I guess when I said that I’m back to my regularly scheduled program, I kind of meant updating my blog twice a week. :S Sorreh. My world’s been nothing but “Finish the !#%$&*@ book already!”, and I’ve pretty much Super Glued myself to my chair and fought my way to the finish line.
Yep, you heard that right. Finish line. Rose and Spindle is now done, clocking in at 75K+ words. Oh, what a journey. Believe it or not, this entire project spanned six years or thereabouts. The opening scene of the novel was written back in 2006, and it was a response to a writing challenge (about 1,000 words total).* I shelved the file and pretty much forgot about it till maybe 2009, when I found it languishing in my old writing folder and then decided to see if I could do something with it. I’ve been adding to it here and there since, and it wasn’t till this year when I finally put 100% into it.
Now it’s done, and I can sit back and take several gulps of air and relax – at least for now. I’m giving myself a week of just bumming out and decompressing before moving forward.
So! Regarding this post’s subject header…
A friend and mentor asked me how I make myself write a full novel, and I told her that I really don’t have any secrets. Just plunk myself down at my laptop (for my next story, I want to disconnect and write everything by hand) and guilt trip myself into finishing something I started. Growing up Catholic helps, let me tell you, when it comes to guilt trips. Considering how burned out I’ve been, though, I needed to add to my arsenal for this book because guilt trips didn’t quite have the same dark magic they used to.
I can’t remember how I approached previous novels insofar as rewards and goals went (the guilt trips won out, it looks like, and blurred my memory), but for Rose and Spindle, the entire process revolved around big and small rewards for me.
Big rewards: Just the fact that the teeniest nugget of a story is fully “fleshed out” and published (self- or traditionally published) and enjoyed by readers. The chasm between a mere plotbunny and a complete novel is massive, and the process of bridging that gulf is where all the pain happens. But, yeah, the more work I put into the story, the more appendages it grew, the more I saw my characters evolve into some pretty interesting / strange people – I got some of that much-needed kick from watching my baby develop in so many unexpected ways.
Even through those nightmarish moments of blocks and burnout, it helped going back and rereading what I’d written to ease the sting of doubts. Most of the time, I was surprised by what was there. Small things, really, whether they were descriptive details or a bit of a plot turn or even character development, I noticed stuff that was never obvious to me in the course of writing. Those things might be small, but collectively, they really helped boost my confidence because they worked like ongoing mini-reminders of what I’m capable of achieving as long as I keep at it.
True, these details might be sacrificed down the line during edits, but they still served a pretty valuable purpose during the writing process.
Small rewards: I’m a huge fan of Netflix streaming. I’ve blogged before about fangirling Midsomer Murders some time ago, but unfortunately, Netflix decided to pull all but the last two seasons of the series, so I’ve turned my attention elsewhere for my viewing enjoyment.
As of late, I’ve been reveling in Poirot and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, watching an episode each night, alternating between the two series. This is one small reward I give myself as a way of decompressing after an intense writing session (no matter how many hours I spent). What do I get out of it? Pure entertainment and even a bit of inspiration. Sometimes an episode, a scene, a setting, or even a character jars me into thinking about my WIP in some unexpected way, and after watching, I scribble notes in my writing journal, which I use for reference the next time I open my WIP file.
On the whole, though, simply taking myself away from the world of my novel is enough to recharge my batteries. I also read books, but I tend to do that on days when I don’t write because I’m less mentally tired.
Sometimes it’s also good to reward oneself with something more physical. Today I bought this mug through Zazzle:
And I intend to make full use of it starting with my next WIP. I’ve always wanted something with that variation of the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster either on a t-shirt or a mug, and I figured that since I’m a devoted tea drinker, I’d be better off getting a mug that I can use for zen purposes during writing.
It’s a small thing, it’s not going to break my bank, and it’s good to pat oneself on the back with something other than dark chocolate. I’ve never gotten myself a more lasting “gift” after finishing a story in the past, being satisfied with a nice lunch or dinner or, yep, some dark chocolate indulgence. This time around, I figured it’s good be a teeny bit more generous, especially if I were to consider the context, i.e., I slogged through this novel with a massive albatross called burnout.
So, I guess, in a long, rambling, and roundabout way, I want to reassure those who’re having qualms about managing a novel for the first time or simply completing a short story that there are so many ways that you can keep your energy and enthusiasm going. Things will obviously vary from writer to writer, and in my case, I learned that simple rewards throughout the writing process compliment bigger and more important ones.
Those don’t take the place of self-confidence and faith in your ability to make it through, but in their own ways, they help make that chasm less formidable.
* That challenge was about writing child characters, which was so much fun to do.