Rewriting (and new writing) part 3

So there I was at the end of June, finishing part one of the rewrite. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s my experience writing the first draft of it. To be honest I wasn’t actually as finished with the part one rewrite as I had originally thought. I had rushed the ending so that I could do camp nanowrimo in July. I’ll start my tale with how nano went, and if you don’t know what Nanowrimo is, this is the first time I did it and probably has the most background on it.

July itself started with a hangover; a not entirely new experience for me if you’ve ever followed my posts. Needless to say, despite my best intentions, I found myself not writing a single word for the first day.

pre nano 1
Last day of June, the beginning of the night with the beautiful Bec.
Pre nano 2
Last day of June, the end of the night with Robbo.

I had set my target for the month to be 100,000 words. That worked out to be an average of 3226 words each day. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever written much, but that’s a lot to hit each and every day. To wake up on the second of July and realise that because nothing had been written the day before, and it had instead been spent getting drunk once again, there was an element of shock when I realised my goal for the day was now double that. 6452 words needed to be written for me to be “on track”.

Day 1 of nano
The end of the first day of Nano saw me hanging with the one and only Matty King. 0 words written.

I also knew that I had a bit of work coming up and I wouldn’t be able to spend long hours writing. I was going to have to try and really stretch myself out that first day and write as much as I could.

Naturally, when I hit about 4,000 words, I was thinking about scrapping the whole thing. The writing was terrible and I wasn’t happy with where the story was going. But I turned off the inner editor and plodded on, not wanting to lose the small bit of momentum I had. I managed to sit down and get my word count back on track by the end of the day.

The next day I felt physically sick when I woke up, so I called in sick to work. Perhaps it was because of the anxiety I had given myself about the project, perhaps it was something I ate, but either way I made the most of this now free day.

Time passed and I fell into a routine. Every morning when I woke up, be it 5 AM or 9 AM, I would write. I wouldn’t do what I have done in the past and just jump into the story, unless something was pushing to get out of me. Instead, I would open a file and write the date. Then I would make a small journal entry. This system I’ve found to be fantastic as it keeps track of where I’m at but also warms me up for the session. The journal isn’t big, it’s about 12,000 words over the month. But it was a place for me to think out my thoughts before I wrote a scene.

I did quite a lot of writing in the shed at Bec’s house in Geelong.

Countless hours spent here. A heater would have been nice, but it’s good to have a bit of struggle in your life.

She would wake up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning to go and work an early shift. I would get up when she did and drag my arse to the cold shed and smoke profusely while I drank coffee and wrote. I’ve never smoked and written like this before. At my house I don’t smoke inside so I would take a break from my writing whenever I wanted a cigarette. This often leads to going on Reddit and far more time passing than I’d intended.

I ended up buying an ashtray post nano. Should have done it at the start of the month.

By the end of week 1, I was just about on par with my word count goal. I was having difficulties writing, as this is the sequel to the book I’m currently rewriting. As nothing in it is set in stone this is both a blessing and a curse. It meant that I had to change things in the first book but it also meant that I couldn’t just “free write” so to speak and had to fit in with what I had already written. There was a lot of back and fourth between projects, making sure I spoke about the right characters and the right situations that made up their history. I was happy though, I’d written 23,000 words in 7 days. Well technically 6 days because I missed the first one.

day 7 bigger

By day 9, I was back to doubting myself. I was making progress but I was not happy with what I was writing. I was writing scenes that I knew would be drastically altered, if not cut completely, but because I need to write forwards I couldn’t see where the next part of the story would be until it was finished. I’m a discovery writer; I have an idea of where the ending is but the journey is fluid. This leads to time wasted writing scenes I don’t enjoy but which are essential for me to get to the end. It’s during the rewriting process that I delete these and make the story smoother.

Come day 9 though, I was feeling flat. I did my usual things to help me get out of a rut. I cleaned the house a bit and spoke to Bec. I wrote the last blog post and published it so that I was at least writing something. But nothing seemed to get me unstuck. In the end I accepted the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the scene and wrote through it begrudgingly. I described it as walking my characters through the land, step by step, but without a map to show me where I was going next. It was an overwhelming feeling as I knew the rough destination but couldn’t understand how it would fit together. I trusted in myself and continued.

