Progress On My Debut Novel – Post 3

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“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
Ernest Hemingway

I wish you all the best in 2020. I am not one for resolutions, but I do set loose goals for myself that I’ll track throughout the year. Last year had mixed results, but more positive results than less favorable. Professionally, in my day job, I settled into working in a government position. My focus has been learning that job, as I am hoping it is the job that will take me into my retirement career as an author. While learning the job, I got a promotion into a position that will fit my lifestyle and within my goals very nicely — all good things. Plus, I get a three-day weekend every other week.

We have been making steady progress upgrading our house; this process will carry on for a while, as we have the time and budget to complete the work. This year we are well on our way to replacing the floors — no more carpet.

Being a veteran and a student of history has taught me the importance of being prepared for emergencies. Being prepared for a natural disaster or other emergencies has become essential to my family and me over the last couple of years. I don’t go crazy about it, but a little thought into what situations you are most likely to face in your area will guide you towards the basics of what you should have on hand to be prepared. Living in Oregon, we don’t have natural disasters as often as other parts of the country, but there is still the possibility. Researching the best methods and items to be prepared for our situation has been useful not only on a personal level but helpful for my WIP as well. We did well last year in filling out the basics in our plan; this year, we want to work on fulfilling the items that would be considered ‘nice to have.’

As for my writing goals – last year, I got serious about my writing (it was about mid-year when it kicked in), where I was able to prioritize writing daily. I am not at the point in my WIP where word count is a useful metric for tracking progress, as I have been working on my outline and research. While I do note my word count, it is hours that I am focused on tracking. This year my minimum goal is to work on writing activities for 10 hours a week or 520 hours per year, the equivalent of a part-time job. I hope to exceed this, but this is an achievable goal. Once I get into writing the first draft, I’ll focus on time and word count. My top goal for 2020 is to finish my first novel to the point of being ready for publishing. I have set small goals to work towards the prime objective, but I won’t bore you with them now.

As for where I stand in my current WIP – I am about 50% through a detailed outline that is closer to a first draft without the narrative and dialog. After doing research and putting some thought into the work I have completed to date, I am going back and revising much of the first 50% before finishing the outline. I am focused on inserting scenes to set up events in books two and three. I am adding scenes for characters who I want to have a more prominent role, changing POV for scenes, and rearranging scenes for a better pace. I don’t view these changes as a setback; I consider it part of the learning process and an opportunity to improve the quality of the novel. Either way, it has been an enjoyable way to spend time.

I hope you had a successful 2019, and I wish you an even more successful 2020. Happy New Year.

Progress On My Debut Novel – Post 02

Thank you for joining me on my journey of writing my debut novel, which is the first book of a planned trilogy that falls somewhere on the spectrum of dystopian and urban survival. You can follow my more frequent updates on Instagram.

Straight up, September had mixed results but was positive overall. After spending the summer developing a habit of writing daily and working on main character development; I had a working plan of using September to do the Outline, and the final three months of the year to write the first draft with a 90,000-word target.

At the end of September, I was only about 40% of the way through the outline. I can tell you it was not from lack of working on it or putting my writing time in; I have been tracking time and word count daily. I don’t feel good about missing the September outline target, but I perfectly fine with my effort and the quality. It is not worth beating myself up over it. Looking back, it was an unrealistic goal. The kids started school and require more time in the evening, plus with my work schedule, I can only dedicate about an hour a night to writing. I got my writing hour in most nights with the occasional night missed due to family time. I do get more writing time on the weekends.

The outline is far more detailed than I expected. Keep in mind, this is my first time through the process. The scenes I outline are not in bullet point form, I free write what happens in the scene within the three-act structure. I don’t worry about narrative, and only add dialogue if I think of something good, that I don’t want to forget. The good news is this will help make for a smooth first draft. The reality of this is I am under absolutely no deadline, and I would prefer the quality is good, over quantity. As long as I know I am writing regular and getting the work in, I am okay with it.

My revised goal is to get 10 quality hours of work in a week. Super doable (1 hour each work night, and 1.5 hours on weekend days; if I can’t do a night during the week, it is easy to make up on the weekend). This will be the plan through the outline phase of my WIP. As long as I get in the work, and what I am creating is of quality, then I see that as a success.

Progress On My Debut Novel – Post 01

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I am working on my debut novel, book one of a dystopian survival trilogy, which I am not prepared to share the details just yet. This story has been bouncing around in my head for nearly two years. In that time, I have gathered a ton of notes about the story, characters, and scene ideas. This list has grown in size and randomness, meaning they weren’t placed in a linear order.

After a couple of failed starts, I buckled down in June making writing a daily priority. I have set and track loose weekly goals, though I don’t beat myself up over it if I fall short. Consistency is vital, I have read, and I am proud that I have been consistent in my writing, with occasional days off for pressing matters and family time. Overall I do write for at least an hour on weekdays (workdays), and 2-3 hours on weekend days. I am pleased with my progress.

Knowing my personality and how my brain works, I had to make some changes to how I approach successful writing. I looked at what led to my failed attempts in the past to see what I could do to cross the finish line of writing my first novel. I am a person who can get bogged down by over-organizing, over-thinking, over-planning, and having to learn everything there is before starting; in other words, being too much of a perfectionist. I have read, listened to, and watched so many books, podcasts, and videos trying to learn the craft of writing , that it took up most of my time writing time.

Sometimes the topic I dove into had no relevance for where I was in the writing process. For example, how to market your book or self-publishing tips. I haven’t even written the book yet. Or I dive in the worm-hole that is the writing community on social media. I am NOT saying this is terrible, but if not managed, it is a total time suck. Additionally, I stopped following or doing writing prompts. Once again, NOT a bad thing, but NONE of this was getting me to my goal of writing my first novel.

When I set out in June to build a habit of writing consistently so I could get to writing the words The End, I told myself enough trying to learn to write a novel, it is time to write a book. Focus on the task at hand, write the first draft. Editing, publishing, marketing, etc. can all wait until I have the first draft.

I started by working on my theme, for the overall story in book one, and a general concept of theme for books two and three. Done.

Next, I worked on my antagonists for the trilogy, focusing primarily on book one. I put in as much, if not slightly more time into the antagonist as I did the protagonist. The antagonist has a personal theme, a character arc, and their own wants and needs. Once this was complete, I moved on to developing the protagonist (in-depth) with a personal theme related to the overall theme, their character arc, wants, and needs. Antagonist & Protagonist Done.

That was followed up by fleshing out the rest of the main characters. Character Development Done.

I should mention while all the above was in progress, I was continually writing more notes about the plot and specific scenes.

As of last week, I started outlining the structure of the novel by organizing my notes from two years into specific beats within the structure of book one. If the notes didn’t have a place in book one, it was moved to book two or book three notes. Organizing notes within book one structure – Done.

I am currently working on the outline for Act I, breaking down what I want into structure beats and chapters. This is going really smooth, and I am having a blast putting this story into some form of coherence. I have set my goal to finish the outline at the end of September.

I am so excited to get going on the first draft, and I have set my goal for finishing the first draft at the end of the year. I am shooting for 90,000, and have broke that down into 7,000 words a week, which should get me to the target. To hold myself accountable, I have put my progress in the sidebar to the left under “Current Project.”

I am enjoying the process, I am motivated to write daily, and I can see this book morphing into reality.