It’s nice to have a brand new writing project to work on.
Ever since I sold Thunder Road I’ve felt that between editing that and getting my first draft of Tombstone Blues into submission shape, I wasn’t enough new writing. And drafting a book–discovering a new story–is definitely my favourite part of the process. I’ve never felt writer’s block. When I sat down to write, I found words. Sometimes they came easily. Sometimes not. But lately I’ve felt differently. After solidly revising for so long, I felt something else: Writer’s Paralysis.
I had all the time in the world to polish Thunder Road. It was well received: it’s won one award, been shortlisted for three others. So far I’ve had good sales, good reviews. But I have something to live up to now. Which is where the Writer’s Paralysis and deadline dread come in. I think I’m a better writer now than I was when I started Thunder Road and I at least had a draft of Tombstone Blues, but I was trying to fix book two while book one was still in editorial. Now I’m trying to write book three while book two is being revised.
Book three has a deadline too. For the longest time it was just an idea. I had a sort of outline. Scenes that I’d jotted down as I drafted the other books, and an idea of how it would go, a soundtrack. But how to bring all that together in time? How to not just start a story, but pay off two other books worth of plot threads and thematic elements and satisfy my readers? That kind of thinking makes it easy to not do anything at all. “Your next round of edits could drop at anytime so don’t get too deep into a new project,” I’d tell myself whenever I had a shiny new idea.
How will I do it? It doesn’t matter how I do it. What matters is that I have to do it. There’s no choice. It says trilogy right there on the cover of Thunder Road. I’ve made a promise to my readers, even if I didn’t have any readers then, and so I don’t have a choice. I have to deliver. I imagine this is something that every writer who goes from aspiring to contracted goes through. There is definitely an adjustment period. Writing is a business, and the business side of things will keep popping up when you’d rather be writing.
I’ve been easing into the book. Normally, when I’m in the flow, I’ll draft anywhere between 2000-4000 words in four hours. Two thousand is usually my minimum, but I aim for three thousand. Why then is my May goal only 31000 new words, or one thousand a day? Because somewhere along the line, whether it was when I injured my arm in 2011 or got seduced by social media, I lost my routine. Words come a little bit harder at the beginning of a book, as I try to find my opening, try to find the tone of the novel (or try to remember just what the hell happened in the last two). I set realistic goals, because why set myself up for failure? If I haven’t been hitting my usual word count, why could I assume those big word count days will come right from the beginning? I’m hitting my goals.Rebuilding my routine. I’m actually a day ahead of schedule (and yesterday was my best word count so far on this book) which is pretty good because I missed a day early in the month. There’s no rest for the wicked though. I have a lot more ground to gain, I don’t think I’ll hit my 1000 words a day during Keycon (and knock wood that I can avoid any con crud).
Once the book has some steam behind it, I am confident that those big word count days will come. They always have before. Once I get through these opening chapters, I’ll also be able to start dropping in those words that were written years ago (in some cases while I was drafting Thunder Road). I have about 12000 words worth of those random scenes just itching to join the count.
Thunder Road book three, as yet untitled, is already starting to feel like a real book.