Draft 2

This might be a strictly me thing, but there is no aspect I fear so much in all of writing – not even the blank page of a new book – then the beginning of revisions.

Once I finish any manuscript and get to the satisfactory “The End”, I let out an enormous sigh of accomplishment and relief. I did it. The marathon is over. I let myself rest on my laurels for a bit, give myself plenty of pats on the backs, couple more sighs, and allow myself the victory because I know the real work is only just getting started.

As I’m writing, I keep a running list of items that need to be updated, fixed, or changed for the next draft. I so cleverly call this my “THINGS TO FIX” list. It’s in caps so you know it’s important. This list is my new outline of what needs my immediate attention in the early revision stages. Thing is, I can’t even get to that list until I complete what I call Draft 2.

Now all writers have a second draft. Nobody gets it right the first time around. But I’m talking about Draft 2. Capital D. Plenty of writers can just dive back into the guts of his or her story and incorporate the changes outlined in their own THINGS TO FIX list, but not me. I need to go through the whole thing one time, tightening it up along the way, to give the whole book shape in my head. Only then can I go back and put the big changes into Draft 3.

Draft 2 is where all brackets get filled in, word choice is cleaned up, prose isn’t scrubbed so much as shaped. It’s what turns this giant pile of words into a story and it is exhausting. That’s where I confront my failures head on and try and turn them into something worth reading. Let me tell you, it’s a slog. It’s slow going doing all of that fine tuning, but for me it is completely necessary. I need to make the machine before I can go about fixing it.

I always go through the same stages too. The beginning of the manuscript is often the roughest which makes sense since it was the first part of the story written down. I was still finding character and voice and yet to hit my grove. So, naturally, I think my writing is garbage. Cleaning up all the clunky prose doesn’t help my self-esteem. Somewhere in the process, it gets better. Usually, this is when the story is starting to kick into gear. By the end, I’ve settled with the idea that it’s not all that bad. Not great. Maybe not even good. But not as scum-bucket terrible as I thought it was.

But now I have a story and that’s something I can fix. The next pass puts in the big elements. The pass after that cleans it up yet again. Each time I go through the manuscript, I polish it further and further until at some point I’m legitimately happy with it in its entirety. It transforms from a complete mess to something worth reading.

I’m not even close to that stage yet with my current manuscript. I’m maybe three fifths into it. A little slower than expected. I had other projects vying for my attention. But already, judging by what I’m generating day to day and looking at my THINGS TO FIX list, I know this one is going to be a doozy.

At some point I’m going to come out of the fog, blinking like I haven’t see the light of day in years, and be astonished there’s something good – or at least to me it is – in front of me. It takes a while to get there though, and often involves a lot of self-degradation. So celebrate those victories when you have them. But keep going. The light at the end of the tunnel is a finished book to be proud of.

I just have to get through Draft 2 first.

Micro Goals

Writing a novel is hard work. No doubt about it. Even when the words come out in a massive rush of inspiration, you still have to edit and polish and do all that stuff that makes a book actually good. What was it Michael Creighton said? “Great books aren’t written. They’re re-written” … or something like that.

Another thing you’ll hear a lot is that writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to juggle so many things in your head to keep them all present in the story and then chug along with that word count to, you know, actually write the novel.

I’ve always tried to hit a thousand words a day with any project I’m working on. That fluctuates with things like NaNoWriMo or if I’m “in the zone” or want to be extra diligent or whatever. But I’ve started something new to help make hitting that daily word count interesting.

I’ve started posting pictures of my word count on Instagram. Sure they’re not the most visually appealing images, but I’m celebrating my micro goals here.

It’s often hard to gauge success. When do you get to be happy? When the book is started? When it’s finished? When you’re querying? When you’re agented? When it’s sold? When it’s published? All of the above?

