Momentum, editing + not losing my mind (hopefully)

General update
After a first week of story writing that I was pretty happy with, I was determined not to falter. Has this been NaNoWriMo, I probably would have done just that. After a couple of days. It feels so pressure-some, and I get overwhelmed with the task ahead. 50,000 words? Sheesh.

Another article on Lauren Sapala’s blog, written by another writing coach – Anna-Marie O’Brien, was timely. It was titled “Writing progress does NOT always equal word count” and it really resonated. It spoke about the typical “writing rules” not fitting. About pausing, and reflecting, and going with the flow. So I don’t have to write every day? I thought. Hallelujah. This took off some pressure.

Daily habit (ish)
That said, I am finding that I do feel better when I’ve written at least something. I remember listening to author + writer Joanna Penn on this podcast episode, talking about a post-it note she has on her wall which says something like “Have I created art today?” Yes, this goes against the article I read which I said really resonated, but there’s something about little-by-little and momentum for me. (Joanna Penn is, though, a freak of nature it seems). Whilst I feel that creative writing is, for me, more challenging and requires more energy and focus, my journalling/writing for my other blog has helped me maintain a daily habit for the last 5 weeks (bar one or two days). Stream-of-consciousness writing, or just putting pen to paper and writing about whatever’s occupying your mind, has become easier for me the more I’ve done it. That also counts towards my daily writing. Even though it may be cheating slightly. Oh well.

Thing is, some mornings (like this Monday just gone) I wake up and just feel very demotivated and not at all in the mood to write. On Monday, after a couple of hours of TV/YouTube/procrastination, I forced myself to sit down at my desk and get started on my story-writing. It wasn’t easy, but it came. Even if I heavily edit later on, I did it. I put pen to paper.

Whilst I’m not working at the moment, my writing is also contributing to my fairly lax routine. But routine is routine, and I’m also figuring I should be trying to make the most of the free time I have. Though, conversely, sometimes when I have more things to do, I can be more effective and plough through tasks. I imagine though, with creative writing, pressure and time constraints will not help – especially for sensitive, lil me.

So, as long as I write something every day, whether it’s journalling, blogging or creative writing. Or a combination of those. All good. I don’t count my words, or even time myself. It just has to be something.

Starting to type / edit
Whilst initially thinking I might type up my story only when it was all written down, I actually started writing it up this week. Last week, I’d already starting looking at writing software. I’m keeping it simple and going for something free if possible, for now. Annoyingly, I realised that I am unable to download any Apps on my Mac from the App Store. In short, a little while back I installed the latest Mac OS, and it crashed my Mac. I lost everything, and luckily it wasn’t so much of a big deal. Just annoying. Anyhow, it meant I was limited to some sort of online writer, rather than an App one.

I scanned a couple of articles like this one for free writing software apps. I settled on Reedsy. It looked clean and minimal, plus with basic sections you can add for different chapters/segments. Pretty much what I needed. It looks like it also doubles up as a writers’ marketplace, for freelance, editors, proof-readers, marketers as such. Not something I need just yet, but this could be handy further down the line.

I started typing my story up this week. It’s actually been useful, to kinda start editing but also remind myself of the detail earlier on in the story vs where it’s currently at (i.e. where I am with writing it). This typing up is a way where I feel like I am working on the story, when I’m not feeling so creatively inspired to actually write new words.

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 A5 pages
Week 2: 27.5 A5 pages

To my pleasant surprise, not only have I written as much as I did in the first week, but even more. News to my ears. Or eyes. Or both. Well, all four. You know what I mean.

Structure vs pantsing
Following the very basic outline of week 1, shortly into week 2 I realised I was in danger of my story going haywire. So, this week, I’ve been reverting to the outline, adding sub-points to it to keep me on track. It’s a delicate balance between having enough structure there, with some flexibility for me to just write and go with the flow and see how it turns out.

So far, it’s working. Kinda. I’m winging it still, but I’m making progress. Which is all the matters.

