Question “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” Similar question: “How do you write a novel?” Answer: “One word at a time.” In 2010 I started tooling around with some ideas for a silly story in a wild west town. I wrote the opening scene. I left it. I read it again months later and I left it again. I added a word here or there, laughed at my little jokes and wandered off to live in the real world. In 2012 I dreamed up something completely different and started writing it down. Then I had another separate idea that I really liked and that one I kept coming back to and dabbling with. I expanded the mythos and I dreamed and schemed and fell more in love with my little project. Characters and architecture and a map started to take shape. I fit pumped when I realized how to tie the first story from 2012 together with the second and the world expanded a little more. when I figured out how to tie in my wild west story with all the rest I knew I was onto something. Still I continued to leave the process and come back to it. It would take me a less time to remember how exactly to ride the bike every time I came back to it but I was aware that I needed to become consistent. I needed to commit. As a natural commitment-phobe and someone who doesn’t really finish anything I was certain that I would just repeat that pattern with my writing. Starting and stopping things, from crocheting to dieting to band projects, has been my entire existence. How was I to break this cycle? I knew I needed to set a goal I could meet. I knew I needed to not beat myself up but what was reasonable? I was writing in scatter shot, simply throwing scenes and characters onto the page. Things were from all different time periods and I kept going further and further back in the timeline to explain where my characters came from.
I decided to make peace with that and simply keep making content. As long as you have something to work with you can shape it later. You can always pare something down. Building something out of nothing is much harder. Working in a linear fashion was not a viable option. Every time I tried I got blocked and inevitably quit. So I agreed to let myself simply throw stuff onto the page in the world that I was so in love with and What I was doing was working even if the going was slow. The deal I made with myself was this: You can write what you want in whatever piece of the map in whatever character’s time line so long as you open a document every single day and write five new words. Editing does not count! Simply changing words I had thrown on the page the last time was not going to cut the mustard. In order to move forward I had to keep writing even if it was just five words. I don’t remember when in 2013 exactly I made this deal with myself but it was sometime around when Jeff was liberated from time warner, so in the fall I guess. With the anxiety that came from him being unemployed heading into the winter I was worried my creativity would get shelved in a quest to worry our problems to a solution. Instead I stuck to my plan. There were some days when I literally wrote five words and called in a night. Most of the time I wrote much more and the distraction of creating something did wonders for my sanity over the course that tense winter. I didn’t keep strict track of my progress but I know I went for 8 at least months before I missed a day often grabbing a notebook on my lunch break or dragging myself out of bed to open the lap top and bang out five words in a row. When I did miss a night because I got home late from a concert I kicked myself for a few days and then got back in the saddle.
All of this is to set up the absolutely un-humble brag of where I am now. I’ve divided and subdivided my material into what will be at least four books and there is no end in sight. I’ve finally gone as far back in the time line as I am willing to go and I am working more or less in a linear fashion. Sometimes I still write what comes to me and stash it in whatever file folder I think it fits in and go about my business. But primarily I have focused the past few months on finishing the first book in the series. I have a clear beginning middle and end mapped out for the first two of the four books and enough material to really back it up. Today I crossed the 50k word threshold for book one. Apparently this is the point at which you can consider your work long enough to be a novel. Through simply writing what ever comes to me and putting it away for later use I also have 55k words for book two/three and files I haven’t bothered to count. After being labeled a procrastinator and a quitter my whole life it feels good to know that I have developed the ability to stick with something even if my progress seems tiny day by day. Without even being aware of it I have been following the wisdom of the scarab, just keep pushing that ball of dung. Now the day has dawned when it is time to polish the turd. Huzzah!