It’s also easy to keep pushing the goalposts back too. The anticipation for the thing is usually better than the actual thing, so once you’ve gotten what you wanted or you’re close, there’s never really this big ding, ding, ding that goes off cueing instant satisfaction. It’s easy to keep moving the goal line and keep looking towards the horizon.

Don’t.

Be happy with everything you’ve accomplished. Whether it’s writing ten word today, or a thousand, or ten thousand, you’re doing something awesome. Acknowledge your success and celebrate them. If you don’t, who will?

New Beginning

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a while . I kind of dropped off the map after NaNoWriMo. I finished Altered Egos and wrote another short story and then … then I got busy with other writing endeavors.

I’ve been struggling with what to do with this blog for some time now. I like it but lately – well not lately, lately – I feel like I have to have a blog instead of actively wanting a blog. I think that ultimately stems from me not knowing what to post.

It’s hard. As an aspiring writer, I do a lot of writing but I feel really weird about giving any actual writing advice. I mean I haven’t made it, so who am I to tell anyone else what to do. It’s like the blind leading the blind. Especially when I’m neck deep in another novel, I don’t always want to create a blog post about something or pull my focus away to write some random piece of flash fiction to just have content. When I’m writing a novel, for those four or five months, that’s all I work on. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of other talking points.

So I’ve come to a decision.

You know how they describe world building like an iceberg? The reader only sees ten percent of it and the author knows so much more? That’s what I’m going to do here. Sort of.

I’ll still write the occasional funny or weird story from my personal life and some random short fiction when the mood strikes, but more often than not now, I’m going to use the blog as sort of a workshopping space. It’ll be a place where I can talk about my research and give some insight into characters, plot, setting, and general world stuff. It’ll be useful for me to explore this content and hopefully it’ll be interesting for you to read too.

It may not help you become a better writer, but it’ll be insight into my process.

I think doing that will make this blog more meaningful for me. I mean, my name is on the title after all. But more than that, as you know, there are only so many hours in the day. If I have writing time, I usually devote that time to novel work. Pulling focus only hurts me in the long run. But I think this new approach will solve that. It’ll give me freedom to explore and brainstorm and I’ll post the findings.

You can read this all as a new mission statement going forward. Let’s see how this works, shall we? Hope you enjoy the ride.

Wrench in the Machine

I’m in the process of writing my sixth novel right now. I’d like to think that with every one of them, I try new things and I learn something every time. This time around, I gave myself a dose of what being a “professional writer” must feel like. Notice I put that in quotes, that’s not to say it wasn’t professional, but more that there’s no single model of what being a professional writer looks like.

After wrapping up my first round of edits on The Red Door, I sent it off to my beta readers which has become my usual practice. I figured I’d have a couple of months before I got anything back. This makes for an equally exciting and terrifying time. Picture it if you will, you spend how long —  Four? Six? — months working on a project you care deeply about and then you hand it off to others, eager to hear what they think about it. It makes me anxious and antsy and other words that start with A. Agitated? I wanted to hear their thoughts now. I didn’t want to wait two months twiddling my thumbs.

I needed something to do. So I gave myself a new project. Enter my next novel, Altered Egos.

Now, I had a pretty good idea Altered Egos would be next on the plate anyway, but I’ve only ever worked on one novel at a time. Purely to distract myself and to keep myself working, I dove right on in with an outline and started writing it in the hiatus. I got about 30k words in before I got all the feedback for The Red Door.

Now, my original plan was to work on both at once. That’s the responsible writer thing to do. But seeing as I’m not working with a publisher (yet, hopefully) I soon realized that the time spent not editing The Red Door meant time longer before I had a finished project. So I switched gears and diverted all focus back to The Red Door to crank it out for querying.

