“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I’m working on a middle-grade chapter book.
It’s a mystery.
There’s a case to solve and I’d call it a bit of a caper.
At the end of last month I set a goal to complete the first draft of my book in one month, the month of November. This goal wasn’t from go because I had done some leg work, but this would be the heavy lifting.
In September and October, I outlined the book, wrote characters sketches and scenes, and jotted down a handful of dialogues. I brainstormed, I free flowed, and I got to know the characters.
I knew there would be 20 + chapters involved. Yet I needed some fire under my feet to write chapter by chapter. I have a taken a hiatus from teaching and with the girls at school all day, I was afraid the days could pass without ample progress on the book.
There’s this November writing challenge and I told myself, use this as motivation to write the novel.
It’s certainly a first draft. Believe me, I’m not about to share it here! Much much work is needed yet!
But the first draft is done!! And I did it! I’m pretty proud of myself that I set this goal and completed it.
Here’s what helped me get it done.
- Exercise. I feel like this is an obvious one, but it’s because it’s so effective. I know that if I start my day off with a workout, it clears my brain and lessens my anxiety. I practice hot yoga, I cycle and I run … all of these exercises work.
- Brain Drain. Another great start of the day is what a very good friend and fellow writer of mine calls Brain Drain. How my friend explained it was that you spend the time thinking and writing about whatever comes to mind. No judgment, you just flow and get out what’s in your brain. It may or may not be about the book. The exercise is to dump what’s running through your brain onto the page so you can make way for your book’s content versus what you’re having for dinner. Fifteen to twenty minutes should do the trick. I find that the best way to do this is to get up at least 30 minutes earlier than the rest of my household. Getting up earlier than my family has been my m.o. for a long time, check out what I do here.
- Limit Social Media. I continued to post to my Instagram account because I’m a picture gal and it wasn’t distracting me. I did opt to stay off Facebook for the month because it was chewing up more of my time then I wanted. Yes, I’ve peaked a few times. Maybe more than a few. So, I did break, but it was very limited. Maybe five minutes a day. But I wasn’t responding, most of the time. Yet when one friend said that she was a near victim of gun violence, I did. And when another was celebrating the second birthday of her adopted daughter, I did again. And when a third friend posted gorgeous pictures of her new baby girl, I could not resist.
- Music Matters. Ronny led me to a new favorite station on Pandora. It’s called Classical for Studying Radio. I needed to be in my own head to write, but hearing no sound is too much. It’s so quiet in my new neighborhood – no sirens, no L – that my brain starts to ring.
- Just Stay at It. Inspiration didn’t always hit when I was ready to write, but I had to push through. I took notes and jots when inspiration did hit, but most of the time I just stayed at the task and wrote, wrote, wrote for hours – usually about four hours a day. Some days it sucked and I felt like I was in agony. But there were more than a few days when I was at the page and magic happened.
- Fifteen to 30 Minute Breaks. I learned to take a couple breaks each day. This was hard for me at first because I wanted to force myself to just get after it all day. I quickly found out that I couldn’t do that. I needed a break. Taking my shower mid-day, folding laundry, and walking down my street were my saving grace when I needed to disengage from my head. Sometimes I scheduled when I would take a break and sometimes it happened organically. Through them I felt rejuvenated to continue writing.
- One Step at a Time. My biggest learn was to not get too far ahead of myself. I read in the book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint that a key path is to writing a novel is as follows:
- 1. Become the characters
- 2. Be the writer
- 3. Become the reader
- 4. Be the critic.
This month my focus was on #2 – be the writer. I tried my damnedest to stay aligned to this 1, 2, 3, 4 process. I have it posted on the bulletin board in front of my computer to serve as a reminder when I started to slip into critic mode. A critic is needed, but it’s essential to not become the critic too soon.
Have you ever tried the November writing challenge? It’s a stretch, but if you have the time or can make the time, I would say go for it. If you have done the challenge, any tips?
Now I’m onto editing, re-writing, working more with Ronny, and #3 – be the reader. I’m excited for this process. My next goal is to finish the second draft by the end of January. Wish me luck!
P.S. The featured picture is of Ronny writing in chalk on the side of Wrigley Field during the 2016 World Series.