Writing Process Journal – Entry 2 – August 2022

 

Writer’s Note: Although it’s now August and I’ve moved on to a new project, I won’t be talking about that one just yet. I have so much to say about the process of finishing Draft 2 of my last WIP that I will be focusing solely on that during this entry. So, if you were hoping for insights into my Camp NaNoWriMo journey, please stay tuned for the next installment.*

 

Working on Draft 2, Part I (May 30-June 12, 2022):

For anyone who missed Entry 1 (check that out here), I left off at the end of May, having recently begun Draft 2 of my WIP and with the intention of finishing it by June 15. Although I was only sitting at 26.8% finished at the start of June, my approach at this time was pretty laidback.

I had other things going on in my life that I allowed those to take precedent when needed. The reality was that, between May 30 and June 12, I actually only had six days in which I was writing.

The Reality Behind This Writer (Part I):

I’d like to note that the first half of June was a difficult time to focus on my writing. My husband and I were doing things like hiring painters for the home we are about to sell. As such, there were travels to coordinate back up to Granada to meet them before and after the job was done.

Even so, I wasn’t involved in most of these trips because my seasonal allergies got really bad, and I was struggling a lot with them and not sleeping enough as a result. With so much else going on, I was allowing myself to sleep in when possible, take non-writing days, and take regular breaks when working.

Then, from June 3 – 12, we were on vacation with our family in the UK and I took this time to completely disconnect from my project. Although I had my laptop in case I felt inspired to write, I decided to welcome this break. Interestingly, this attitude seemed to develop while I was on vacation.

Before we left for the trip, I wrote in my writing journal that it was feeling a little anticlimactic to know I wouldn’t reach my June 15 goal, especially because I wouldn’t even try hard to do so in the week beforehand. However, by the time I returned and reread that entry, I had “actually almost forgotten about my original June 15 goal!”

This was a huge win for me because I used to struggle to really relax on vacation. I would partake in all the relaxing things and even abstain from work, but I would feel guilty about it the whole time. Not this time, though! So, I celebrate this less-productive half of writing Draft 2 just as much as the very impressive second half.

 

Working on Draft 2, Part II (June 12-28, 2022):

When I returned from vacation, I dove back into Draft 2 and worked pretty relentlessly. I started at 35.7% of the way through the draft and, within sixteen days, finished the whole thing!

With all these wildly specific statistics though, I realize you may be wondering how I’m coming up with them. If you’re a nerd like me, please enjoy this next section of explanation on that:

All the math!

I mentioned in Entry 1 that the Scene Tracker I completed for this WIP projected 28 scenes in the novel. Thus, I calculated how far along I was throughout this process by simply using proportions (the number of scenes written out of 28). I made random guesses, too (like 8.75/28), at times when I finished writing for the day but hadn’t finished the scene I was working on.

All this being said, I think it’s important to note that this “percentage” was actually really subjective. This method is not fully accurate for two reasons. Firstly, I ended up removing two scenes altogether but did not know this at the beginning (nor did I account for it by changing the formula). Secondly, what I call a single “scene” is very subjective.

“Scene” is based off of the events I outlined in my plotting tools. In practice, the length of these varies greatly. Often, I feel a need to add transitional events between the scenes I originally outlined. In those cases, my “scenes” can turn into multiple-chapter endeavors. Thus, it sometimes took days to get through 3.6% (one “scene”) whereas at other points I flew through 20% in the matter of a weekend.

More than anything, this was just a helpful way to have an idea of where I was and judge if I needed to increase efforts/writing time or simply stay the course. I did a lot more work with proportions and averages as I went on, but these were the basics.

 

Self-Evaluation

As you may imagine from the fact that I put together such detailed accounts like this one, I find the practice of self-evaluation and reflection to be an important part of goal-setting. In that sense, June 15 was an important date for me. It marked not only the original day I had hoped to finish this draft, but also my first ever HB90 Quarter Self-Evaluation.

That day, I sat down to review all the goals I’d set for myself to work on over the previous 90 days. Although the goal that was top of mind for me was finishing Draft 2 and I was only 47.1% finished at that time, I found that I was really pleased with my efforts and progress in all other areas. Plus, I had done really well given the limited writing time I actually had that quarter!

As such, I gave myself a generally positive review. I decided not to see June 15 passing as a “setback.” I simply realigned my plans and goals for a June 30 finish.

How I made it happen

Moving forward from that point, I had a lot more time to dedicate to my writing. I set numerous other author goals for this current quarter. However, nothing else made it onto the list of priorities until July, so I had very few distractions and stayed laser-focused on Draft 2.

Even so, when June 24 arrived and I still only had 68.8% of the draft written, I began wondering if there was really any hope or if my June 30 goal was completely unattainable. It was time for more math!

I decided to figure out my average in terms of percentage written per day to see how much of a push would really be required to write 31% more in just seven days. Considering I had been working on the first 2/3 of Draft 2 since May 18, I thought it might be ridiculous to expect myself to write the final 1/3 in just one week. What I realized from looking at the numbers, though, really surprised me.

In truth, there had only been 17 days of writing in that past month(+), which averaged out to 4% written per day. And 4 x 7 = 28. Therefore, what I could expect—without changing anything—was to write 28% more in the following week. Suddenly, needing to finish 31% barely felt like a stretch at all!

Bolstered with the confidence instilled in me by the wonders of math, I set up some crunch time parameters for myself.

