From Judy in the comments: “Motivation is shit when you think about it. It’s fleeting, inconsistent, and unreliable. Commitment. That’s what it takes. Make the decision to better yourself every single day. Don’t rely on motivation, rely on your desire and determination to not stay where you are.” Runningmandz
Yesterday was a 3000 word count day. All the words were terrible. Some of them were a rant about how much I was hating writing and how much I was hating the book I was working on. Some of them were a feeble attempt to write a different book, which, it turned out, I Hated just as much as the real one. (I have no idea why my fingers randomly capitalized hated in that previous sentence, but I’m leaving it even though it’s wrong because it amuses me. Yes, my hate yesterday was worth of capital letters.) But I really tried to keep my fingers moving. As of today, I need to write 11,500 words in the next two days. I am willing to accept absolutely any words as an element of this goal, no matter how bad they are, despite the fact that realistically, that’s kind of stupid.
What’s the point in writing a lot of bad words? Except the point is something to do with motivation, with setting a goal and achieving it. Even if all the words are terrible words, if I’ve written fifty thousand of them in a month, I will have accomplished something. Admittedly, not the something that it would have been good to accomplish, namely finishing the first draft of A Gift of Grace. Even if it was 20,000 words, it would be better to have a solid first draft at the end of the month then a ton of unusable words. But persistence, commitment, desire and determination — as long as I keep opening up that damn file every day, I will get there in the end. Seriously, yesterday was close to giving up again, though. I have thousands of words that are basically just trying to find the next scene and no understanding of why it’s being so difficult. I feel like it should be straightforward — Noah’s got a job and is working until Akira gets back, what’s complicated about that? — but it feels super murky middle.
I suspect my real issue is that I want a lot of time to pass in the book, months ideally, and that is never my strong suit. The best I’ve ever done with that — oh, ha, the ONLY time I’ve ever done that — is “six weeks later” as the starting of the seduction scene in A Gift of Ghosts. That is literally the only time I’ve ever made significant time pass in a story. Well. Huh. Perhaps I’ve just realized why I’m spinning my wheels. That’s a useful accomplishment, go, blog post writing. But all my other books take place in literally days. In fact, I think I can go back to a blog post I was writing in the midst of Ghosts where I discuss my exact inability to make time pass. It has a name, narrative something-or-other, and apparently I still haven’t mastered the skill.
Moving on, at dinner last night, I took a break and read — well, skimmed, really — a classic Josephine Tey novel, Brat Farrar. What I wanted to read was a Ngaio Marsh mystery, having recently been reminded of those books. But unfortunately, the ebook versions that exist of Ngaio Marsh are ridiculously expensive. I hope her heirs are at least the people making the profits of those books, but I suspect it’s just a publisher. There’s a whole ocean of books that would be nice to have as ebooks — Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie, old Dick Francis, Elswyth Thane, Elsie Lee… — but the publisher wouldn’t have the ebook rights in the contract, since the books predate computers, giving them no motivation to make electronic editions without new contracts.
And as a business opportunity for an outsider, it’s probably risky. You’d need a good lawyer, the original contracts, clear owners of the copyrights, all for sales that might wind up being trivial. When I think about that way, it’s more obvious why Ngaio Marsh’s ebooks should be $9 each. But still, I wasn’t willing to pay. Instead, I found the Project Gutenberg library and Josephine Tey and read Brat Farrar for free. It was very soothing. The world in the book is peaceful — well, despite having a psycho murderer in it — but serene and friendly and warm. Darkness is there, all around, with tragic deaths and past wars and death duty taxes, but the sun still shines golden on the hills and riding a horse can be a sublime experience. It didn’t make me less discouraged with my own book, but it did remind me that I can relax and take my time and have some scenes that are just there to be pleasant. I don’t know what kind of crazy standard I’m trying to write to, but I think for today being reminded to take my time is a good thing.
