Addicted to Progress

give_it_to_me_stephen_colbertGive me a wordcount hit, I need it! Need the rush, need that high, need the validation–I can do this, I will do this.

Like most people, I get into awful ruts where it’s nearly impossible to force myself to write, edit, or be in any way creative. For me, it’s often rooted in anxiety or depression, which still flare up now and then. No matter the reason, though, the solution is almost always the same:

The more I make progress, the more progress I make.

What the hell does that even mean? It means, dear creatures, that progress is a snowball rolling downhill, gathering speed and mass until it crushes unsuspecting critique partners at the bottom of the mountain. It means the first few words are painful, slow, and make me hate myself. Then I write a few more. And a few more. And after a few days, I’m spending hours on my work-in-progress. And then when I get a day off from work? ALL DAY. Hope the house didn’t need cleaning. Hope there wasn’t food needing to be cooked. (Uh, that’s what takeout is for).

Once I start, the validation becomes the reward. Every time I put my butt in the chair and make progress, whether it be writing, editing, or research, I’m proving to myself: I can do this, I am a real writer, I do have the mental fortitude to put in the hard work required. Writing is 1% talent and 99% hard work, and I’m crushing it like a boss.

In the drafting stage, it’s easier for me: I watch the wordcount tick ever upward, perhaps with a satisfying little meter on some tracking site or another. I creep little by little toward some goal: 50,000 words, 70,000 words, whatever it may be; I revel in the knowledge that every single word puts me closer to the magic number, even if that word is terrible. All forward motion is progress. The first draft is supposed to be awful. All I have to do is reach the magic number and make the story end somehow.

For editing, it’s worse. I have a hard time building that initial momentum to get me going, because the first step in editing is facing the monstrosity you created during the drafting stage. It’s ugly, misshapen, full of holes and flat characters and tiny, rare moments of something great. It’s not until I see how the puzzle fits together that I start feeling the pull toward the end. And if the book doesn’t have a solid ending? I can’t do anything until that’s written. I have to know where I’m going before I can figure out how to get there in a way that is meaningful and resonant.

Right now, I’m at the point where I’ve finally hit my editing stride with my second novel, Space Academy Rejects. I’ve done my first read-through and markup, written the ending, added a few scenes, and am currently blowing through my chapter-by-chapter revisions and line edits. Because this book has a cast of five characters, I’m also making a ton of work for myself by marking every line of dialogue or bit of action for every character in their own highlighter color. This is so I can go back and read each color individually to make sure that 1) their voice and personality stays consistent throughout, and 2) their individual character arc is successfully portrayed from start to finish.

I’ve set an insanely ambitious deadline for this round of edits because I’m dying to get it out to my critique partners and cultural beta readers for first impressions and feedback. This book makes me geek out in all the best ways. I hope I’ll get the chance to share it with you all.

Okay, time to take another hit dive back into editing. Until next time, creatures.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: