Yep, that squee is the sound of me finishing the first draft of MENTAL NOTE, my Lesbian Agent Carter with monsters alternative history fantasy about a special agent who doesn't remember firing the bullet that killed her partner and in trying to solve a murder she is convinced she didn't commit finds help among the very monsters she swore to protect her city from. This has been tough one to write. Historical fantasy, even faux historical as I would call this one, is hard, people.
Anyway, this draft clocks in at a lean and mean 75,058 words and I've written it in just under 5 months (see those 9 days I had left?! Yay!). I know that this might not seem so huge given the staggering word counts some people get on the page every day, but for me this one is huge, because not only does this draft prove that I can write hard things, but more than that, that I can write at all again. Regularly an while having fun with it at that.
After a good two years of feeling convinced that my writing creativity and ability had all but dried up due to stress, anxiety and the depression, this has me ecstatic, because as the adage goes, writers write. This book has been my return to that and I am incredibly excited about that.
Do I already have half a million things that I want to change about this draft? You bet. But that's what editing is for. That's when the magic happens and I'm super excited to take this on over the summer.
For now, here are three things that helped me get back into the swing of things:
No matter how busy things get, you have half an hour.
This is an adaptation of the wonderful Barbara Ann Wright's blog post which came to me at just the right time. I realized that if I kept telling myself I was too busy to write and continued feeling guilty about it, no writing would get done. Simple as that. And yes, as a teacher I definitely get busy like crazy during the school year. So I set myself a manageable time limit. I would spent half an hour a day on writing. That's it. Sometimes I would write 500 words, sometimes 800, sometimes none at all. But I kept at it and as several months of tracking my word count show, there's a book at the end of this!
Track your progress.
I'm a visual person. Color code for me and I'm in love. Track things and this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship. This bit of advice came from Rachel Aaron's book 2k to 10k which has been a huge motivator in this as she suggests to track your progress and figure out your most productive hours. It also suggests plotting in advance. All of these things definitely paid off. Yes, there were months like March where barely anything happened, but again, in the end there's a finished book today.
Stick with it and finish the damn thing.
No matter what. This bit was a joint piece of advice from a lot of my writer friends. Like, a lot. And yes, this may have resulted in a pink sticky note above my desk that reads in sparkly, cat-sticker-adorned script, "Fuck that first draft, just write the damn thing." Because editing is for second drafts. Not for the first. Yes, it's hard and yes, my Scrivener Document Notes section may be slightly inundated with all the things I want to change once I edit this, but in the end I just had to get this story out. Finish a thing before you edit a thing.
Those are just a few things that helped me focus on what's important: the writing and having fun with it. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't give props to my amazing PPWC Speculators whose encouragement and sage advice to get my head off the querying game by diving into this new thing have pulled me back to sanity, or what passes for it, more times than I can possibly count. Writer friends are awesome like that and without them I would probably be even more of a self-doubt-ridden madwoman than I already am, so thanks for that.
Anyway, now I am going to have victory ice cream and tomorrow I might start thinking about how to polish this bloody mess into something that's actually readable, let alone good.
For now, superhero movies and ice cream await.
Cheers and happy writing!