And these words are feeling very incoherent, not to mention rambling, but that’s okay. Given that I need to write 6000 words today — a number that makes me roll my eyes — a few rambling words to begin with are probably good for me. The real issue with that ridiculous word count goal is that I’m bringing R back to his ride to school. For me, it’s a great deal. Instead of a five hour drive to bring him all the way to Sarasota, it’s a two hour drive. Hours of time saved, excellent. But on a day when I aspire to write thousands upon thousands of words, and even more hope that at least a few of them will be good and usable words, chopping out a couple hours in the middle of the day is sort of unfortunate. Of course, that’s the whole deal with NaNo in November, anyway. Losing a couple days to cooking a big dinner is not so efficient, although if I wasn’t the cook, having the holidays would probably be really nice to increase my word count. I bet a lot of writers with full-time jobs pack their Black Fridays with words, words, and more words.
Anyway, the real issue with losing time to the drive is not so much the drive, but the coming home to an empty house. It’s so nice to have R here. I still wind up spending a lot of my time cloistered away at my computer, but when I wander out to the kitchen, I enjoy the company and the conversation. I suspect that when I return to the empty house, I will have to go through a period of being sad before I can settle my head back into Tassamara.
However, that gives me a new goal — to finish Grace before he comes home again for Christmas. It would be so extraordinarily nice to have a final draft of this book completed. At this point, having spent over a year working on it, it’s almost impossible to imagine. It’s the book from hell. It will never end, it will never make sense, I will always have dozens of paragraphs (good paragraphs) that simply don’t fit in anywhere at all… how’s that for pessimistic? Yesterday, when I was trying to get the new version of ALM finalized, I wound up organizing some files and I found some great scenes from Grace that I wrote a while ago. Truly, great scenes. Unfortunately, completely USELESS because I went in a different direction when I wrote and they no longer make sense, but they were very well-written. *sigh*
Okay, time to stop whining. There are two more days left in November and I have the desire and the determination to use them wisely. Waiting for meaning to spring full-blown into my imagination hasn’t been working, so instead I’ll be pouring out the words as fast as my fingers can move and hoping that eventually all my babble will start cohering into something meaningful. Or fun, anyway.
I believe this post gets the Boring tag. Someday soon I will be updating Goodreads with all the books that I’ve read in November — a list that includes the entire Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, the entire Paladin’s Legacy series by Elizabeth Moon, and alas, some other library books that I already don’t remember. Drat. Yeah, Overdrive was both a good and a bad discovery for me. But if I don’t reach 50,000 words (not that I’m giving up — I’ve got 38 hours left!), I sure will have read a lot of books — at least 15 in November, not counting the ones that I didn’t write down, so probably closer to 20. Maybe I should have called it National Novel Reading Month instead of Writing Month? That would have worked better for me.
Gah, I should not have wasted the past twenty minutes on Goodreads. No time for reviewing books! On to writing. And still thinking positive — I can do this, really I can! Desire and determination, that’s all we need, right?
Edited to add: I went looking for the narrative something-or-other post and it’s called narrative summary. My post was nothing special, except for the link to Patricia Wrede’s site where she usefully explains different aspects of the technique. It’s worth a read.
Maybe today, but recently for sure it was Louisa May Alcott’s birthday prompting me to think about all the many writers who write books they don’t enjoy writing. You are not alone, Sarah. In fact I think you are in very good company.
It’s more fun when I’m liking it, though, which does happen, just not consistently enough. But I’ve had thoughts about that as a result of my writing binges of the last few days. Frankly, trying to write so many words is probably really good for me, because the last few thousand words were more fun than the first 30,000. I need to stop thinking about it so much and just write!
I’ve journaled off and on for years — I used to print out each entry and put it in a 3-ring notebook. At the end of the year I’d bind the pages and put them on a shelf. One year I decided that I didn’t like having my journals in print and shredded them. I’ve since regretted doing that. I’m seeing that you don’t care for your own writing at times and can really identify with that feeling. This month of writing has been a real challenge for me, especially since I now have people who are reading my work that actually like it. Strange, that. Hang in there… a breakthrough is out there waiting. Blessings to you…
Oh, I sympathize with the regrets. I tossed my high school yearbooks, because I didn’t care, but years later, I did start to regret it. Journals would be even worse!