If I were to estimate, it feels like I’m about half-way through with this short story. I’m fairly sure it will, indeed, be on the mediocre-to-longish side of a short story, but fall short of being a novella. PS. Phillip McCollum’s output is slightly putting mine to shame. PPS. Don’t compare yourself to others, AB. Stop it. *hits himself on hand*

Thinking ahead aka losing my mind a bit
I’ll be honest now… as is *typical* of what I do (I loooove freaking myself out), I’ve been thinking ahead like an excitable-yet-worried little puppy. When I’ve finished writing and typing it all up… Do I need a professional editor? Am I going to self-publish? Will I have to release it ‘free’, indefinitely? How the hell am I gonna get people to actually read the damn thing? Will they even like it? Should I even be telling the world about my first ever short story, seeing as it’s likely to be crap?

Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh! Wait, no, more like aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! That’s better. More freaked out vibes, less scary-monster vibes.

But seriously, I have to try to reign myself in with these thoughts – as otherwise there’s the risk I’ll get overwhelmed, feel hopeless and that this is a thankless task. I just can’t help myself, though.

I’m aware that I’m sooo early in my writing journey, and I mustn’t get ahead of myself. But I just can’t help thinking about others reading the words I’ve written, the story I’ve crafted. And wanting to know what they’ll make of it.

*Deep breaths*

As I write this and I crystallise my thoughts, I have resigned myself to the fact that very few people are likely to even start reading the finished piece, initially at least. This whole writing lark sounds like a long-term thing. Hopefully – if it’s meant to be – this story will form just part of a body of work. F*ck that sounds overwhelming and daunting even to put down.

Perhaps, I’ll slowly get more people who hear about my stuff, and even one day be able to charge for my stuff. Or find a traditional publisher. I’m doing it again. Thinking too far into the future and freaking out.

For now, I’m just trying to ground myself and just be happy with putting one foot in front of the other.

✏ Written: Wednesday, 14th March 2018 @ 10.24pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 📖
Do any other early-journey authors + writers think ahead like this? If you’re further down the line, I’d love to hear what happened after your first story (or two) were ready to be shared with the world. What happened? Your perspective would really be appreciated 💙

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My first week as a ‘proper writer’

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Pretending to be a writer. #equipped

Wow, that feels strange to write down. Technically, I’ve been writing various articles on my own blogs / elsewhere over the last couple of years.

Somehow, though, creative writing seems like ‘the proper stuff’ to me. PS. No disrespect to the many, fantastic, non-creative-writing authors, writers and journalists out there. It’s not you, it’s me.

Shortly after starting my most recent blog, seeing as I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing daily (🤞🏽), I figured what better time to ride this wave and get started on my own short story. Eek.

Some background information… I loved creative writing as a kid (primary school and the beginning of secondary school). I’ve not done it since then. Like, at all. Except if you count the couple of times when I’ve literally GOT THE INSPIRATIONNN 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽… for about 5 minutes. And a few lines later, the writing stops. One time, I even started writing a script for Toy Story 3 (back when just 1 & 2 had been released, obviously). True story.

Anywhoozle*, here’s what’s gone down so far, in my first week as a writer:

(*I stole this word from Amy Schumer)

The research phase
Before I got started, theres was a whole big mental hurdle for me to jump through. *Was I ready for this?!* Given my track record with research (#AnalysisParalysis), this could prove to me a major roadblock.

I’d done pretty much zero creative writing for about 15 years. Surely, I needed to do a course, right? Right?!

My options extended from the extreme (an MA in Creative Writing) to the lighter (a book, online course).

In a quick-fire moment of inspiration, I reached out on Twitter to a friendly face. I’d come across Lauren Sapala previously, when I’d gone on an introvert-author binge shortly after my “I’m an introvert” discovery. She calls herself The INFJ Writer, so this felt appropriate now more than ever (she’s only one letter away from INFP me!).

A couple of posts on her blog had confirmed that I liked this chick, a lot. Lauren is a writing coach, and she writes a lot about INFJs, INFPs and highly-sensitive people, and works with them too.

I DM’d her the following…

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… desperately hoping for the answer I so wanted. And I got it:

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Boom! She went on to recommend this book, and also this guy, who’s writing a short story every week for 52 weeks(?!?!):

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Philip’s website is here, and I’ll be checking out his stories + his process, along with of the techniques he also writes about.