That’s been finished for about a month now and I’m back into working solely on Altered Egos. The problem, my friends? It is a struggle. It’s not just a motivation thing. I’ve long learned that you can’t write only when you’re motivated. Writing is a job. Flexing muscles. You know the metaphor. The works. This is something deeper. As much as I try and remind myself what excited me about the project in the first place, I can’t help daydreaming about The Red Door. It’s out there in the ether. I think the Schrodinger’s cat-nature is what’s killing me. It’s hard to care for a new baby when my other one is out there in the wilds, alone.

So I hit my daily word counts as planned, but I’m working on ways to trick myself back into this new project. It distracted me once, it can do so again. I  just need to fall in love with it all over again. Easy, right?

In the mean time, I’ve added a link to Fate Stitcher over on my Comics page where you can download the entire graphic novel. Free. That’s essentially seven issues of my first baby. All free. I hope you like it.

Let me know what you think and if you have any advice about switching gears and staying invested, I’m all ears!

Carving the Ice

The alpha reader responses have come trickling in and I’ve been lapping them up like a thirst-starved desert dweller. Although, I supposed I should really be calling them beta readers as the book had already gone through a couple of drafts before they got their eyes on it. Technically, the only alpha reader was yours truly.

Semantics. Gotta love ’em.

Or don’t.

The responses have been overwhelmingly good which has definitely calmed my blood pressure some. Sending this out was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. No. That’s probably a lie. I have twin babies at home. I’m sure they’re up there too, those adorable monsters.

They’ve all liked the story a great deal, but the readers have pointed out some important but glass-shattering issues that have to be dealt with before I can take Fairfax Cleaners to the next level. It’s always intimidating seeing how much work needs to be done on a project I’d previously assumed to be “almost finished,” but while yes, I’m collecting opinions, it’s important to remember that the readers aren’t wrong. I don’t need to go back and fix every little thing they had issue with, but a few of the more common and glaring examples tend to stand out.

I’m of the mind that it doesn’t matter my intention while writing the work. If I ever have to explain myself for clarity about why something is the way it is, it means I’ve failed as a writer. I’m not going to write to thousands of individuals and answer all of their questions about how I dropped the ball in making something clear. This is a humbling experience. Critique by nature is uncomfortable. No one likes to be judged. But it’s not me, personally, on the pedestal, it’s the story. And even then, no one is saying they don’t like that story. But when someone points out that I had a character say “you can’t go to the police because they bad guys own the police” and then the police NEVER play a role in the story whatsoever … that my friends is a problem.

It’s always interesting to me too what people pick up on. One of my male readers, a close personal friend, found two side characters to be redundant and brought nothing to the story. But when I asked one of my female readers about them, she said, please don’t cut them. They’re definitely needed because they help explain/progress the relationships between many of the other characters. If you ever wanted proof that male and female readers can want different things, there you have it. One was only looking at it from an action perspective, the other was focused on the character growth. Both were right in their way as the scene in question does need work, but I already know how to better integrate it into the overall story that doesn’t involve cutting anyone out. The problem was in my failure to make it abundantly clear in the first place.

This process is also helping me carve the iceberg. You’ve probably heard that backstory and worldbuilding are like an iceberg where only 10% of it ends up in the story, but the author needs to know the other 90% to make the characters believable. While I’ve certainly tried to input what was needed, I probably only ended up putting 7% in and some things that were crystal clear in my mind came out opaque to others.

All that said, I’m invigorated like a shot of adrenaline to keep going forward. My writer sleeves are already rolled up and I’m prepping the surgical gloves to go in elbows deep. I’m waiting to hear back from two more readers – one of which I know is taking incredibly detailed notes – and then its open heart surgery on this beast.

Elusivity

My New Years’ resolution was to blog more consistently.

OK. It wasn’t. But I still want to post more consistently anyway.

Life at the Melnick household has been a bit rough lately. The Missus is super sick. I mean when stuff gets in your chest and ears kind of sick. The babies have also picked up little baby versions of this illness in the form of stuffy noses, sniffles and even more spitting up. Yep. That’s just what babies needed: MORE spitting up. It’s lead to a lot of sleepless nights and me running around trying to make sure everyone else gets as much sleep as they can.

