Thoughts On Writing
I'm now 11 days into my sustained 70,000 word writing project, so I thought I'd talk a bit about how it's going and what I've learned.
One of the toughest things about long form writing is that you can't veer off into a different project. Most of my creative work is done in a sort of stacked way, hopping between several different things. This lets me keep motivated as I can switch to a different project if I'm getting tired or frustrated with something. The problem with a long from writing project is that you need to work on it continuously and concertedly. There can be some switching about, but you do have to make sustained progress on that one particular thing, so for me that means I have to find ways to jump about whilst remaining inside this project.
My most useful realisation has been that many novels are really several short stories spliced together - look at the symphonic time jumping of Cloud Atlas, for example, or the way Ancillary Justice's chapters switch back and forth between two different time periods. Different narratives, points of view, and timelines are present in a million novels, and these are some great ways to move to something as new and different as possible whilst still working on the same story.
As well as jumping around as much as possible within the story, I'm also keeping a separate document for short stories so if I get really stuck, I can just jump over to something totally new and different until my creative brain feels engaged enough to return to the big one. I try not to rely on this too much, but sometimes it's exactly what I need.
I keep catching myself thinking the story feels empty, but then I remember that it's inevitably going to feel that way a lot of the time when it's such a big project. When it's only 5000 or however many words out of 70,000, it's natural to feel like your story is lacking,, because you still have most of it to write and figure out along the way! There's so much I don't know yet about my expanding story, but that doesn't mean it won't get here. Some writers plan out huge amounts of their story beforehand, but for big projects like this, I jump in with a pretty bare skeleton. Everyone's different.
It's been hard to keep up with the daily word count, but I didn't set that goal to be rigid in the first place - it's just a guideline. Some days you have to prioritise other things, and some days you get ill, and some days you just need a rest. Personally, as long as I'm writing something reasonably regularly, I'm happy with that, and if it takes me an extra month to reach 70,000, I'm okay with that. If I take a long break or write nothing more than 2 sentences some days, that's okay too. I find that I really need to keep my goals fluid for them to be as effective as possible. What I like about an 800 word daily goal is that (for me) it's reasonably easy to achieve, but at the same time it doesn't seem like a huge amount of work to have lost if I don't meet the target.