The Habit I Need to Kick to Write

I’m rounding third base on a novel right now, which I have spoken about before. It still feels very much piecemeal, as my ideas of it have changed over time, and I’ll need to edit a lot to make it coherent. Several times I stepped away and worked on different projects. This sometimes happened because of the technical difficulty of structure or writing particular scenes, but it would also happen because this book is rather personal to me, and I would sometimes want to step away for some perspective or not want to revisit the topics. And yet, I continued to return because it was so personal and important to me.

Because of this, a habit/quirk of mine has also been making this book difficult to write. See, since at least kindergarten or preschool, I tend to pretend that someone else can see my life through my eyes. It’s often because I’m excited about something and want to show a friend, or I want to introduce a favorite show or movie to another, or something reminds me of my parents or a teacher (or their class) or another acquaintance. So I’ll imagine they’re there with me, often looking through my perspective.

When I’m on the computer, I’ll always have my current writing project up, as well as the Internet and whatever else I could possibly work on (a blog post, email, etc). This certainly isn’t the best strategy for time management, but it’s a habit. Naturally, before I start writing, or when I’m stuck, I’ll end up on the Internet, and something will remind me of someone else, and then they’ll be there on the computer with me. And when they’re with me, I’ll have difficulty shutting them out and going back to writing–especially if I’m writing an emotional, personal scene. It’s kind of like someone is watching you write over your shoulder, which is never pleasant. Some fun dialogue scenes I can write, but it’s those serious emotional moments that are based on aspects of my personal life–situations that these people who are “with” me may have been involved with–which are difficult to focus on and just write.

I haven’t kicked this habit quite yet, but the upcoming weeks for me are a little busy, so I think I’ll be able to schedule specific times to work on specific things, which should increase productivity and concentration and allow me to immerse myself in my story.

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When the words just flow…

After struggling on and off this summer, I’ve finally hit a groove and I’m really enjoying and am excited about writing. I also finally hit about 50,000 words on my project**, which makes it an offical “novel,” even though I’m currently adding and rearranging more than writing linerally, which also means that some written scenes will probably be reworked or deleted.

Nevertheless, last night I went to bed thinking about how I was potentially so close to being done with the rough draft, and how I could send it to my friends for a first read (after I just read through it again and insert ir change some things I want to make it consistent, as some of my ideas changed halfway through, and some minor characters don’t have names). It was such an exciting feeling, especially as I’ve poured so much of myself into this story.

My struggle with this book–which I’ve been working on for a year and a half–was that I wasn’t advanced enough for it. It’s middle grade, but that meant I needed to keep it accessible and plot-driven enough to keep my audience reading while also telling a character-driven story. I originally began with some magical realism, but then I began rethinking that. Then I wondered if I needed to reshape what I had written all along a more higher-stakes plot. Whenever I got stuck, I would often put it away and move to another project with more momentum. Sometimes, I stepped away from it because the subject matter was often so personal. But I always returned.

This summer I planned on taking what I had and making a chart from which I could then add or rearrange, still thinking I would have a more dramatic plot. Instead, I found I rather liked what I had, more than I’d thought. I came up with more ideas that I liked much better, and I’ve now been working on adding them, and then using that additional background, I’ll move forward. There were only a couple of chapters left, after all.

I’ve still got a lot to figure out, but the idea of working from a draft than from ideas that aren’t on paper is so relieving. I’ve started many projects, but I’ve honestly only finished one book before, and that one was very different (fantasy, 90,000 words) and I was 12. (I did reach 50k on the sequel, but I never go further with other projects because I kept editing that first one, until I realized it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore.) It’s yet another component to this new stage in my life, and like college and being more independent and meeting new friends and finding new opportunities, I’m happy.

**It’s a middle grade realistic novel. It’s broadly about middle schoolers figuring out who they are and who they want to be, perfectionism, mental health, friendship, and how stories and characters as well as the Internet shape our view of the world.