one of those “personal history” pages and writing in there causes things to shift in my mind.

    While most of this will never be used in the book, it keeps my head in that world and helps me continually build and develop more complex characters. Perhaps some traits develop will transition over, but often times when I write outside of the context of goals, it allows me to tap into my creative side. I link the concept to freewriting.

    The added benefit is if the main book does well, you have a host of capers you could easily convert into a novella or release on a blog to generate reader interest. If readers fall in love with the characters after reading the book, they likely wouldn’t mind searching out more information about what made those characters into what they are.

    Good luck with your short story submissions! Once I get finished with my first draft (here in a couple weeks hopefully) I will likely toss a couple together as well. You should share your experience about the process as you go through it – I know I would be interested to hear about.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate the bloglove and encouragement!

      With my first draft, I wasn’t nearly organized enough to have official character sheets. Jaed and Aston, my two protagonists, were already real people in my head before I started writing. The birth of their characters is what led me to develop this story around them. For peripheral and other POV characters, I mostly just built their utility first; what purpose do they serve in the story, how can they drive the narrative in a different way or demonstrate different ideas apart from the protagonists? Once I fleshed out a basic outline (usually a .txt file with some hyphens) I just sort of let the characters define themselves. I think I had this freedom precisely because this is my first novel. For part 2, which will be my focus for NaNo 2016, I know I will need much more highly developed outlines and character profiles before diving into writing, to build off of book 1 more naturally.

      One technique I used frequently, especially when it came to forks in my plot road, was to start with the basic question of choice. If (A) happens, then (B) must also happen, but if (Y) happens instead, then (Z) would have to happen. So I would freewrite with those basic questions leading the discussion to figure out the best possible way to reach the ending I had in mind. This wasn’t very efficient to do as I was writing the thing, but it’s certainly something I will employ again as I begin to actually outline part 2 (and any other story from here on out).

      I’ll definitely post some updates for my short story submission. Glad to have you along!

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