The Twelve Stages of Writing

Thoughts on a novelist’s life as they cope with conceiving, writing, revising, and publishing a novel.

  1. Jubilation! What a great idea! I must start thinking about this and writing. This is brilliant! Coffee, quick!
  2. Doubts. Wait…what was it about? I don’t know…that’s more complicated than I realized, and derivative as hell. What the hell…why would those characters do that? What’s their motivation? Man, I need some caffeine just to make sense of this. Better go get some coffee.
  3. Bargaining. Look, let me play a computer game and then get through just one day, just one hundred words, just one scene, just one paragraph today, and I promise that I’ll write more tomorrow and catch up. Give me some coffee.
  4. Denial. Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t have what it takes. I’m not smart enough or talented enough. I’m such an idiot! Why did I ever think that I could write a novel? Let me just finish my coffee and go.
  5. Acceptance. Well, I’ve gone this far. Might as well finish the damn thing. Then, maybe I’ll set it aside for a century, and take a look later, see if I can edit and revise it, and make something out of it. I need a fresh cup of coffee.
  6. Jubilation! Hey, this isn’t so bad. This is pretty good. It just needs some work. It’s all coming together. Give me some coffee.
  7. Doubts. I don’t know…what was I thinking when I wrote that? I don’t even remember writing that part. Who is that character? I don’t remember them. I have never seen so many typos in my life. Even the coffee tastes bad. What a waste.
  8. Bargaining. Listen, self. If I can just finish reading and editing this part and sleep on it, I know that I’ll find a way to make this all work, and then I’ll take a break from it all. More coffee, please.
  9. Denial. Who am I kidding? This is absolute garbage. I’ll never make it as a writer. I can’t even type. Even if I finish this, who will ever read it? Maybe I should work on something else. I need more coffee.
  10. Acceptance. No, you’ve come this far. You owe it to yourself to at least finish it. Maybe more coffee will help. Come on, you can do it. What’s the saying? Just open any vein. Sure. Give me some coffee.
  11. Jubilation! This is pretty damn good. Now all I need to do is find someone to publish it. Let me hunt for an agent. But first, some coffee.
  12. Doubts. I’ll never find an agent or a publisher. Maybe I should self-publish. But then I’d need to have a cover made, hire a copy-editor, and then do all the marketing once I publish it. Let me drink a cup of coffee and think about it…

How ’bout you, writers? Any thoughts on the stages of coping with your writing efforts?

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May I Continue?

Well, writers, musicians, artists, poets, essayists, and novelists, we made it to May. Sometimes, in Feb. and March, May seemed like an impossible goal. But we kept going, didn’t we? Sure, there were a few stumbles. New bruises and injuries were acquired, but here we are again.

March and April were good, and not good for me. That’s how life often seems, though, doesn’t it? One area is going great and another area collapses like a calving glacier. My setbacks were in health. First, there was a long time where I had a severe cold. It seemed to be touring my body. Just when I thought it’d done it’s farewell show, the tour would begin again.

Next, whatever steers these things enlarged my prostate and shut down my bladder. It wasn’t a joyous experience but I survived. I’m fortunate to be financially comfortable and have health insurance. Besides being painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient for a while, the issues meant that coffee, caffeine, chocolates and alcohol needed to be sliced back. I allow myself one cup of coffee a day. Drinking it centers around my writing. I used to drink a glass of red wine each night; no more. I haven’t had chocolate in weeks. I still have a beer once or twice a week. I last had one a week ago. I going back to the doctor in a month to see if surgery is required, or what.

Many writing days were lost in March and April. I’m surprised to discover that the novel I began writing in January is eighty-eight thousand words, three hundred forty-five Word pages, and almost finished. I thought, how did that happen? I guess it demonstrates the power of just sitting down and pushing. I didn’t write for five straight days in March, although I tried. I stopped posting my goofy little things for a few days, too.

When I read the work-in-progress that I’ve written, I enjoy it. Then I read someone else’s novel and fall into dejection because my novel is a piece of crap in comparison. Then I read my work-in-progress again, and think, no, this works.  It reminds me of George Jetson. Know him? He’s a fictional character in the animated cartoon series, The Jetsons. When the show ends and the credits run, George is walking the dog on a conveyor belt. The cat jumps on, and the dog begins chasing the cat. As the belt goes faster and faster, George falls down, and the cat and dog jump off to watch as George haplessly goes round and round, shouting, “Help. Jane, get me off this crazy thing.”

That’s how I sometimes feel with my writing efforts.

My exercise practices took a hit with my illnesses. Some days, my walking dropped to two and a half weary miles a day. Weekly totals plummeted to thirty-two miles. I gained eight pounds.

I’ve lost five of those pounds. The weekly totals of miles per week are back up into the mid-fifties. I recorded ten miles yesterday for the first time since the end of February. So, I’m making progress, and will cling to that.

That’s my recap. I hope you guys are all doing well, making progress, and not going insane or becoming depressed. Thanks for reading.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Cheers

 

What School? (Updated)

Once again, Stephen King has managed to irritate me.

