The First Step

You know, the way the word “journey” gets bandied about so much nowadays is a pet peeve of mine. Yet… Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve actually started something? That, while the real work is still to come, you’ve taken that single step and the proverbial thousand mile journey Has Now Started? I’ve been feeling like that for the last couple of days. The last time I remember feeling like this was when I decided to put my suit to a certain lady in Cairns ten years ago.

On the 2nd of April, I posted that I’d been wrestling with applying Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for engineering (yep, engineering) a novel outline to Slamdance. I kept getting stuck at Steps 1 and 2. I’d think of a one-sentence summary of the plot, but then I’d hit a wall when I tried to expand it out into a paragraph summarising the novel’s set-up, three acts and ending. It was those three acts – or three disasters that befall the hero – that I had trouble with. I couldn’t come up with more than one or two that fit the one-line summary I’d written, and I was never one hundred percent comfortable with those I had thought up.

I’d made the mistake (?) of putting ten minutes in on our cross-trainer on Monday evening; I found myself awake at three AM Tuesday (shame it wasn’t Wednesday), brain churning an idea over. Half an hour later I gave up on sleep, parked myself in front of the computer, started Scrivener, turned my idea into a ten-heading outline and commenced Chapter 1.

I’ve worked on Slamdance before, of course, but on that morning I felt as though I’d made that first step that starts The Journey; I’d really started Working On A Novel.

I gave that Snowflake Method another go on Wednesday and Thursday before putting it down; no matter what I tried I simply wasn’t happy with the results. But I don’t feel as though I’ve taken a backward step or wasted that early morning; there were some good ideas in that outline that I might still use, and even if not, I feel as though I’ve actually learned something about my own way of writing.

After my abortive experiment, my current plan is to Just Write The First Draft and use it as an outline. So far, I’ve got 16,026 words in five chapters. If I’m shooting for 80,000, that leaves me 64,974. In order to hit this goal soon, I’m going to shoot for 7,000 words per week, at which rate I will hit 80,000 words in just over nine weeks. I reckon I can do it; I managed to win NaNoWriMo with four days to spare doing over 11,000 words per week.

While 7,000 would logically break down into 1,000 words per day, I want a couple of days’ break in the weekly schedule so my brain can relax (and my wife doesn’t become a writing widow). Therefore, I’m setting a five-days-of-seven target of 1,500; that’ll give me a little extra if I nail it and some buffer for the days off. This might seem hefty but I know I can write 750 words in around half an hour; if I do it twice a day, I’ve hit my goal.

They might still be baby steps, but they’re steps, nonetheless – movement – and by Jove, do they feel good.

But Enough About Me, Gentle Readers: What About You?

Have you made a start on a big project recently? Did you know what the end was going to look like? Did you know how you were going to reach the end?

Have you finished a big project recently? Did it turn out the way you thought it was going to at the beginning?

– If so, did you have a plan? How did you stick to it?
– If not, what changed? do you feel the end result was better than what you were expecting at the start?

Are you in the middle of something big right now? Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? How’ve you found the work so far?

  • I’ve got the end in sight with my current project, with about 12,000 more words to go. I’ve been forcing myself to plug 1,000/day…I’m jealous that you can whip out 750 in half an hour!! At the same time, I know I’ve got some serious filling to do with descriptions/setting once I reach my goal–boo! I can’t remember who said this, but I agree: “I don’t always like writing. I love having written.” Have a lovely Sunday 🙂

  • IMAGinES

    Hello Jess, and thanks for the comment! I’m very sorry it took me until Thursday to authorise it; I’ve been buried under a pile of comment spam lately.
    How do you get your 1,000 words out? Do you sit down and try to do it in one big hit? Do you break it down into bite-size chunks?
    Right there with you in terms of the setting and descriptions. I have a tendency to ditch the reader right in the middle of an unusual setting and let them figure it out as they go; info-dump segments of text really rub me up the wrong way. So one of my rewriting objectives is to figure out ways to introduce information through a character seeing or doing something rather than just telling the reader.
    On top of that, this novel is actually going to be the first one I’ve put through a rewrite / edit process, so I’ll figure out whether I prefer editing to writing – I don’t mind the writing so much when I’m doing it, but otherwise it’s like a ten-minute session on the cross-trainer – I keep putting it off as long as I can!