Reworking My Goals

I’m not going to finish this draft on time. I don’t know if I mentioned it on here (I prowled through my old posts, but I couldn’t find anywhere I explicitly stated it), but my goal was to have a complete first draft by the end of the year. From there, I figured about a month or so for rewriting and editing, a month for it to be out to my beta readers, then another month or so of more rewriting and editing. All told, I figured I’d be ready to send it out sometime in the early spring.

That isn’t going to happen. To get there, I needed to be writing 2 chapters a week. And I just spent 3-4 weeks on chapter 10. Now, with only 8 weeks left in the year, it’d be highly unlikely I could finish on time, even if I were able to put in the 2 chapters a week. I don’t know how many chapters are left in my story, but there’s every chance it’ll be more than 16. Not to mention my current rate of work. I’ve picked it up a bit, but it still took me a whole week to do chapter 11 (which isn’t quite done, but one more session should do it).

My available time to write may well be shrinking within the near future, too. Financial concerns have me looking for a part-time job, and, while I haven’t heard anything yet, the possibility is still there.

It’s a bit of a bummer. This was the first project where I really set myself a deadline, and now I’m not going to make it. Still, the deadline is burned into my brain. I’m going to push for it, and see how far I can make it before time is up. Only then will I have a realistic idea of how far I need to extend that deadline.

I’m still proud of myself. And, truly, the only one who’s pushing me to meet that deadline is me. It’s still important to keep commitments I make to myself, but also perfectly okay for me to decide it’s not working and make a different plan.

Talk to me in the comments. Do you set deadlines for yourself? How often do you keep them?

I Like My Secondary Character Better Than I Like My Protagonist

Yeah. I’ve been neglecting my story, so I’ve gotten behind, and I’m still working on chapter 10. If you remember from Introducing New Characters Partway Through A Story, chapter 10 switches the perspective from the protagonist to the crown prince, to describe events taking place in a different part of the kingdom. It’s an essential part of the story, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

The problem is, I like writing about Prince Tynan better than I like writing about Callum. It may be that after 9 chapters I’m a little tired of Callum. It may be that Callum is a little whiny and sometimes stupid and I’m thinking about going back and rewriting him a little to make him more likeable. It may that I like Prince Tynan’s storyline better than I like Callum’s storyline. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a bit hard to revert back to writing about Callum.

I never intended to have much to do with the prince. As I’ve refined my plot his role has grown, and I intend for him to be important to the resolution, but I still don’t want him taking up a lot of space in this story. Partly because I don’t want to get into writing about the kingdom as a whole or castle politics. But mostly because this is Callum’s story. He’s the one who needs to learn and grow and ultimately save the day.

I like Prince Tynan because he’s smart, well-educated (they’re not the same thing), and family oriented. He listens to wise counsel and makes good decisions. He’s concerned about the future of his kingdom and is taking seriously the role he’s assigned to play. But as much as I like him, I need him to stay somewhat in the background right now. I’m semi-considering another story in which he can feature. At the end of this one, Prince Tynan lives, and will be needed to help pick up the pieces of the conflict. Maybe I can write a sequel just for him, and give him his own story. I have a half-formed idea of what that could be, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. One story at a time.

As for Callum, I need to work on liking him more. The re-write should help. Moving faster will help. I know from experience that the longer I stall on a story, the less desire I have to finish it. I just want to move on to something fresh and exciting. Getting back into his story and out of chapter 10 should help.

Talk to me in the comments. Have you ever felt more drawn to a secondary character than your protagonist?

Switching To Scrivener

Apologies for the extended time between posts. As I mentioned previously, I’m visiting family for two weeks, and my laptop hasn’t gotten a lot of love.

Today I want to talk about writing software. When I first set out to write a novel, I went with the tried and true Microsoft Word. There’s nothing wrong with Word, and it has its uses, but I struggled significantly with it. I had some formatting issues, but mostly my struggle was mental. My story was a huge document, I had to scroll through it to find my chapter headings, and it was difficult to remember what was taking place when. I remember sitting down with my (old, slow, college) laptop and staring at my Word document and being completely intimidated.

