Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Blog / The Craft of Writing

The Writing Process —

So, you know, how much writing work you get done varies so much day by day. For me, this is true to a much lesser extent if I am currently producing pages for a new manuscript under a fairly tight deadline, because then I set a minimum number of pages or words per day and more or less stick to it. The feeling that you are making progress is itself a motivator. But lately! With this revision! (of MOUNTAIN.) It is just hard to tell on a day to day basis whether an adequate amount of progress is being made.

I mean, like this: last Sunday I wrote 15 pages (about 5000 words). This is a lot for me unless I’m in the endgame of a book and it’s flowing and I’m really into it, and then I can write quite a bit every day for a while. But just picking up this revision from nearly a cold start, that was a ton.

Then Monday, nothing. Not a word. Granted, that’s the day I went up to St Louis and went to Global Foods and picked up Ish, but still, I was home all afternoon. Didn’t even turn on the computer.

Tuesday I finished the chapter I’d been working on, leapfrogged over a chapter that didn’t need much work, deleted a whole chapter that had to go, gazed at the blank screen for a while, made a couple notes about the new chapter that might go there, and quit for the day. Amount of actual progress: net loss of 5000 words, iffy in terms of ideas about what to do.

Wednesday, nothing. I opened the file once and looked at the blank spot.

Yesterday, I veeery slowly and painfully wrote 2000 words of the new chapter. I’m also proud to say that I got my percentage of games won up to 74% in Spider Solitaire. This should tell you how little I wanted to work on the manuscript, because solitaire is the game I switch to when I’m really annoyed with or bored with writing. (This is why I don’t want interesting games on my laptop; solitaire is as distracting as I need, which is to say, not very.)

Finally, having gotten that annoying chapter started, I whooshed through 2000 words this morning and should easily do that much again tonight, possibly finishing the chapter or getting it set up to finish tomorrow. Then I get to leap ahead about fifty pages, which will be extremely satisfying and get me into the endgame of the book, part of which will again have to be rewritten extensively.

How worried was I, yesterday? This is actually the point I wanted to make: not at all worried. Annoyed, yes, mildly, because it’s not fun beating words out of the aether when they’re not flowing and you really are not in the mood. But even if the deadline for this manuscript was Feb 1 (it’s actually March sometime, I forget exactly), I wouldn’t have been worried. Days like that are just part of the deal. Once you plow through an annoying section, the next bit is liable to be a downhill run. Relatively, anyway.

Back to work Monday! Unless we get freezing rain and ice on Sunday and thus start the new school year with a snowday. I see a “winter mix” is predicted for Sunday, so that could happen. Even if we are off Monday, I won’t quite tie this manuscript up before school starts. But I will probably juuuust about hit the next tedious, annoying section I will need to deal with (hopefully the last).

Which is fine. No matter how tedious bits of this revision are, I expect I’ll wrap it up by the end of the month, which is soon enough.

Meanwhile! Time to open up the manuscript file.

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2 Comments The Writing Process —

  1. Hanneke

    Yes, that’s rather like what I’ve picked up from reading C.J.Cherryh’s blog for the past decade, and Patricia C. Wrede’s blog on writing the last few years. Thinking about the work-in-progress, or letting the backbrain percolate around a stubborn bit while weeding the garden or cooking or something like that (like playing solitaire, distracting but not too mentally engrossing to take up all one’s brainpower), is all necessary and part of being a writer at work.
    And especially when one is self-employed, that it’s important to make room in the schedule for having a day off, and relaxing -it’s too easy when not in a regular job with regular weekends off to forget about the need to completely let it go and just recharge your batteries sometimes.

  2. Rachel

    Yes, and something you need to learn is a) not to feel guilty when you aren’t getting measurable work done, unless b) you ought to be feeling guilty, you lazy bum. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between situations (a) and (b).

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