I wrote 11 pages between having that whine-fest and now. Have no idea what the total count is because of the moving things around, plus my computer won’t charge and is functionally dead because of it, so I can’t get on and add things up like I’d like to.
The point is, I wrote anyway (on a school computer in a lab), I caught up, I got to write some loving-if-critical description of Long Beach, and I’m once again in good shape.
Up and down, up and down. I wonder if it’s going to be like this the whole way.
October 23: 95 pages
The new first chapter is done, and that feels good. And now I have a whole week to play with what I’ve got…should be quite an adventure.
But, now, to free movie screenings for inspiration.
October 8: 82 pages
I had a bad week. Couldn’t get anything done. My plan to catch up Friday only resulted in typing up the few pages I’d handwritten in NYC last weekend and adding a little bit. Yesterday we cooked and had a friend over and had a great time, but I did no writing.
But there’s always a new day. I went to Starbucks and to school and finished up a brand-new chapter. 8 pages. Now I’m 4 pages behind the Fall count, because of the week I took off, but I’m making it up in 2 weeks when there’s no classes at school. I feel a lot better, and I think this new chapter is really good. Phew.
I’m a little unsure of keeping the page counts going because now that I’ve redone the plot, I have several dozen pages that will have to get cut because they no longer fit. But I think the right thing to do is keep it all, even the stuff that seems like it’s the wrong plot, until I get to 275. 275 won’t mean I have a finished book, it’ll mean I put in a novel-sized effort and came up with almost all the raw material. After that I can fix it into something pretty. Anyway, I think that’s OK.
No page count this week. No pages, either. I thought I would feel bad the first time I missed a weekly goal, but I don’t. Because I just did a ton of work and turned this ship around.
Instead of just plugging along and feeling really ambivalent about it, I stopped and decided I did want a plot outline after all. I’m not used to a story of this scope, and it needs multiple plot threads and arcs. I needed a basic roadmap for all five members of my novel’s family, and notes about the other family members and significant others who show up. Characterization comes easily to me. Plot does not, and I wanted to feel like I had something planned that could actually be 275 pages, which wasn’t happening with what I was writing.
So I scribbled events on slips of paper, including events I’d thought of when I conceived of the novel that weren’t appearing in what I was writing so far, and started moving them around on my rug. I stood over it to see if it felt like there was actually rising action and a climax instead of just random episodes. I moved a child going missing, which was becoming a central event of my manuscript, into the first chapter where it provided strong but self-contained action to jumpstart the narrative and set up the bad relationship of the parents, instead of dragging on and on and requiring some kind of giant payoff I hadn’t planned on. I brought back a romance with a woman seeking asylum in the U.S. And gave another character a wedding. I even switched my narrator from one sibling to another. Suddenly the relationships really started to pop.
Maybe most importantly, I thought of cake. I meant the book to partly track a neighborhood “cake lady,” and the way making cakes for every family and neighborhood function allows her to see important moments in people’s lives. I had totally gotten away from that. So I thought of a dessert that would appear in every chapter to mark an occasion happening there, even briefly. That was great for keeping Mom in the picture and making scenes discrete in time.
Then I typed up a plot outline with a couple sentences about each chapter, including the cake image and the time of year that goes with it. Room to play around, but I could write straight from it without any new plot ideas if I had to.
I feel 500% better about where this is going. Next week I start moving around what I have into the new plot and writing the new pieces. The narrator switch will require editing, but not so much that it’ll be a problem. I think this is going to work. Right now I’m going to go get a cooking magazine so I can finish my novel collage/treasure map that I’ve been cutting stuff for.
As of 5:00 today, I hadn’t written a single word this week. I was prepared to write a pessimism post about how crappy my week was, how I had meetings upon meetings, I had to watch auditions for my singing group, I had to figure out how to get to and from the clinic site, etc. I almost gave up and didn’t try to write this week at all.
Then I napped a bit, and my husband gave me our stuffed hedgehog with a baseball cap on with the word “WIFE” taped on over “Yankees.” So I thought I’d try.
He came in the room an hour later. I held up three fingers. Three pages. That would have been enough to make me happy for this week. I said “I have a couple more paragraphs in me, and then I’m calling it quits.” He left.
I opened the door half an hour later. “I have four pages and a paragraph,” I said, surprised. We decided I had to go for it.
Twenty minutes later, I was rolling over that sweet delicious page break, the fifth page done.
A busy, crappy week, to be sure. But it’s Saturday, and I wrote my five pages. Small miracles. Hooray!