  1. Although I usually take the weekends off my writing, I planned to work through Saturday and Sunday to have all 7 of the days I accounted for.
  2. I set myself an expectation of writing for 3 hours (6 Pomodoro sessions) each day.

I’d simply like to note that there were no “consequences” in place for not meeting these goals. I did write on both Saturday and Sunday that weekend, but there were a handful of days when I didn’t write for 3 hours. There were others when I wrote for more. It all evens out, I just find that having parameters in place makes it easier for me to stay focused.

And it worked!! Nearly three days ahead of schedule, I FINISHED DRAFT 2!!

It was truly surreal. I actually could have finished the day before (I wrapped up my writing around 7 PM, with only one scene left to write), but it was such a big moment for me, I wanted to feel ready for it. I took my giddy self on a walk that night and just soaked up all the mixed emotions of it. I did a journaling session the next day too. Then I finally sat down and wrote that final scene.

Here’s exactly what I had to say after writing it:

“In a sense, I’m really glad for the reflection I penned down here yesterday and this morning in my diary because now that the moment is here, I feel stunned more than anything. I’ve done the damn thing! I’ve written the whole story. A whopping 95,278 words of my creation now exist outside of my head, proverbial ink on paper (because it’s still only on the computer at this point). Sigh. I’ve got one of those funny feelings in my stomach, like when a guest leaves your house—a sudden emptiness, quietness, expectation-less-ness for the first time in a long time. It feels so good, but also so strange. I think I’ll be great 😊 grateful for these buffer days before diving straight into Camp NaNoWriMo, though.”

And boy, was I ever!

The Reality Behind This Writer Part II:

While I’m incredibly proud of all that I was able to accomplish in such a short timeframe, I will admit that this kind of laser-focused powering-through writing style is not sustainable for me.

First off, there’s the fact that I put everything but this WIP on hold for two weeks. It was essential to my success, but not viable long-term. I also didn’t take care of myself as much as I know I should have during this time. I was sleeping less, barely working out, and rarely leaving the house.

In a video update I made for myself** during this time, I mentioned feeling manic. I simply want to include these realities here so that you don’t look at my progress and imagine I’ve got it all figured out.

I definitely compromised mental and physical health to hit my goal. Since I knew it was only for a short period of time, I allowed this to happen. Going forward, however, I will be looking to better blend this kind of progress with more sustainable practices.

**I make these videos sometimes to remember what I want to share here. Would you be interested in seeing those, too?

 

What I Learned Writing Draft 2:

Aside from my unsustainable choices, the thing that really carried me through and allowed me to write this draft so quickly was having my planning tools. In the past, I’ll admit that I resisted things like outlines because I liked the idea of going with the flow and being a pantser. However, I’ve also always floundered around 40K words when attempting to write a novel in the past. I’m planning to write a full blog post on this topic, so be on the look-out for that in the future.

I also learned a lot about my writing style during this process. I know that I did too much telling vs. showing in this draft, especially in the final quarter of the story. On one hand, this was the result of trying to write quickly and not going back to edit or improve what I got down the day before (I left that to deal with in the next draft).

On the other hand, I think that’s just the nature of an early draft—and I hadn’t necessarily allowed myself to do this in the past (which means I’ve usually spent way too long during the early drafts). This time, I really embraced the reality that

“This is not the draft being written for my readers. This is the draft being written for me, to tell me what needs to go in the story. It kinda feels like it’s my character showing me the way and showing me everything she’s gone through, and all of the thoughts she’s having, and all of the reasons she’s having those thoughts, so that in the next few drafts I can take that information that is really rich and really thorough and really detailed and I can kinda dissect it and dilute it so that it’s ready and palatable for the reader. I think there will be a lot that I want to change…but [this messy draft] was not a waste of time to me. It was incredibly valuable. It’s been incredibly powerful.”

Overall, I’m feeling very proud of myself!

Looking forward

Although I hope all these updates are creating interest and excitement about this work-in-progress, I must confess that it has always been my plan to set this story aside once I finished Draft 2 at the end of June.

This decision is not based whatsoever on my belief in the story! I simply created a five-book-plan back in March when I was putting together my Publish & Thrive Author Business Plan, and I realized that this is not the first novel I want to publish.

We can go into more details at a later day, but for now suffice it to say that I have a trajectory in mind for the sub-genres of my books and this one fits better into the second slot. Since I was already working on this story when I realized this, though, I decided to continue on until I had a full draft written.

I wanted to get this story out of me in its entirety so that I have something real to come back to. I know how easy it is to set aside a half-written draft for later, then never return to it. (I’ve already done that a couple of times.) For that reason, I still seriously continued with this WIP, despite knowing that it would be shelved by July.

Since then, my focus has been 100% on Camp NaNoWriMo—and a brand new story.

But that is an entirely different tale, and this entry is super long as it is. I’ll let you know how my write-a-novel-in-a-month challenge goes next time in Entry 3 of my Writing Process Journal.

Until then, happy reading, my friend!

xoxo,
DJN

 

*Have you been enjoying these writing process entries so far? I sure hope so! As I mentioned before, I plan to go into far more personal detail and even potential spoilers in future entries, so I will be making these entries exclusive to my mailing list subscribers from here on out. Please be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss my Camp NaNoWriMo reflections or any of the other entries to come!

[Mailing list subscriber will receive the entirety of new entries via email, as well as log-in details to read any past entries they’ve missed.]

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