How to push forward?

I am currently writing at least 1,000 words a day, every day (which is about the length of this blog for reference). It is not a huge amount, but there are no days off. Holidays, weekends, hurricanes, miserable hot and humid weather, anniversaries, vacation, whatever it may be. Trust me- I don’t always have the mood to write. Sometimes I just want to walk around my yard, watch YouTube videos, browse the web, or stare at a wall. I work full-time on a salary (currently remotely) which means I work much more than 40 hours a week, and as I work in higher education, this time of the year is hectic, to say it lightly. Sometimes I sit down in front of my laptop after a bear of a day, deflated, tired, and void of good ideas- this week, in particular, has been a struggle. However, I still write. I may not always reach the goal, but I make a concerted effort. I keep a master excel spreadsheet (with all series-related information like names) and indicate my daily word count. Often, I don’t think I will make it, but I am always pleasantly surprised when I do.

If you’ve been following my writing journey, you’ll know it wasn’t always this way. The realization of setting a writing goal came to me late in my writing life. Well, not necessarily the realization, but lets say the action. I always knew it was a good idea, but I was cocky that I didn’t need all that jazz. I liked to write unrestrained, and the goal seemed to go against that mythos. Like in many things in life, I was wrong. During the drafting of my most recent book, Dawn of the Lightbearer, I set a goal. I approached that book utterly differently from others due to some reader feedback and just a whole lot of lessons learned in my publishing journey. I knew that my time working remotely wouldn’t last forever, and soon I would be back to losing two hours a day commuting. I didn’t want to waste this gift of time, so I decided to set an optimistic goal of 2,000 words a day. It was a challenge, I won’t lie to you, but I wrote what I consider my best work so far, from beginning to publishing, in six months.

I started with the same mindset and goal for my current WIP, the sequel to the above novel, Son of the Mourning (updates here), but quickly realized that my schedule and the book being a sequel made that goal impractical. There was just too much to think about, and I spend a lot of time trying to remember what happened in the first book, looking up names and events, and going through my notes. I also need to think about how the complete story will pace out over the entire series, which requires more planning than the start of the journey. But, I still have a goal and write no matter what. I started writing on 6/6, and as of today, 8/27, I am at 55,030 or an average of 1,123 words a day. It will be about 120,000-140,000 words, so I am a bit under halfway (about 3 more months).

Before realizing setting a daily goal was essential, writing a book took me years. I found myself in the comfort of reading what I had already written, over and over again, afraid to move forward until it was perfect. It was a massive waste of time. It made me think I was a writer, but you can only use that title if you’re writing and producing something. The thing is, you should save rewriting and revising to when you finish a book. Wasting time doing this before the story is complete is precisely that- waste. I remember going through this process with one of my other books and cutting whole chapters for which I had spent months re-reading over and over to get “perfect”. So now, I move forward, no matter what and keep the re-reading to the absolute minimum. Sure, I may end up cutting what I write, but it gets my brain in the writing mode, and more often than not, even when I am not in the mood to write, good stuff will flow. Though, I am sure to tell myself that the goal is not god. Sometimes it is quality and not quantity. Last night, I wrote 1,079 words and barely made my goal before quitting (it was literally down to the second), but I wrote gold, which will play an intricate part in the story. I ended the day fulfilled, even if I didn’t write 3,000 words.

And that’s what is most important- a feeling of fulfillment. That is what keeps me going. The slight stress of having a goal forces me to write. Sometimes, it’s torture before the words flow, but when reached, I feel like I have accomplished something. Writing a novel is always a daunting task when you look at it globally, and it gets people stuck or even prevents them from starting at all. But with the bite-size chunks of a writing goal, before you know it, you’re done, and because you were writing and not re-reading, the real fun can begin of experiencing your writing with a fresh set of eyes and molding the slurry of words into greatness.

I am no expert, and writing is very much an individual journey, but there are things I hope to convey that I’ve learned from bitter experience. Some of my followers congratulate my honesty and frankness. I appreciate the feedback, and I am so glad my willingness to be open with my struggles shines through, but on the other hand, it does sadden me a bit. What are people trying to hide? Why does everything have to be a secret? Some of my most outstanding teachers in life did not brag about their success. They were the ones that spoke about their mistakes, and more importantly, shared with me what they learned from those failures. I am not great, but I do have many shortcomings that I think can help others, and I hope this little nugget of advice is useful.

For those of you who have similar or different experiences, please feel free to share them below. What is your writing process? How do you keep moving forward? What do you do when you’re stuck? Whatever you can offer may help me or others on our journey of creation.

Cheers!

Published by scottatirrell

Scott Austin Tirrell is a lover of the arcane who would choose a good crypt over a coffee shop. He finds solace in history and tales of yore sprinkled with a smidgen of nature's fury, long travel, and the thrill of the paranormal. His stories place ordinary and often flawed individuals in extraordinary situations that stretch beyond this physical plane. The human spirit's strength to reach greatness against incredible odds fascinates him, and thus, he is often a bit cruel with his antagonist. Certificates of study in psychology, history, and international relations gather dust on his wall, but he has found life to be the best stimuli for a good yarn. Scott has published three works currently available- the Island of Stone, a paranormal thriller, the Slaying of the Bull, a historical fiction set in 1241, and the Dawn of the Lightbearer, an epic dark fantasy. He lives with his wife in the Boston area, a place dripping with inspiration for someone who loves tales from the past and a good ghost story.

8 thoughts on “How to push forward?

  1. I really have struggled during the pandemic. Initially, I went gung-ho into the research and envisioned having a first draft done by the end of 2020. As of this morning, I’m only about a third of the way to where I need to be. Physical and mental health issues messed me up.

    After re-reading Lisa See’s advice to write a thousand words a day, I decided that I would set myself some write-in time. However, that one-third of a manuscript needed to be seen for the hot mess that it is — and so, for the first time ever, I’m going back and editing Draft Zero before it’s done. I’ve already ditched a scene and am tightening things up … and realizing what needs to be expanded upon before I continue the chronology of the tale. I hope to be done with this draft by the end of the year … but I’ll be gentle with myself if it doesn’t turn out that way.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for an inspiring post, Scott. I wish I could contribute something meaningful, but I’m stuck at present, trying to get back to a manuscript I shelved more for structural reasons, and unsure of which direction to take. Perhaps the increasing complexity of a piece of work as it grows can create problems of that sort. When it was moving forward successfully, I didn’t feel the need for an absolute daily goal, but did keep a plain-text log of my writing sessions and word counts, which indeed gave me a motivating sense of accomplishment.

    Anyway, I have made some preparations designed to get moving again.

    I’m impressed with the readability of your post, which seems to me driven by a sincere and empathetic motion of self-reflexion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Michael, for your kind words. I feel your pain. I found myself in a rut for several years before the pandemic. I realized that it all came down to just having a bit more time in the day with not having to commute. Or perhaps it was not having to endure that soul crushing subway ride. Probably both. After a month working from home, I decided I was given a gift and I should utilize that time as I may not have the chance again. In any event, as my grandfather always said, this too shall pass. Keep writing and pushing forward and you’ll get there! Sometimes you have to work through all the deadends before the path forward unveils itself.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I don’t have any real problem writing each day. It’s as habitual as making my bed each morning, and brushing teeth after each meal. I write first thing in the morning–there are very few distractions then.

    Liked by 2 people

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