As I type this, I can feel the telltale tickle in the back of my throat. The number at the deli counter just rolled over one digit closer to the matching one on my ticket.

I hope everyone had some happy holidays. In between traveling and illnesses, I’ve been daydreaming about getting back to Fairfax Cleaners and brainstorming for novel #5. I’ve decided that my alpha readers have had over a month now to read the draft and while that’s not a lot of time in this busy time of our lives, it’s been long enough that I can hassle them for an update to at least let me know WHEN they’re finished. I don’t mind waiting around and working on other things as long as I’ve got something out there dangling. But if I’m not fishing, I’m not being productive.

I’m still doing research on the next book and I think I’ve got the plot basically figured out. I’m about ready for the outlining phase. This one’s been a lot quicker than usual since I’m adapting a screenplay awhile ago I wrote into a novel. I’ve basically changed the entire story with the exception of the core concept, but I’ve had this character’s voice in my head for years. Writing in first person – fingers crossed – should alleviate some of those professional pressures that have started to creep in without a pitch-worthy product.

So far, I’ve only been scratching that writing itch through mental exercises. I would love to sit down and fire off a short story or two, but that’s just not my style. I outline too much. Coming up with a plot is the hardest part for me for any book, so you’d think that something smaller would be easier, but it’s the opposite. Usually, I can propose a scenario to myself and ask “what happens next?” OK. “What happens after that?” And follow that story down the natural rabbit hole. But with short fiction, I end up doing so much brainstorming, I’m developing material for a full length novel and I’ve forgotten what it was about the short story that grabbed me in the first place.

I’m hoping to kick that habit. I had a pretty vivid dream the other night that’s still haunting me. I thought it would make a great idea for a romantic comedy at the time so I wrote it down in case I ever wanted to tackle a screenplay pretty far outside my genre as an exercise. Then I massaged it into drama shape for kicks. And now, I’ve basically rebuilt it into a science fiction piece. I like the central concept, but it’s that illusive plot thing that’s tripping me up. I supposed I’ll keep working on it in the hopes that I see an end in sight.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Seahorse

Work is finally turning around, my friends. I mean real work. Work-work. It’s one of three times a year that constitutes crunch time in the truest meaning of the term. Normally, it’s a black hole sucking abyss that is all consuming. A mad dash where I work as hard and as fast as I can for a week and a half and pray I make it out alive.

This time around is a little different, though. I was driving into work feeling pretty pleased with myself. I ran 7.5 miles this morning and I was working on some prewriting in my head when I remembered what I was actually driving myself too. The black hole does not allow time for things like writing on the side or you know, lunch. I went from super psyched to super pissed in about one second. But then I remembered that I could finally start training. It’s taken two months, but they’ve finally replaced my old position at work with somebody else. All this work that has to be done for this looming deadline? Yeah, that’s her worry now, not mine. OK. OK. She doesn’t know how to do any of it yet … So I get into work, ready to give up all of my free time and start working with her. We’re at it maybe 45 minutes when she says she has a handle on things and I should go do something else and check in later so she can practice. Fine by me.

Black hole averted.

I got back to my office and for the first time in a long time had nothing to do. Looks like I was getting in some writing after all.

I got to expand on a scene I started over the weekend. After placing both my protagonists in mortal peril, the next bullet point on my outline has them recovering with a side of exposition. I realized, though, that if I did it that way, it felt too much like an info dump. Instead, I spent a thousand words just on having one of them wake up and take a shower. It sounds dumb, but I think that after everything they’d been through – the reader included – that all parties involved needed time to breathe. We could build to the exposition later, but for right now, we all needed a hot shower to calm the eff down.

When people talk about the writing process, the concept of pacing will sometimes get brought up. It falls right in there with scenes and sequels, but it’s often a judgement call. You can plot it and plan for it, but sometimes it just makes sense. The funny thing is that I first started to grasp the need for pacing when I started writing comic books.

