You’ve heard the “writing is a muscle” expression before, right? Well, my experience over the past couple months has definitely proved it true.
Another saying that’s been going through my head of late is this: “do you want to be a writer or someone who’s written a book?”
Believe it or not, answering that 2nd question was kinda tough. It was easier to go through the motions…to say “meh, writer’s block” and quit after an hour or so of staring at the keyboard. And after a few months of that, well, you start to wonder — is this effort worth it? I could be doing other stuff with my non-family, non-job time.
What are you prepared to do?
But I kept coming back to wanting to create something. And I’d only just started…and I don’t like quitting just because it was tougher than I thought it would be. And, I have enough regrets in my life.
So back at the beginning of September, I decided to be a writer.
Step one was to quit playing WoW. Just doing that reclaimed a ton of time and dumped lots of stress.
Step two was to throw myself back into my 4 day a week writing habit. And by throw I mean omg it sucked.
I didn’t look forward to writing. The words weren’t flowing. Those that did were junk. I couldn’t move past the first third of the book — just kept going over it and over it and over it.
And, gradually, I was over it.
I was able to think more clearly about the book — timeline, plot, scenes I needed, scenes I needed to excise. I got past the first third of the book.
I wouldn’t say that things are amazing now, but I can feel the “flow” … time drops away and good stuff’s produced. Or at least good bones to hang stuff on.
So here are a few examples of what my progress looks like.
Stable word count ish
The book’s still hovering around 80K words which is my minimum word count goal for this book. That’s progress b/c despite the stuff I’m removing, I’m replacing a roughly equal amount of content…which, to me, means that the book’s concept is ok. And nothing plot-wise has changed since I went through that outlining process with my editor a year ago.
Moving past the beginning
As I said, I was stuck on the first third of the book. Never felt right. Too choppy. I couldn’t figure out how Frigg, for example, moved through the city and got into a bad situation (thanks to Loki). Nor could I figure out how she got out of that and then met up with a returning Odin. Nor how Loki stirred up trouble and planned future trouble before presenting himself to Odin and Frigg toward the end of the first section.
Well, now I have. Here’s an outline of how the first section of the book goes:
- The book opens with Odin riding up from “Hel.”
- Heimdall sees and hears him coming and, in Frigg’s scene, tells her that he’s coming. And he tells her that Thor is nearly to Gladsheim.
- Loki presents himself at the great hall expecting to encounter Frigg. But, she’s not there. So Loki says he’ll stop by later — which gives him time to start trouble.
- Since Thor’s not there yet, Frigg has time to speak with Hodr…and sets up her next interaction (with Thor).
- Loki’s off starting trouble…which doesn’t pay off till later.
- Frigg’s asked Thor to check out what Vidar found waaay up north. He agrees. And then she takes him to Baldr’s body…which puts her back near the great hall. Thor splits b/c he doesn’t want to see his father (which reinforces the bad blood between them).
- Frigg goes into the hall, is told that Loki stopped by and will do so again later. She’s relieved b/c she didn’t want to deal with him w/o Odin. And, she’s told there’s a crowd gathering outside. She goes out & confronts the crowd.
- Loki followed a crowd of people leading back up to the great hall, sees the crowd causing trouble for Frigg and decides to make it worse. As you do. Toward the end, he sees Odin riding up the road. Time to jet! But not before making it worse for Odin.
- Cut to Odin riding up the hill, and then dealing with the fresh mob violence Loki just instigated.
- Cut to Loki heading back down to a meeting with a certain someone. This clarifies a few things for the reader and sets up some future events.
- Then cut back to Frigg in the aftermath of Odin dispersing the mob and then a new sequence that alternates between her and him — with a couple Loki scenes thrown in to build tension.
There’s a bit more to the book’s first third, but even writing this outline out fresh for this blog post it feels like it flows pretty well. (If you disagree, lemme know!)
Fixing later sequences, etc.
As with the above list of fixes, I did similar things later in the book to smooth events out. Some of this involved (and will involve) writing new scenes to flesh out sub-plots that are primarily there to give more depth to Odin, in particular, and to set up events in Book 3.
And best yet!
My editor checked in with me yesterday to make sure I was on track for the first round of manuscript evaluation on Jan 2.
I wasn’t sure, so I updated her on where I was and asked: Does my progress thus far match what you were expecting?
Her answer: Yep. This first critique will focus on the bigger picture stuff (plot, scenes) rather than the nitty gritty.
Phew. Like srsly. Phew.
And I got an extra week b/c she’s on vaca. Even better.
So when I hand the book in on Jan 7, it will be in pretty good shape. Not as polished as the first book I sent her a couple years ago but unlike that book, this one — Book Two — won’t be seeing massive plot shifts. I squared all that away last year. And like I said, it hasn’t changed.
I still have a ton of work ahead of me. And will do again come February.
But for now, it feels good to be a writer again.