MERC vs. BOOK: Revising A Novel, Part 6–Derailment and Finding Momentum Again

Aditional Posts In This Series

Part 0 | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 (you are here) | Part 7.1 & 7.2 | Part 8

Ever played an open-world video game with physics somewhat enabled, and you’re just walking along a mountain edge trying to get to some *&^$% spot on the map for a quest, and everything is going well because you’re not being attacked by random bears or dragons or whatever, and you’re almost to that glowy marker on your map–

–and then you slip and fall off the cliff and your character dies on impact and you realize you didn’t save as recently as you hoped, and now you have to climb up that damn mountain all over again?

Well, revision is not quite that bad for me–but the loss of momentum and starting over definitely remind me of many frustrating hours spent trying to climb mountains in Skyrim.

Screenshot 2016-07-26 12.45.11.png
Screencap of my GYWO spreadsheet

The image above shows a section from a spreadsheet. The left-most column is the date, followed by daily word count, then the Year to Date words, then Project, then that project’s wordcount for the day. Under the Project column, I list what I was working on. (The date is scrolled down so it shows the 13th of July through the 26th of July.) Then I log the word count for that project on the day I worked on it.

Since this screenshot cuts off the week previous, it won’t show that from July 6th through July 17th I was working on novel revisions and adding new material consistently every day.

What it will show you is that from July 17th through July 26th (with a single day on the 23rd, which was a lot of fiddling with Scrivener) I did nothing whatsoever on the novel.

This may or may not seem like a big deal. In the grand scheme of Merc!things, it’s not. But in the short-term, it was really jarring because up until the 17th (over ten days since I started!) I was immersed in this project. I was working on it daily, feeling like the momentum kept going, and that I would blast through the rest of the month on a success high.

Then in the RPG of the writer’s life, my character fell off a cliff and I had to restart my game.

Aside: Yes, there is a day where I finished a short story, “Monster Girls Don’t Cry,” with a pretty stellar word-count-wise day. I expected the following day to be a crash-landing, as that always happens when I finish a short story. Whether minutes, hours, or a day or two after, I inevitably get swarmed by doubtroaches and collapse under a mental pile of oh god I know nothing everything sucks I will never write anything else again why do I do this–etc.

It passes. It doesn’t feel like it will, but it does. In the moment, it’s not pretty.

And later, with some sleep and perspective and supportive people, I get back on my feet and do it again. ^_^

What caused the slip off the metaphorical mountain?

Life and work. And the unbearable sauna-pocolypse that was the weather for a week in Minnesota.

It happens. It’s okay.

I adore my dayjob–it is a perfect setting for me. (Minimal intense sensory input for hours at a time due to dim lighting, no overhead music, and lack of fluorescents is like working a miracle on my ability to function. Also cameras and audio equipment and hella awesome coworkers and management! ❤ )

But when you add extreme weather and lack of AC, plus a lot of driving, it’s hard to sleep and find much motivation, and so I didn’t do much on the novel for days in a row.

The other component is that when you get off-balance and lose some of that momentum you built up, it’s harder to restart things. You wonder if it was a fluke, if you can even find the same enthusiasm again, if you shouldn’t just spend your time playing video games forever.

So my method of getting back on that mountain, hiking towards that glowy marker on my map, is to revisit what got me so enthusiastic in the first place, and taking into account the Physical Personspace Elements that may be affecting productivity.

Step 1: Dividing the Space-Time Continuum. I re-focused on making a schedule for writing/revision time around dayjob shifts (and additionally filmmaking). Setting blocks of time that is mine.

Step 2: Environmental & Physical Considerations. Is it super hot? The library has air conditioning! (I love my library.) Fill up a water bottle and stay hydrated. It’s sometimes hard to remember (or find energy) to eat when it’s really hot. Having small snacks and drinking water helps me stay functional until I can make myself eat a proper meal. Also getting enough sleep–I know, I know. This one is hard. And not always possible, so you do what you can. I sleep with a fan on to keep the air circulating, and listen to my iPad NaturalReaderPro app read things to me.

Step 3: Revving the Engines. As I mentioned earlier, using a robot to read to me–in particular, the novel draft and new material I’ve written so far–while trying to fall asleep got the words and story and characters freshened up in my brainspace. I also organized my files, worked on assembling a Scrivener project (as I’d intended to do but got sidetracked earlier), and in general re-immersed myself in this novel.

Step 4: Remember Why You Do This. I’ve been collecting little snippets and screencaps of nice things people say to me when I’ve talked about this book (in a private forum, so I will not share pics here). These are just for me. But I can look at them, and remember: Other people believe in this, too. Other people who are not me want to read this thing I am creating! HOW FRICKING COOL IS THAT?! 🙂

It helps keep the doubtroaches at bay. It inspires me, because I know so many outstandingly amazing, awesome, kickass writers and artists, and when they say they want to read this? WELL. I am really motivated to get this done so they can!

I also find that having a tangible record–a private file, a collection of snippets or saved tweets or photos–helps fend off the doubtroaches who will always try to gaslight you into believing that the nice things other people said never happened. I will remind you that doubtroaches are lying liars who lie. Wave a few quotes in their face and they go scuttling away to sulk in a corner.

Also rereading those nice things people said to me? Gives me a warm fuzzy glow and sparks motivation again.

Never underestimate how much a little encouragement, a kind word, or an enthusiastic ‘you can do the thing!’ can mean to someone else.

It can mean the world.


Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.58.40
Setting up Scrivener project for real

So I’m working on novel revisions again! Yay! I’ve almost gotten the various pieces of text placed appropriately and can write/rewrite the pivotal meeting between Bane and Winterblade that kicks off the plot.

If you get sidetracked, remember: it’s okay. You don’t have to make excuses or punish yourself for screwing up momentum or a schedule you set. Things happen. Life happens. You’ll get back into the game. Try to be kind to yourself for hitting a couple potholes or getting lost when the GPS fails.

You can do this. I believe in you.


Screenshot 2016-07-26 14.14.27
Progress again! 😀

WHAT’S NEXT? Probably something about playlists and how structuring scenes is like playing a video game. UNLESS IT’S SOMETHING ELSE. >.> *eerie music plays*

leave a footprint in the snow

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