I began to loathe the days when I only had an hour or so to write because of work. Despite my best intentions, it is hard to get up first thing in the morning and hit the flow state needed to write over 3000 words. Maybe some people can do it, but I can’t, not in an hour. I would have to stop writing in the middle of a sentence if I wanted to make it to work some days. It was frustrating but I’ve got to eat and pay the bills. I’ve got a small inkling of what it’s like to write around a busy lifestyle. Some days I wouldn’t hit my word count, and I’d be sitting at around 1500 words or so, but I’d consider that a good session as the writing was good and I had managed to move the story forwards. The good thing about nano is that at least there’s a story at the end, despite all of the shit in between.

Day 12 was a great day, from a writing perspective.

day 12 weather

I woke up at 1 AM and couldn’t sleep. It was Becs week with the boys and I had the day off, but I also had to do the school run at 8:30. I decided to get up and write. Sure it was a little cold out in the shed but 6 cups of coffee and over 9000 words later, it was 8 AM and I felt fantastic. I felt like a conduit to the story, writing as fast as I could and experiencing a range of emotions as my characters went through different scenes. Day 12 is the reason I write.

Day 13 was a small session and then day 14 just sucked. I got up early but I didn’t want to write, I wanted a day off. But I couldn’t. Sure, I was ahead on my word count but it catches up so quickly if a day is missed. I didn’t have to work and so I had time to write, which in turn gave me some anxiety when the hours passed with very little written. I found myself browsing reddit and catching up with my brother. I’m happy I did, as he went overseas a few days later and has no return date. But the writing was bugging me.

My story has a lot of walking in it. I found myself frustrated as I knew that my characters had to cross a large expanse of land, but was struggling not to write every fucking step. I was also writing about places I had never physically been to, and found myself on google maps “walking” the journey for long stretches of time. I began to get lost in “research”, and considered getting in touch with people that do camel walks through the desert. I shit you not, I had a whole pile of books and movies I felt I needed to read or watch before I could continue writing the story, and was considering physically going out into the desert to experience it first hand before I wrote another word.

It’s a long walk from Melbourne to the centre of Australia.

I realised on about my 4th cup of coffee that if I got in my car and drove from Melbourne to beyond Port Augusta, all I would achieve is a higher chance of a premature death with no ending to the story. So I reluctantly went back to my bedroom and wrote.

By day 15, I was 2 days ahead of my writing goal, and had finished part 1 of the story. Once I hit that point, I found myself exploring a whole array of new ideas and I began to get seriously excited about where the story might end up. I wrote almost 2000 words of ideas down in the journal, giving myself a bit of structure for the next parts of the story and also things to change in the rewrite of the first book.

Day 18 had me cracking the shits at a two year old and sleeping on the couch voluntarily. A severe lack of sleep was making me grumpy, and whilst I wasn’t taking it out on the child of course, I was making things difficult for Bec and I by acting like a child myself. I reluctantly pushed onwards and got my couple of thousand words down, but this was the point where nano was starting to disrupt my day to day life I think. The next couple of days saw me at times writing my quota and then doing nothing afterwards except for reorganise my room or clean the house or get drunk with friends. The story was moving forwards but so slowly it was infuriating. I knew it was all on me too, but I found it hard to shake my behaviour.

Coffee day 22
Coffee bags. I like them because you can keep count.

Around day 22 I began to get some momentum back. It was only a couple of small changes, but suddenly there was a shift. I began to get the excitement back for the story and things were starting to work themselves out. Plot lines that weren’t connected started to come together. I glimpsed where the curve of the story was coming. I began to write thousands of words in the journal as I developed these ideas. It was a form of escapism because in my day to day life, I’d caused rather a lot of havoc. Too much time spent in the internal world had left me being a bit neglectful in the physical one.

