Writers: How Do You Track Your Progress?

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After years of trying out several different ways to track my writing progress, I think I’ve finally found the one that works best for me…

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How To Edit Your Novel (In Sixteen Steps)

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The best way to learn how to do something properly is to do it wrong dozens of times until you figure it out … right?

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When To Open Your Story Up To Critique

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As always, writing advice is subjective;  do what works for you.

But early on in my writing endeavors, I read a book that changed the way I thought about drafting and receiving critical feedback on my work, so I wanted to share my method…

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What Part Are You Good At?

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I have an important question to ask you writers on this rainy (if you’re in the tri-state area) Monday…

What part are you good at?

Here is my great curse as a writer:

I’m really good at climaxes.

And that’s not just my own personal opinion. My readers tend to agree: “Once I got to the climax, I could not put it down!”

And the weird thing is, I tend to not have to draft the climaxes millions of times, like I feel like I do with the rest of the novel. They come together pretty quickly for me.

But that means there are other parts I’m less good at. Such as: middles.

I’m terrible at middles.

Especially the beginning of the middle. I’m in the middle of yet another first draft and I’m past the inciting incident, which means I’m just now starting the dreaded middle. I’m trying to build the characters, up the stakes, seed in all the important elements for the climax, all while maintaining the voice of the novel, and of course, continuing to up the tension.

It’s hard. And it’s getting … saggy. There’s so much to put in while also so much balance to maintain. Between action and characterization, voice and tension, foreshadowing, but not too blatant foreshadowing … like I said: hard.

I get through it by telling myself it’s the first draft and I’ll fix it later. But it bugs me that drafting the majority of my story is this hard. I wish I could just skip ahead to the climax–and sometimes I do, jotting down these scene and that one in a fit of excitement–but in general I’ve found that if I don’t write in a somewhat linear fashion, that means way more editing later, because things change so much throughout the drafting process.

It could be worse. I could be terrible at beginnings. Beginnings I’m generally considered pretty good at–not amazing at the way I am climaxes, but good. (After several drafts, of course.)

It’s important to be good at beginnings, because no one is going to read on if they don’t like your beginning. But it’s also important to have a good middle. You can lose a reader with a saggy middle. And then it doesn’t matter how amazing your climax is; the reader’s not going to get there if the other parts aren’t up to par.

Some of my favorite writers and books of all time (ahem) have fantastic beginnings, middling middles, and meh-ish endings. Of course, the best books ever are amazing the whole way through. And that’s what I’m striving for: amazing the whole way through.

So how about you? Are there parts you’re particularly good at? Bad at? Do you have tips for me on getting through the middle? I’d love to hear…

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How Many Unfinished Novels Do You Have?

This past weekend, I hit a wall with my current novel-in-progress. I’m not sure what it is, only that I lost the love of writing it.

This has happened to me before. And I knew I had two choices.

1. Power through! 

2. Close the document and write something else.

Nine times out of ten, I choose the former. I am a big proponent of perspiration trumps inspiration.

But last weekend, I chose the latter.

Why?

Because there was another story I set aside a little while ago—and it was calling to me. Like, interrupting my sleep. It wanted me to work on it. In a way my YA Fantasy didn’t. And so I answered the call.

I used to be a big proponent of “finish what you’re working on”. That is, until I spent five years working on one story that’s still not ready for publication. And until I stopped midway through a draft of something else to produce my second story, which is the one I’m the most proud of and is largely considered to be my best work (by the 6 readers who’ve read all 2 of my works).

Because it was calling to me.

Sometimes you just gotta answer that call.

Which got me thinking about just how many manuscripts, finished and unfinished, that I have, and wondering whether or not this is normal.

I have:

1. The YA Mystery aka The Chateau Story In which a brother and sister move to a mysterious chateau in France after they’re orphaned and have to figure out the massive family secret. The aforementioned languished-on-for-5-years novel. Finished! Except not really because it needs to be fixed. I feel like I need a decade of distance from it to figure out how. This one isn’t so much abandoned as taking a breather.

2. Its sequel. Which I actually really like, but I need to fix the first one before I finish the second. Abandoned after six months. I actually can’t wait to return to this one. It may be better than the first.

3. The Only Non-YA aka The Cousin Story In which cousins who don’t know each other inherit a house and have to live in it together. I loved the beginning of this. Multi-POV from different ages and sexes, everyone with their own set of problems. Then I realized I had no idea where to take it. There wasn’t enough tension. A guy in my critique group was pushing for some cousin-romance, which is all fine and good for other writers, but I’m not really into incest. Ew. Abandoned after a few months.

4. The YA Journal aka The Paris Story In which I took my actual high school journals from my trip to Paris and attempted to turn them into a YA novel. I switched it from journal format to regular format then back again. I struggled with making the characters different from the actual people I knew in high school. Abandoned after a few months, to write…

5. The YA Contemporary aka “Swim” This one has a name! In which a girl moves back to Jersey for a summer and has to face the demons of her past. The only book I’ve really finished. Currently in its (hopefully) last pass before being sent out to be queried.

6. The YA I-don’t-know-what aka The Island Story This one started as a dream, which is so cliche, as is the idea–strangers on a deserted island falling in love. I woke up one day, wrote thousands of words in a fit of inspiration, then realized this idea is probably crap. Abandoned after two days.

7. The YA Contemporary #2 aka The Play Story In which a girl cast out of her group of friends joins the stage crew of the high school production of Hamlet. I really like this one, though it gets deeply personal for me. Which is probably why it was abandoned after only a month. But also why I just picked it back up.

8. The YA Fantasy aka The Ugly Girl Story I think my problem here was doing what I know not to do and starting with theme. I wanted to write about a girl who wasn’t pretty dealing with the consequences of that in an unfair world, but a medieval world where the unfairness is way worse. It’s gotten really convoluted and difficult. Abandoned after six months, but I really really hope to pick it back up someday.

Not pictured: My dozens of ideas jotted out in my Ideas document and on the Ideas Note of my phone. (But ideas are a dime a dozen.)

So that’s me. How about you? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in my reckless abandoning!

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