10 Chapters In

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Tea and JournalI hit a writing milestone this week with my current book, Destination Happiness – I am officially 10 chapters into writing this bad boy!!! As of now, that equates to just under 29,000 words. My goal is the 80-90K words range, which I think is definitely doable with my rough outline of 23 chapters.

I’m doing something I’ve never done before in writing fiction, and that’s to really focus more on characters, dialogue, and driving the plot, and less on the settings and details for the first go ‘round. As a control freak plagued by perfectionism, it’s tough to just gloss over parts, but it’s also kind of liberating. I feel like I am trusting myself to write what needs to come out now, knowing that I will be able to go back and beef up the minutia when it’s time to get in the every-little-detail-counts head space.

As a refresher, the synopsis of my story is:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Basically, it’s Eat, Pray, Love meets Wild 🙂

When I first started brainstorming on this book, I began to map out my character’s road trip. There’s a slew of destinations and sites throughout the story, and although it was initially fun to plan this fictional trip, when I actually started to write, I was getting caught up in the “travel logistics” and all of the details of places I’ve never been before. Well, most of them, there are some destinations in the story where I’ve personally visited. Still, I kept interrupting my writing flow to stop and do research on places, and it was stressing me out to the point of not wanting to work on this project.

Luckily, I gave myself a creative intervention and realized that my main priority is just to write the damn story, and I can worry about prettying it up later.

Which is exactly what I’m doing. And, here I am, 10 chapters later! I’ve never written this quickly on one of my own stories (although I’ve already completed quite a few writing projects with my screenwriting partner). It feels really good to know that I can focus on my own book and actually make progress on it.

Here’s to another 13 chapters!

Perfectionism: Every Writer’s Archenemy

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chalkboardI’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.

This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.

Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:

  • Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
  • Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
  • Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.

Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.

Take that, perfectionism.

New Book Idea

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img_4900For the past few years, all of my spare time has been focused on screenwriting with my writing partner, Jess. Prior to this partnership, I had always wanted to be a novelist, an aspiration that goes way back to my preteen years. But when Jess approached me with a story idea that I couldn’t resist, our partnership was born, and it eventually evolved into a comedy screenwriting adventure that I love more than words can do justice. It was how I spent all of my free time, and my own novel writing endeavors were moved to the back burner.

Until now.

Not only have I learned how to juggle a full-time job and various writing endeavors, but I finally, gleefully, blessedly was struck by a new book idea over the holidays. For months, I felt ready for a new idea. All of my past novel concepts were Young Adult fiction–supernatural and fantasy–and although I love that genre and hope to revel in it one day, I just wanted something different. Something grown up. And I got it:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Think Eat, Pray, Love meets On the Road. But this idea goes beyond wishy washy chick lit, because ::shivers in disgust:: I would never. This is about a journey from day-to-day misery to tragic loss to an urgency to live to doing just that. As an aspiring writer, I’ve heard one bit of advice over and over again: write what you know. Obviously, I didn’t know YA supernatural and/or fantasy lifestyles, but I could imagine them. But for this new idea, I can pull from my own experiences and also write about what I’d like to experience.

Another facet of this idea that I am super excited about is diversity. My cast of characters will be all over the map: white, black, hispanic, straight, gay, and transgender. I want to represent all different types of people. I want to show love and friendship across different scopes and challenges.

I am SO STOKED for this book. I was able to completely outline it and develop my cast in two days. So now, now the fun part begins – I can start to write this story. And, although it’s only a working title, I’ve decided to call it Destination Happiness. Simple and–I hope–relatable.