Push On or Revise?

Push on obviously, but here’s the situation:

Last night when I was in that super-productive mental time when sleep is just about to hit, I realized I started my book in the wrong place. In fact, I’d stuck my protagonist in the wrong spot.

You want ridiculously extraneous background to that realization? You don’t? Too bad. My story is a big fantasy, but it sprang out of thinking about industrial disasters like Chernobyl. I wondered, what would a disaster of that scale look like in a medieval fantasy world? From there I scaled down to local disasters because my little part of the world has had a lot. A book about the Ocean Ranger, an oil rig that sunk off Newfoundland in 1982 (all 84 crew members died), gave me a tighter focus. I wanted to write a novel about people in a small community dealing with tremendous loss, and how that caused some to be comforted and others to be outcast.

Enter my protagonist, who’s the daughter of one of the men killed in the disaster. She’s young when it happens, but her mom ensures the impact on her is always clear and present because she refuses to accept that her husband is dead. Add in the act that the mom is ‘come-from-away’ (a local term here for people who weren’t born in the community) and the community soon begins to treat her like a pariah.

Originally I had the mother and my protag, Lil, move away from that village to the home community of Lil’s mother. This amplified Lil’s isolation, giving her a wonderfully surly and oppositional outlook, but last night I realized I didn’t need to do that. The characters in the original village were going to be key players anyway, so this one-village-removed thing was just complicating matters. I could have Lil and her mother never leave, but have that same sense of isolated outsider. I could also solve a slew of little issues I was trying to patch in the first 5,000 words.

BUT, I am not rewriting. Or at least not in my main writing time. After much agonizing I’ve decided that I’m simply going to pick up where I dropped off, but pretend everything in the first 5,000 words happened in Lil’s home village. I really am serious about not losing momentum. I will make copious notes about the new beginning, and maybe even start rewriting it in the evening, but during my morning block of time when my brain is freshest, it’s full steam ahead on the main story.

Get the first draft done. Revise then. That is my mantra.

Finding My Groove

I’m 3,700 words and three scenes into my book and have learned this: routine builds routine.

That looks stupid typed out like that, but it’s true.

See, I made a block of my day that’s non-negotiable writing time. It’s two hours in the late morning when I’ve got the homemaking things I need to do early done, and the inevitable crush of getting supper to the family isn’t pressing down on me yet. I sit down, listen to a short podcast or two on writing, reread the previous day’s scene and write. Funnily enough, there’s little wasted time between when I start and end. It’s just a fast hour of banging out 1000-1500 words.

That puzzled me a bit until I reflected on it some because I’ve been writing fanfic for the last few years and it’s almost always been more of a struggle to get my ideas down. I think what’s going on now is threefold. First, I have a clear goal of finishing a draft in six months. Second, these are all my own characters in my own world and there’s no anxiety about getting voices or settings ‘right’. Third, and most importantly, I finish a scene one day, think about the following one for the rest of that day, and start with a clear vision of what I need to accomplish the next.

I’ve built a routine out of the routine I set down for writing.

Now I’m formalizing it. I do the morning writing block, then housework while I plan out the next day’s scene. Come late afternoon or early evening I write down and outline and bam, the wheel turns again the nest morning. Eventually I might make myself cover a couple of scenes a day, but I can afford to let this habit grow organically, so why not?

If anyone is reading this blog, I’d sure love to know what routine, if any, you’ve set in place for your writing!

Scene One Done

Image credit: Johnny Dodd

I have started the book. In fact, I had the first scene of my novel written at the beginning of last week and… it was a scene. That’s about the kindest thing I can say about it, so I decided to rewrite it a couple of days ago.

I actually think this is a BAD thing to do when I’m supposed to be pushing through to get a first draft done. A person can get so caught up on revising and editing the first bits that they never get any further, but I decided I get one do-over and from now on, unless I hit a major obstacle, I don’t get rewrites until I have a complete story.

Why did I allow this one?

The beginning just sucked that much. I know the fantasy genre (and that’s the genre I’m writing in) is supposed to allow a little more room for setting and slow writing at the start, but folks, I just can’t do it. I can’t write a scene about my main character relaxing and having some thoughts about her life, not until there’s a bit of actual conflict to think about. Especially not this main character, who is a great big girl with a rough and ready temper. I mean, the reader’s first view of her is a peaceful sit down? I don’t think so.

So I grabbed what was supposed to be scene two and began with that, and it worked so much better. I get to introduce three important characters, some core tensions, tease out a few details to lead the reader into the next scene, and have some crap for everyone to react to. The original scene one is getting a revamp and flipped into scene two, and that should also work better for what I wanted to achieve with it.

Now I just never have to do this again. Easy, right?

About My Blog Title

I’m not sure how many people will read it the way someone from Eastern Canada will, but it’s a word play on a common descriptor here – right some good. Right and some act as an adverb and adjective respectively, and must be in that order. You say, “that was some right good,” to a Maritimer and they’ll look at you like you downed a litre of wine for breakfast. Here’s the breakdown and usage guide.

Margaret picks up a rhubarb pie from the grocery store and you have a piece:

Oh Margaret, that pie was some good.

Margaret makes a rhubarb pie and tops it with whipped cream:

Oh Margaret, that pie was right some good!

Margaret makes the rhubarb pie she won first place for at the local fair, tops it with whipped cream, and gives you a shot of rum:

Oh Margaret! That pie was right some jesus good!

Yes, jesus can be an adjective here, although sometimes jeezly is an acceptable substitution if you’re worried about lightning bolts.

Grammar lesson taught, why did I choose that for my title? Oh, I think it makes some sort of sense even if you’re not from where I am, makes it clear that this is a writing blog, gives people a slight taste of where I live, and points to one of the big influences on my fantasy novel, namely the people and culture I’m familiar with. Might cause a bit of confusion for a few folk, but it’s a good, if small taste of what you’re getting into by reading my blog.

So Here’s How This Began…

My mother told me I was afraid of pursuing a career in writing. I thought she was wrong and told her so. I want to be a hobby writer, I said. I love writing for myself, I said.

Several months later I admitted, “I want to be a professional writer,” out loud to someone who doesn’t live inside my head. The immediate thought was, they’re going to tell me I’m not good enough, and damn it, I had to admit to myself that my mom was right after all.

So, bad thing: Mom was right. I am afraid.

Good thing: I wasn’t pursuing a career because of this little piddly ass fear? Damn, that’s the last time it stops me.

Probably not-so-coincidentally the creative floodgates opened later that night and a story idea I’d been entertaining for months suddenly snapped together into a coherent vision. Funny how that works.

Since that epiphany I’ve decided to treat writing as my job, grabbed my name as a domain name, started this blog, and begun setting up a Patreon. Also, I’ve written a good chunk of the first chapter, but I thought I’d mention the other stuff first in case an editor is googling my name in a year, sees that and thinks, she’s a real go-getter! I can work with her.

Anyway, off I go. Will I actually manage to get a book in print? Who knows?* But I’m pretty sure the journey will be fun, and if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to join me!

And thanks, Mom. You’re the best.

*I do. I know. Yes, I’ll have a book in print.