For years, that was all I wanted to do. I’d do anything to break into the comics industry. I remember showing my first full length script to a friend and a professional in the biz and after padding my ego, the first thing he said was that it needed at least one splash page. I thought those were just for the artists to show off or something, but he explained that no, it allows the story to breathe. Yes, they’re usually big, dramatic moments, but it’s really just a place to slow everything down for a minute and let the reader take it all in. They’re like a visual pause.

I’ve taken that advice to heart. It’s a little different to have a splash page in a novel. At this point, they usually fall under the wow category instead of the reflection one, but it was thinking about stories visually that helped me wrap my burgeoning writing brain around the concept of pacing in general. You can’t always be rush-rush-rush, hell, even Sonic stopped and had a chili dog every once in a while.

Over the weekend, my wife and I sat through an all day intensive baby basics course at the hospital. We got to meet some personnel and see what the rooms look like for the big day in a couple of months. It helped alleviate a lot of worry and put some more excitement in the hype tank. It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to them before, but now I’m really excited about it! We also sorted through some baby clothes people had loaned us.

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We have a lot. And that’s just for the boy.

And when we were at the hospital, there was one part of the class that had all of these physical activity stations. Most of which were places to practice hand and hip massages for when she’s in labor and has nothing to do but sit and wait through the pain. She got to relax for a change and I pushed and pulled on stuff I didn’t know could go those directions but I guess they helped reduce pressure somewhere. Go figure.

Oh and I got to try one of these on. She said she was getting tired so I told her I’d carry the babies for a while.

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One-Two Punch

I mentioned on Wednesday about hoping to see the critters come climbing out of the trees – I don’t know if they are in fact monkeys. Maybe ethereal monkeys? We can work this out later – and boy did I need them yesterday. So my writing routine was interrupted per usual. At this point, is it really a routine anymore if I barely follow the same schedule two days in a row? Put that on the agenda for next meeting too while you’re at it … Anyway, I had just finished one project and was looking down the barrel of another one coming my way later that afternoon. I had about 45 minutes to myself. It was going to happen then or it wasn’t going to happen at all. I didn’t have the luxury of inspiration or warmup or any kind of prewriting. I jumped in with the sharks.

I have to say, I think it went pretty well. Cranked out about 700 words. It’s true that once the critters start showing themselves, they like to hang around if you keep coming back to them. I hit a bullet point on my outline and advanced the scene in a satisfactory way. I’m pleased with the results. In times past I most likely would have just dicked around those 45 minutes and chalked yesterday up as a wash, figuring I’d make it up to myself by writing again on Friday. Just like I don’t like working out too late in the day, I really don’t like writing the more the day drags on. I get distracted and tired and it’s like pulling teeth to put words down. But yesterday I wouldn’t give myself the luxury of an out. You can’t always have the opportunity to write when you want to. Sometimes the job needs to be done whether you like it or not.

The other highlight of yesterday is that I hooked up our Apple TV. With the babies coming, we keep talking about cancelling cable to save whatever money we can. It’s a pretty scary concept as cable has become quite the safety blanket in our lives. However, last night I finally experienced the majesty of Apple TV. Yes, we’ve streamed Netflix and Hulu and all sorts of things from a laptop to the TV, but never has it been so seamless! It was probably because there wasn’t a bunch of other programs vying for RAM space, but man, it was like watching whatever show we wanted at the touch of a button. It was hard to stop consuming media.

I finally got around to watching the first episode of the Daredevil series and I’m already in love with it. The chemistry between Matt and Foggy is perfect, the show’s choices are smart and edgy, and it’s even shot and framed in a particular cinematic experience that just oozes style. It makes me miss my old Daredevil trades. (They were a casualty when I moved and had to pare down my comic book collection.) This show scratches so many itches for me, I don’t think I could have made a better version if they’d given me complete creative control and an unlimited budget. Granted, I’m only an episode in, but having read comic books since I was 12 years old, this fills a void in my life that so many mainstream books no longer seem to hit. I’ll write a post about this soon as comics have been – and still are, I guess – such a large part of my life growing up. But for now, I want to end on a good note.

