Another day, another few hundred or so words

Courtesy of Makoto Shinkai, of course.

Starting a new project can often provide its own set of obstacles and trip-ups. My first few chapters are always a hot mess, primarily because I’m still feeling my way through it all. There’s the fear that I won’t be able to expand on this new idea past a couple of flashy scenes. There’s the reminder that I’m proud of my last project and that I really want this new one to be just as great. There’s the nagging reminder of past goals I’ve reached, such as hitting over a thousand words a day, every day, or writing two novels in tandem, and wanting to immediately recapture those goals again with the new project.

Instead what I’m doing is ignoring those trip-ups. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s doable. I remind myself that this is a Brand New Project that can’t and shouldn’t be personally compared to anything I’ve done in the past. If that means that I’m only hitting maybe two or three hundred words a day instead of eight hundred or a thousand, so be it. I gently remind myself that I’ll get back up to that count soon enough, once I feel more secure and confident about the project.

Each project creates its own mood, its own set of habits and goals, which are different from those of the past. Because of that, and unless I’m writing a sequel or a story in an already created world, I have to treat this new project as its own entity. It’s part of why I make mixtape soundtracks for them. It’s also why I’m my own worst enemy when I feel like I’m not writing enough or as strongly and fall into the trap of “why can’t this be as fun as Lidwells or as easy as In My Blue World?” Those are questions I should not be asking myself.

I should be asking better questions: Who are these new characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What would they do in this particular scene I’m about to write? And once they do it, what are the consequences? And instead of focusing on the word count, I should be focusing on nailing the arc of the scene I have in my head. I have to relearn the process every single time, because the process is different for each story I write.

It surprises me how often I need to remind myself of all this, every single time I start a new project. I understand that it’s part of wanting to repeat a personal success, and sometimes that’s the right way to go, but not always. Every project starts off with its own unique rules and creates its own paths to completion.

If that means I’m only hitting a few hundred words instead of a thousand or more for the time being, so be it. As long as it gets done.

Keeping Metrics

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I have a small calendar notebook on my desk that I update on a daily basis; it’s where I log my word counts, blog entries, journal entries, and anything else creative.  It’s something I’ve done off and on for years since the Belfry days.  There’s no real reason for it other than I’m curious to see how much work I’ve done over the course of a certain stretch of time.

I do this because, like most creatives, I feel like I barely get anything done on any given day!  This logging of work actually gives me a little dose of reality to combat that.  I may grouse that I only got four hundred words done on a novel project (I’m not happy unless I get at least 500), but when I look at the day’s progress, I see that I’ve also written 800 words on the 750Words.com site relating to another project, maybe a few hundred words on writing blog post that’s not due until next week (like this one, for instance) plus a few hundred more for a music blog post, and cleaned up emails.  And maybe noodled around on my guitar for a bit as well.

And it all adds up, because I’m pretty consistent about it.  Hitting 500-600 novel words nearly every day for six months got me finishing Meet the Lidwells in record time.  And with all those outtakes and notes on the 750, I’ve got a serious amount of worldbuilding done for the Next Project already.

So yeah.  Sometimes I need a slap upside the head to show that I’m doing a ton of work, it’s just spread out over five or six different things.