Day 23 had me feeling like the entire project was pointless and shallow. I had somehow managed to annoy Bec to the point where we weren’t talking much. With that lack of communication, and the physical distance of me living in Melbourne, came a feeling of being overwhelmed at what I was trying to write during nano. Was writing this 100,000 word first draft in a month really more important than my relationship? Was I really about to throw something beautiful away for the sake of doing this writing challenge? I was too deep in the challenge to see it as I do now, but the truth is that I almost did.

Day 24 found me managing to both lose someone in real life (Bec), and kill one of my main characters.

Day 25 however saw Bec and I patching things up, although sadly the MC was still quite dead. I suddenly had this feeling like I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I wrote for a bit before work but was looking forward to having a day free to write instead of having to work. The next day I ended up calling in sick because I felt like I’d been through a bit of an emotional roller coaster and needed some time to clear my head and write. After some joe rogan I was recharged, and day 27 saw me crossing the 100K line.

So there I was. It was the 27th of July and I had finished writing for Nano.

Last day

But the damnedest thing happened. I couldn’t switch off now.

By tracking my daily writing in the journal, I was finding that it was turning into a compulsion. Bec and I had a holiday to Bali booked for the 2nd of August. 10 nights in Bali, relaxing and enjoying whatever the hell we wanted to do. But until I went, I knew there were still days when I could write. I was torn though, where do I put my energy? I knew it would be foolish to jump back into the rewrite of part 1 with 6 days to go before I left for the holiday. I decided instead to write some essays and thoughts and plan out what I intend to do over the next 6 months of the year. Yes, I know, there’s less than 6 months to go in the year. But in my head I think of the end of winter as the end of the first half of the year, with spring and summer being the next half.

On the last day of July, I went back to the part 1 rewrite and began planning what I wanted to do. I spent the next 3 days writing copious notes and planning things so that when I came back from the holiday, I could dive straight in and expand on these new ideas.

What can I say about the holiday? It was a relaxing adventure.

IMG_8099 1IMG_8112 1MXXJ8996QYNB8028

There were some pretty big earthquakes in Lombok, and as Bec and I had been planning to go to Lombok or the Gilli islands, we were kind of happy with our choice to instead stay in Bali. We felt a few earthquakes, a new experience for both of us, but it didn’t really impact our lives nearly as much as it had of in Lombok. Where we may have died. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, the death toll as of today is 555 people from that one earthquake we felt.

Upon returning to Australia, I took a day off to enjoy the food poisoning I had managed to acquire on the last day of the trip. But the second day back in Australia, the 13th of August, saw me jumping back into the rewrite.

It took me another 10 days to finish rewriting part 1. It was much the same as the rest of my writing experiences. Once it becomes a habit, you just get up and do your routine. I found that this last part of the rewrite had me writing a lot in the journal. I continued to do the process where I would start the day by writing in the journal about where I was at and what I wanted to work towards during that session before I dived into the actual manuscript. It really helped warm me up and get my thoughts together in an open space where I was truly allowed to write whatever sprang to mind. I would try to write for at least an hour each day, with some days being more productive than others.

Now that I wasn’t doing nano I could reduce the pace a bit to be more maintainable. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made despite not doing so many words each day. Nano really throws the rest of my life out of balance. Doing an hour or so each day, or about 1000 words, is an achievable aim.

End of rewrite
My stats over the last 10 days the rewrite of part 1.

With the return to Australia also comes the start of the return of SectApe. Just in case I wasn’t busy enough with the writing, I’m also in a band that’s starting to switch up the workload over the next few months. There’s some exciting new things in our future involving new songs, new members, and a new EP and a tour I think. I’ve never gone on tour before so that in itself is exciting. We recorded a new music video too, here’s a link to SectApe – DNR.

I also decided to begin doing some solo stuff under my moniker of The Amazing Sloth Rider, with the aim to play a relaxed gig at some point before the year is out. I might also make another album, as I like to try and make one every year.

So these next few months in my life will probably be quite busy but I’m hoping that they will be manageable if I work out a plan to organise my time. The main stay is that when I wake up, I write. If I do that every day, then this book will eventually get rewritten.

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