Consistent writing? Check.

New source of TV? Check

Work done for the week (for the most part)? Check

I think its time for more Daredevil, don’t you?

I Come Offering Bananas

It’s been no secret that I’ve had a lot of factors vying for my attention recently. My wife’s too. I actually just texted her “hello” as I realized I hadn’t heard from her in hours – we lightly keep in tough throughout the day – and she responded that she’s “Having a baby shower, actually.” At work. Well, that beats my day …

Actually, I’m pretty pleased with how life is going today. That’s because I’m finally getting back into a groove with my latest novel. Nothing is more annoying than a writer talking about how s/he can’t write. This isn’t that, it’s more validation that the Jane Goodall method is a thing. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post and it’s fast becoming how I view writing.

It’s weird because throughout the day, I’m typically thinking about the part I just wrote, what the scene needs in the immediate future and where the scene will eventually end up, among other things book related that come to mind. It’s not uncommon for a snippet of dialogue or a line of description to just pop into my head involving something much, much later. I jot those down and incorporate them into my outline. Anyway, I bring this up, because lately, this thinking-prewriting method just isn’t cutting it. I’m squeezing the mental fruit, but I’m not getting any juice. It’s not writer’s block, it’s more like I don’t really know what’s happening and then I sit down and I’m a discovery writer all of a sudden. The good news is that the more I’m doing it, the more the scene is starting to form in my head again so I can return to form. It’s a strange wall of sorts for me because I’m really not much of a discovery writer. I can admit that now. High School Dan, though, he was ONLY a discovery writer. He not only laughed at outlines, he openly lashed out against them. Now? I can’t get anything done without an outline. And this novel in particular has the strongest outline I’ve ever made. I have story structure beats built right into it this time so hopefully that’ll cut a little bit off of the editing process.

I’ve also switched up the music I’ve been listening too. Well, the music has evolved is probably a better descriptor. I don’t necessarily write to a specific “soundtrack,” but since a lot of my writing is done at work or in a public place, I need to listen to music to cut out the surrounding noise. I can’t concentrate otherwise. Because of that, I also can’t listen to anything that has vocals. That’s just as distracting as someone talking into my ear. Sometimes more so.

My first two novels were written to a movie soundtrack station on Pandora – stopping of course every time anything from Jurassic Park came on – and by my third book I had discovered music on YouTube and listened to just about anything that had the word “Epic” in the title. I think I’ve cleaned most of those channels out by now and I was writing sort of a party scene at night for this fourth book and needed some ambient beats to get me in the mood. I started listening to some kind of ambient/trance stuff and it just stuck. Who knows? Maybe this has become the “soundtrack” to this one, but now when I start writing it’s not that I can’t work without these psychedelic jams, it’s that I’m bored of the previous material and for whatever reason this is doing it for me. Hey, whatever works right?

I’m starting to see the critters coming out of the trees again and boy have I missed them. I’m pretty psyched to see what they show me next.

Ti-i-i-ime is (Not) on My Side

This post has been something I’ve been kicking around the noggin for a while. But then talking about how you don’t have time to write is super annoying and self indulgent. It’s like “Oh whoa is me. I’ve baked all of these cookies and I just don’t have time to eat them!” You can’t see me right now, but I’m flipping my hands around in an over-exaggerated pouting manner. I may be making a face too … But the truth of the matter is that for those of use who have a day job and other commitments, establishing a “writing time” is incredibly important. Maybe it’s the scheduler in me, but for me, I’m the most productive when I stick a writing schedule.