However, I didn’t wanna get sucked into RESEARCH, like my typical self. What Lauren said about classes + courses inhibiting writers resonated; whilst it’s valuable to learn basic processes, too much of this “learning” can, I feel, stifle your own creative voice.

PS. I’m glad I didn’t open this email beforehand, as that could’ve opened up a whole new Aladdin’s cave that I didn’t need:

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To my credit, I did something I don’t do often enough. I just got started.

Story ideas
Again, in the past, I’ve come up with ideas for various weird and wonderful stories. Or rather, part-ideas, as they weren’t fully-formed by any means. And then – just not got started, or fizzled out very quickly.

This time, I drafted 3 or 4 story ideas. And – with my new found ‘just do it’ attitude – I honed in on one of these, and start imagining in my head how this might potentially pan out. I had quickly moved onto the next phase.

Fleshing out a (very) loose outline
The researcher in me wanted to read up on ‘planning your story’, to read about 3-Act Structures, and Character Development, and Sub-plots, and such. I figured I could read about that stuff as I need to / as it came up.

Woo, woo! There was no stopping this steam train, baby… 🚂

The researcher in me wanted to read up on ‘planning your story’, to read about 3-Act Structures, and Character Development, and Sub-plots, and such. I figured I could read about that stuff as I need to / as it came up.

I scribbled down a quick, basic spider diagram with my central character in the middle – aka the guy who this whole short story would be about – Joel:

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Squiggled out a key “secret” in the story 🙂

And then…

Pen to paper
Resisting the temptation to get all of the details down, from detailed character descriptions, through to a detailed start-to-finish outline… I just started writing. Hell I didn’t even know exactly where this story was going.

I just put pen to paper. I let the words flow. Until I hit a bump, then went away, and came back to it the next day. Whilst there’s no hard-and-fast rule for me – I’ve been writing for less than a week! – and one-hour blocks seem to be working OK at the moment. Any more than that and I can start to feel a bit stuck / creatively worn out.

I’ll be honest, I’m kinda winging it here. Making up this story as it goes along. This probably isn’t the ideal way to do things. I’m unlikely to be winning any literary awards for this piece of art. My story may well end up in a mess, and a week from now I may be crying in the bathtub a-la Ace Ventura, realising I have a lot of loose ends which are just hanging there waiting to be tied up (kinda like what happened to Lost. Oh that show.).

But, I don’t care. Or at least, I’m trying not to care. Because usually I care too much. I really just want to learn-by-doing, to keep moving forward, this only being my first story ‘n all.

There’ve been a couple of times when I’ve had to pause, and do a quick re-cap on the main characters, added a character here and there, scribbled things out, etcetera.

It’s not been clean. It’s not been pretty. But there’s been progress. And for me, that feels like the most important thing right now.

A note on genre
I had a brief moment of panic/confusion when I realised that my story fitted no obvious genre(s). First, I familiarised myself with the basic ones. Hmm, no obvious fit. I quickly googled a couple of my favourite films that don’t have an obvious genre (confession: I know watch more films than I read books), to see what genres they had been placed under, and realised all was OK in the world. Turns out, my story is a mix of drama and mystery.

Where I’m currently at
– Basic outline / prep work
– Handwritten 21 A5 pages

Stuff I’ve found useful this week:
– Just start writing!
Lauren Sapala’s blog

✏️ Written: Thursday, 8th March 2018 @ 7.07pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you?
Are you a pen-to-paper writer, or a straight-to-the-keyboard writer? Are you a planner or a just-wing-it kinda writer? I’d love to know your style 😎 And… do you remember what writing your first story (as an adult) was like?!

My first post…

Thanks for visiting! 

My 1st post is coming this Friday 9th March, then I’ll be posting weekly thereafter.

Follow my scary-exciting-wild journey from wannabe writer -> actual writer.

In the meantime, get to know me a little.

Cya soon 👋🏽

AB Guy

EDIT: I uploaded my first post a day early! Partly because it was ready & I thought “why not?”, and partly because I already upload on Fridays to my other blog.