I’d been busy writing, thinking, and brainstorming yesterday, capping off the final few minutes of an enjoyable writing session. (I know, I seem like an eternal optimist, don’t I? Truth is, I don’t share many of the dark days. I don’t like dwelling on ’em.)

MS Word froze. Hell, the entire computer froze. With an exasperated, “WTF?”, I sat back, sipping the last of my cold coffee, hoping to wait it out. A few things were attempted to break the hold. Not a damn thing worked.

Hard reboot, please. I was sore about it, nay, pissed. I wanted to bring the doc up to finish those last few thoughts and paragraphs.

Twelve minutes later – was I counting? Ya think? – the docs were up with some final paragraphs missing. Grrr. The excitement had fizzled, the energy had dried up, the thrill was gone. (Cue B.B. King.) So was my coffee and the allotted time to write. I made a note to myself, just a brief, slightly cryptic thing. I figured, I’d remember…

Twenty-four hours later, I don’t remember. Well, I remember three out of four that I’d thought. Damn it, that fourth one is plaguing me.

Which brings me to the eternal question, which school do you belong to? Are you one that writes copious notes, or are you of the “I’ll remember it” school?

I used to be the copious notes school. Then I read that Stephen King said that he doesn’t keep notes. He said that if it was important, he’d remember it. How sage that sounded! I would be like Stephen King. He can do it, so I can, too…right?

First, I lied. I am a copious note maker. I have documents of notes about the novel in progress, explaining what and why, because I know that I’ll probably get lost in the tangled tales and forget. I invoked the Stephen King clause yesterday in an optimistic fit. While I don’t remember it now, I’m sure that I will as I write today…or tomorrow…or…sometime.

I hope.

Got my mind juice, a.k.a., coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

UPDATE: I remembered the fourth as I began writing, and made a note of all four. Ah, the power of coffee.

 

Wobble Like Crazy

I’m back in the writing space following some unpleasant medical issues. In the last three days, I’ve averaged two thousand words each. It’s delicious to feel like I’m moving forward, no matter how word counts fall upon the writing spectrum in regards to their importance. I didn’t plan any word counts but they’re proof of something happening, a minor validation that I’ve been doing more than daydreaming.

After some arguing with the muses, me interrogating them to explain every thread, decision, and insight, and them laughing at me, I followed their instructions to, “Just write.” Some of the writing could be permanent but some of it might be delicately sculpted away or blown away with heavy explosives. Doesn’t matter. What I’ve written before during other writing projects may not help me this time. Each time that I write another novel, it’s a new adventure in learning how to be a better writer. I must write to have the material to shape, an interesting cycle. Write, edit, write, re-write, write, revise…where am I?

Well, I’m on the novel-writing spectrum. I slide along, following paths, retracing, forging new paths, falling off cliffs, and climbing back up. So it goes until there’s finally enough coherency for a novel to take shape, and then, finally, enough satisfying story in a reasonable order arrives, and then, at last, I pick a place where it can be comfortably ended with reasonable reward for readers who ventured through my thicket of words.

Can you say run-on?

I’m permitted a cup of coffee a day. I apply my allowance to my writing.

Illness is depressing, not because I have it, but because of its limitations. Bending down to pick up a piece of paper, scratch a cat’s chin, or put on my shoes and socks is slow and tedious and brings a measure of stinging discomfort. Walking remains uncomfortable and difficult, but not impossible. Of course, I have a history of rushing the healing processes. Press on, regardless, right? When I had a broken neck on Okinawa and wore a halo device, I pushed to go back to work and ended up dislodging that metal mother twice, sending me back into hospital. Anyway, I wobble around at a slow and careful pace, watching the ground to find the threads and seeds that the muses leave, then trying to parse their guidance.

Yeah, just write, baby. Stop critiquing, doubting, wondering, fearing, worrying, and questioning. Just get ‘er done. Pitter-patter.

Done writing like crazy for at least one more day. Sloshy, my drain-collection bag resting against my calf, is filled. Time to wobble on and empty him.

Thursday’s Theme Music

Today’s song is one I sing briefly for myself almost every morning because I’ve tortured the lyrics to address my morning coffee ritual.

“Pour some coffee for me.

“Make it black, hot and strong,

“I can drink it all day long.”

Here’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Def Leppard, 1987.

 

Super Rant

I have a super rant today about the overuse of super. Things are super-clean, super-neat, super-simple, super-priced, and super-super. It’s super-irritating. Like literally, super has lost its super meaning, becoming another empty word used as a synonym for that overused word, very. Guess this is progress, or just change. It’s how the language grows, mis-employing words that aren’t understood to give them new meaning.

I guess I’m an old crab. Coffee, and make it super-quick.

Last Wish

Dressed in a long, glossy black skirt, black boots, and a hooded black rain coat, she shuffled in slowly. Her steps made no sounds. A little bent forward, white, with wire rim glasses, she looked straight ahead.

She looks like death, he thought.

Turning, she looked at him, raised a black-gloved finger at him, and smiled. She is death, he realized. The scene changed. Instead of being at a coffee shop table typing on a computer, he was squirming and shaking against the shock of being born.

Great, he thought back in the other moment, guessing that he was going to endure a this-is-your-life montage before dying.

That was probably going to take a while.

He wished he had more coffee.

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