Barring the occasional disruptive event, here’s how it used to go:

Get up and eat breakfast. Go to the gym. Get to work and catch up on emails/start my day. Knock out my writing in the morning. Be a productive member of my job from then on.

Now I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to write while they’re at their day job. No time, too distracting, etc. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let me first explain why my method was beneficial to me …

I’ve become the most productive in the morning in general. That’s because I’ve thrown myself out of bed, chugged some coffee and hit the gym. All of those things help to energize and refresh my battery. After that, the world is mine so to speak. But what’s become the most helpful thing when it comes to writing is that during all of these morning rituals, that’s when I take care of the prewriting in my head. I know come 9:30ish it’s game time so what am I gonna bring to the table?

I’m an outliner who leans more towards plotting. Some scenes I have bullet points that I need to hit and others, I know dialogue beats and what the air is gonna smell like. It all depends what I’m writing. So for me, the prewriting portion is just as if not more important than the actual writing side. This is when I think about what I wrote yesterday, check the outline for my goals for what’s coming up, and start working on the next bit. I’ll jot some notes on my phone so I don’t forget but I’m definitely more productive when it comes to actually writing if I’ve done this process all morning. This is even how I treated all of my essays in college. I couldn’t write anything without first spending time thinking about where I wanted to go with it. Even parts of this post have existed floating around in the ether of my subconscious before I sat down at the keyboard.

When it comes to a new novel, I give myself a goal of 1,000 words a day. It’s just something that’ll get my butt in the chair and keep me honest. In the beginning, it’s a target number. If I hit 700 and I like it, eh, it’s a good day. But after a while, it becomes the rule. Only 950 today? Better write 1050 tomorrow! And once that gets in place, I up the count but by then I’m usually excited enough about the story that I’m off to the races.

All of this is to set the stage. That was my life.

Now? I’m working two jobs at the same time while trying to get my home (and mind) ready for the arrival of our twins in August. First time parent. Lots to do. So there’s basically nothing but distractions in my life right now! We can debate forever about the “time to write” and everyone is going to have the process that works best for them. My favorite analogy about writing is the Jane Goodall method. The more time you stay out of the trees, the more work you have to do to get back into the critters’ good graces. So what do you do when life gets in the way and your routine breaks?

Prewriting. Prewriting. Prewriting.

You’re still working on your story. You’re still planning beats, working on dialogue, snippets of description. You’re doing the hardest part now. All you have to do later is weave it all together so it sounds coherent. Who’s rough draft is perfect anyway? The best part is you’re doing this while you’re walking around, going grocery shopping, or stuck waiting for a coworker’s report. Hey, you’re multitasking. Who knew? Also driving (I get a lot of work done by myself in the car). Any time you’re stuck in the car either too or from work, turn off the radio and work on your story. I’ll talk out loud to work out issues. If anyone stops next to you it’ll look no less crazy than you singing to yourself. Hell, they’ll probably think you’re on the phone. And speaking of the phone, we live in the 21st century. Smart phones have voice to text capabilities so write yourself dozens of notes. Even if you don’t use any of it later, you’re basically getting all of the bad words out first and making way for the good ones.

I’m still working on my new schedule and I know come August, that’s going to change again, but never stop. Sharks need to keep swimming and you need to keep writing. At least that’s how I tend to look at it. I use the gym as another example. People like to say that writing is like working a muscle and they’re right, but I’m looking at the consistency here. When I first started going to the gym – or even after an extended absence – those first few days back suck. They suck a lot. The first week is hard and the second one is even harder. You’re sore. You’re tired. It’s exhausting. And then somewhere around week three something magical happens. Suddenly it’s not so bad. You kind of like going to the gym. You see improvements and you feel good about it. That’s how I look at writing.

When I sit down to write may vary these days, but the basics never change. I must work on it in my head before I do and I must write every day. If I (and you) can accomplish those two things, the rest of it’s going to fall into place.