Progress, Quantified

So here’s what’s going on with my current project:

It’s a Superhero story (I’m currently reading Save the Cat, which, if you haven’t read it as a writer, I can only encourage you to pick it up right away, even if you’re not writing screenplays) about a guy in a family of supers who has no powers himself. So he’s a little jaded. When he finally develops an ability of his own, he quickly finds himself at the top of the food chain and sets about a plan to wipe out supers forever.

It’s an idea I love that I kicked around in the ol’ brain for a good couple years before I wrote the first words, and once I did start writing it, it really took on a life of its own, as they say. Lots of twists and turns grew organically out of the thing, which is just one of the measures I use to tell me when an idea is worth pursuing.

And now, as I find myself neck-deep in rewrites and edits, the story is growing out of control like a Mogwai tossed in the deep end of the pool. Every day or two, I have an idea for something I want to add to the story, some twist to throw in the road. Every time I re-read something, the characters seem to be speaking to me: that doesn’t make sense, I should be doing THIS instead.


Playing whack-a-mole with ideas like this is frustrating: obviously not everything that springs to mind can make it to the page. Every widget you add over here throws things out of balance over there, and if you’re not careful, the story will go to pieces trying to accomodate everything. But it’s also encouraging, because it makes every writing session exciting. Every page is Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.

So every day is taxing work — pruning here, shaping here, splicing here, all without end — but it’s also fulfilling and of late, it’s actually been enjoyable. Like I wrote yesterday, the words are coming easier and faster of late. Given the loggerheads I was at with my other project, I’m taking all this as just another sign I’m on the right path, moving in the right direction.

Maybe I’ll even set a deadline, soon.

(I haven’t given myself a deadline in over a year.)

*flies into panic*

*jumps out the window*

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday. Today’s prompt was “the 6th, 7th, and 8th word of the page of the nearest publication. That happened to be “at the top”, from my current read, Otherworld, by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.

Who Ever Wanted More Deadlines?

Nothing motivates like a deadline. You put the thing off, put the thing off, park it in the backyard, let it grow a few weeds. A family of squirrels takes up residence. Winter comes, the squirrels leave. Then the deadline looms and, hey, holy crap, it’s time to clean that thing up. Pull the weeds out. Excise the dead squirrels. Somehow this work gets managed in the relative blink of an eye, not because you want it to be done, but because it has to get done.

Or else, what? Or else, there are consequences.

Getting the house ready to sell was a perfect example of this. We had a leaky toilet. A dripping faucet. Tons of little dings in the drywall. Junk in the garage. Sagging gutters. All of these, things which I wanted to get done someday, but which I was not interested in actually doing. For years. Then, we have to get the house ready to sell, and I manage to do them all in about a week.

I was motivated from without by a deadline of sorts: you can’t sell the house until you fix the broken things.

This is the problem with my writing, of late: I’m a hobbyist at this point, and as a hobbyist, there are no deadlines. If I finish a thing? Great; I get my dopamine hit, but that’s about it. If I don’t finish a thing? I haven’t lost anything besides my time. I may feel bad about myself, but there are no tangible, concrete consequences.

Which is why it feels like my projects are stretching out and piling up like rusted-out cars in the backyard. Like a house full of honey-do’s.

Of course, I do have deadlines in my actual job, so it’s easier and easier to let those narrative toilets keep leaking. With writing, it’s all-or-nothing — I’m either thinking about it all the time, consumed with it virtually every waking minute, or I can’t keep my mind on it at all. With the deadlines flying around like a swarm of angry bees, it’s more of a nothing writing phase.

What I need, then, is obvious: I need some good, external, consequence-riddled deadlines for my projects.

I hear there are apps and services that will provide this motivation for you. Like, if you haven’t done what you said you’d do — lose fifteen pounds by the summer, finish that first draft — they donate to a political cause you hate with money you staked on yourself back when you were full of piss and vinegar about doing the thing in the first place. But that feels gimmicky and cheeky and disingenuous. I need the carrot, man. I need the stick.

Actually, what I need is to be finished with this school year — the transition has wreaked havoc on my writing habit — and get on with getting moved into the new house. (Upshot: we have accepted an offer on our current house, so we can start looking for a new place in earnest, now.) Maybe when I can silence those deadlines, I can start imposing some weird and crazy deadlines on myself.

Like, I dunno. If I don’t finish the first edit by x date, I’ll have to eat a live spider, or something.

Oh god.

I’d better get to work.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

Commitment Time Again (Help?)

Back when I started this shindig in April of this year, one of the first things I did was to set up a deadline.  It was important to me that I get my first draft finished in a reasonable amount of time.  I know me.  Without a deadline looming, without some sort of external force pushing me forward, I’m likely to flag and fail and fall off the horse like I’ve done so many other times.  Well, I set a deadline of being finished before the end of August, and I blew it out of the water; my first draft was finished about a month ahead of schedule.

Editing the thing frankly scares the bejeezus out of me.  I’m nervous that I will think the good bits are crap, that I will think the crap bits are good, that the entire narrative is boring and I won’t be able to fix it, that the characters’ motivations won’t make sense, that the characters will be too shallow, too deep, too cookie-cutter.  I’m nervous that there is no fixing it, that I’m actually a terrible writer and the whole exercise has been a laughable foray into an impenetrable forest full of poisonous plants, golfball-sized mosquitoes and voracious predators, and all I’ve got is the hawaiian shirt I packed for what I thought was a nature hike.

But then I remember that when I first decided to write the novel, I was a fledgling swimmer standing on the high-dive over the deep end of the pool: no water wings, no life jacket, and I had left my swimsuit at home.  (Wait, that was another dream.)  I jumped anyway, and yeah, I thrashed around in the waters, and I thought I was going to drown, and there were times when I just wanted to splutter to the edge and dry myself off and go home, but having the deadline — having made that commitment — to get the work done made me stick it out and learn to swim.

So, it’s that time again.  Time to step onto the diving board and jump; time to set off into the jungle, mosquitoes and plants and predators be damned.  I’ve no idea how long it should take me to edit this thing; between reading and re-writing, cutting and rearranging, destroying and rebuilding, I feel like I might as well be inventing calculus.  Therefore I’m going to be (what I feel is) very conservative and give myself until the new year to finish a first pass.  I figure I should be able to move at least as quickly as I moved in drafting to go through a first edit.

So.  A week to get my affairs in order, determine a plan of attack, and set up a routine, and then bury myself in the novel again, and then begin the daunting task of finding some readers to give me some harsh feedback on it.

Write Club starts again on Monday.  No excuses.


Yeah, I’m terrified.  Anybody have advice for a wannabe writer tackling his first edit?  What do I need?  How do I approach it?