When I began Origins, I found it much easier to write by hand. The entirety of that story is contained in a series of notebooks, with random sheets folded in from when I didn’t have the current notebook handy (like at work, shh!). I really enjoy writing by hand, but my hand doesn’t write nearly as fast as my brain moves. It was a slow process, impeded by the need for transcription. Every couple of chapters I would break, and take several hours to transfer the new work into the Word document. It was handy, because I made small corrections and edits as I went, but very time-consuming and frustrating.

When I began my new fantasy project, I started out writing it by hand, but I quickly grew tired of it and knew it would take me a long time to do this story the same way I did the other. I knew I wanted to be a serious writer, so I discussed it with my husband and we agreed that I needed to buy a new work laptop. The one I have now I bought in January, and I absolutely love it. At the same time, I began researching my options for writing software. I didn’t know if I could get over my difficulty writing directly to a computer screen, but Word wasn’t working and I had to try something new.

I don’t remember what all programs I looked at, but Scrivener stuck in my mind and refused to budge. It was incredibly affordable; the license only cost me $40. For that price, it was worth it to find out if it was what I’d been searching for.

There’s a learning curve to Scrivener. I know very little outside of the basic day-to-day things I use it for, but whenever I need to learn something I just google it and usually find step-by-step instructions or sometimes a video. My first few days I spent transcribing the few chapters I’d completed and adding in my note pages. I’m not a fan of outlining, but I did have many notebook pages listing out the rules for my fantasy world and what plotlines my characters were going to follow. It was a lot of content, but I think that information is safer now than it was written out on pages that I’d flipped through so many times they were falling out of the notebook.

Things I love about Scrivener: Each chapter is its own separate document. There’s a box on the left side called the binder where all of the chapters are listed out, so it’s easy to switch back and forth between them. You can even split the screen and view two chapters (or an outline and a chapter) at the same time. There are digital index cards, where you can write a  brief description of what happens in each chapter. There’s a screen where all of these cards are pictured and you can easily track your plot. Both cards and listed chapters can be drug at will and re-ordered.

Scrivener contains templates for indexing character sheets, locations and scenes, research, and plotlines. I don’t use most of them, but it’s cool that they’re there, and I do have regular documents inserted into the files so I can keep track of those things.

The most important thing: I can write into Scrivener. The individualized documents don’t feel so scary and imposing. I’m not setting out to write a 100,000+ word book; I’m sitting down and writing a 5,000 word chapter. It’s a much more manageable goal. Seeing the chapters always in view tells me exactly where I am, and my notes on the index card tell me what that chapter needs to accomplish. If I need to re-read something to refresh my memory on  a scene, it’s easy for me to find without scrolling through endless pages of flashing words. The bottom of the page also tracks my word count, so I know if I need to hurry up and conclude my thoughts or if I have room to stretch the scene out.

It’s possible that the ease of writing into Scrivener is simply a marker of my growth as a writer. Maybe if I switched back to Word I wouldn’t face the same issues I did the first time around. But I have no desire to test that theory. I like Scrivener, and it’s working for me, so why would I want to jeopardize that?

What writing software do you use, and why do you love it? Let me know in the comments!

I Don’t Need to Write

I’ve heard a lot of writers say they need to write. They’re bursting with stories that just have to come out. They don’t know what they’d do if they weren’t writing. I don’t feel like that. Sometimes it makes me feel a bit like a fraud, but, like everything else, no writers’ journeys are identical. I enjoy writing. I want to do it. I have stories to tell. But I don’t have to.

My experiences this weekend made this very clear to me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to pursue this with everything I have. But this past weekend I drove from New Mexico to my childhood home in Indiana to spend a couple of weeks with my family. I didn’t write on the road. I may not write today. I’m still pretty tired from the trip (I spent 27 straight hours in the car with my dog). I’ve been spending most of my time talking to my parents and my sister’s kids. My family is important, and my time here with them is important.

This afternoon I was standing on the deck while my dad was scraping some paint, and that’s when it hit me. I had a stray thought that I should probably go inside and get some work done, but decided against it. That time with my dad took priority. I was enjoying being outside and talking with him.

I’m okay with not writing today. The story will still be there tomorrow, and some things are just more important. Right now, my time with family is more important. I haven’t been home in just over 7 months. I have a lot of catching up to do and memories to make. So the story can wait. A little while.

I hope I can make a career out of writing. I want it in my life. But I don’t have to do it. My drive comes from desire, not need, and I think that’s a good distinction to make.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. I love hearing from you.