Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Slogging My Way Through a Sequel



Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Staring blankly at the early stages of my second novel and remembering just how much work it was to write the first one. 

Don't get me wrong. I am making progress on the sequel to the novel I finished (mostly) at the end of last year. But every time I sit down in front of the computer to write these days, I'm daunted by the number of words I need to write before the first draft is finished.

Three hundred pages may not have seemed so overwhelming back when I wrote the first book, but that book was written over the course of four to five years. That's works out to about 5 pages a month, a nice leisurely pace that allowed me to write when the muse took me, work at my day job, and still enjoy life. I wasn't worried about how long it might be before I typed "The End."

Fast forward to the present, when I no longer have a full-time day job, the COVID virus is giving me an excuse to stay home and write, and my goal is to finish the sequel in a year. Suddenly, writing an entire book all over again seems like an impossible task. My rough draft currently stands at eighty pages, which means I'm only a quarter of the way through. How did I ever manage to write three hundred pages the first time? 


Optional May 6 question: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? 

I find that showers are a good way for me to get into the zone. Thinking about a scene while in the shower not only brings it more to life, but the words to tell that story seem to flow out of me, as if I'm dictating the story to someone. The trick is to rush out of the shower as soon as I can so I can write the words down before I forget them.

Unfortunately, I can only take so many showers in a day, so my second ritual is to spend half an hour reading a book whose voice or genre is similar to mine. It puts me into a writing mindset, and once again, the words flow out of me that much easier when I put the book down. 

COVID family update. The family is finding new ways to keep themselves entertained during our self-imposed isolation. My wife has gotten into jigsaw puzzles. Even our cats are doing their part to help out.
My wife and our cat Smokey, arguing over the positioning of a puzzle piece.

Don't forget to visit the other co-hosts for this month. Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, and Kim Lajevardi.


Take care everyone, and stay safe! 

ChemistKen


49 comments:

  1. As I read your shower ritual I wondered if the inspiration stayed with you long enough for you to dress before sitting down at the computer? As you say, that is the trick.
    Love the picture of your cat helping with the jigsaw puzzle. It seems to be an essential element to finishing the job.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month and I'm sure you're writing will flow just fine.

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  2. I think by the end of the year you'll have more pages than you think you will!
    Smokey doesn't look very helpful.
    Thanks for co-hosting today.

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  3. I have total faith you'll meet your word count Ken. My kitty does the same thing on my yoga mat. They make me chuckle. Happy IWSG Day :)

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  4. Love the cat! Ours always sits in the middle of something important. I try to write by scene or chapter. It's too daunting to write by a word count everyday!

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  5. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Something about water stimulates creativity. I take walks. Listening to a story as I walk does inspire. Now, I need to turn it off and write my own!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  6. Thanks for co-hosting. I'm still into my first book in a series and am farther along than you. But I still have 125-150 pages left to write. That's a lot of words. Maybe I should jump in the shower during the day. Hope you have a productive month.

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  7. I've found that TOO much time is more of a problem than NOT enough time. Putting time into smaller segments makes that allotment more precious. Retirement was a huge issue at first but now I'm forcing myself back into my earlier routine and am getting much more done. Find that pace and stick to it. Thanks for co-hosting this month, Ken!

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  8. Thanks for co-hosting, Ken. Love your cat. I'm in the same boat as you. I'm stuck because my brain is consumed by pandemic issues. Too much of watching news. How many books have I written? Why is this current one a problem? Beats the heck out of me.

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  9. Such a helpful cat!!! :P
    When I look at big-picture goals/aims/hopes I tend to freak out and not do anything. I'm much much better when I only think about the next step or the next scene. Good luck!!!

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  10. Thanks for co-hosting this month.
    Don't think I've ever had shower inspiration, but if it works...
    It's hard to say this to someone who hasn't written their first book, but I truly believe it's the second book that's the hardest.

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  11. Hi,
    I don't have my first book out yet, but I think writing the second book is always more difficult than writing the first one. Our expectations are bigger and we find out that it doesn't get easier.
    Thank you for co-hosting and all the best with your second book.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  12. Thanks for co-hosting, Ken. I think you're trying to do too much all at once. Think of your book as a large meal. You wouldn't cram the whole thing into your mouth. Rather you take small bites. Try a page a day. In a year, you'll have 365 pages. (See, I can do math. lol) On the days when you write more, pat yourself on the back. Don't force the words. Relax. Now, I need to take my own advice. :)

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  13. How about a waterproof notebook for the shower?

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  14. Thank you for co-hosting! Oh, gosh - your first sentence of this post hits me right in the gut. That's been my problem with writing my fourth novel. I already know, not just how much work the writing is, but how much work all the marketing and promo are. Those last two zapped my writing passion hard when my second book released. (3rd book releases next year.) Anyway, all the best to you. I think if we take each writing session as a tinnier chuck, it will make The End feel more reachable.

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  15. I like the idea of taking a long, hot shower while coming up with stories. And never fear, The End will come, just that it often comes more slowly than we'd like. Thanks for co-hosting today! Bless that cat!

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  16. Don't think of it as writing an entire book. Focus only on the page you're on. :) You can do this!

    My cats wouldn't be so nice. Mine would be tearing apart that border. lol

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  17. Love that picture! I can see my cat helping like that, too. :)
    Just think, you're 80 pages into a book and you're four months into the year. That's about the right pace to finish in the year. You can do this. It'd definitely within your reach.
    And, if it's too stressful, change the goal. Revise it. It's okay. Work to your strengths.

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  18. Love the 3D jigsaw puzzle! Interesting what you say about the second novel compared to the first. I am quickly finding that my 2nd novel is much harder than the first. I just try and make myself do a little each day, even if it's only a couple of sentences. Get through the hard parts, and look forward to the nice, easy parts!

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  19. I see your point--about the first book getting done in 4-5 years. It is a big difference to aim for one year. I hope it all works out for you!

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  20. Loved the photo! Says everything!
    Don't rush just write! Good luck!

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  21. It's funny how the more time it seems we have that often the less we can get accomplished--at least that's how it works for me. I've been retired for 10 years now and am puzzled as to how much I used to get done back when I was working. Now that my wife is also retired I think my time issue is getting worse. I think I just need to force myself to pursue idealized goals, but I've never been very keen on having to do things because I have to and not because I want to.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  22. When our routines get disrupted, everything gets disrupted. The current crisis has put a ding in the world's routines and sometimes it's hard to figure out how to reconfigure the routines to work like we want them to. Keep plugging along!

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  23. I understand what you're saying about, how did I ever write 300 pages. It's a daunting task. I'm at 90 pages myself, with tons of hours and writing ahead of me. I like to think in the shower too, and walking helps me. Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  24. I know how you feel about writing the second book. Back when I finished my first one and started on the second, it was daunting and I kept asking myself if I could do it again.

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  25. Yes! I completely forgot about showers writing my own zone tips but something about the monotony of the task definitely works. \
    Smokey looks like the perfect puzzle helper, as cats are wont to be.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  26. Perhaps you want to look at your book in smaller chunks instead of a 300 page installment. Baby steps. Just tell yourself you want to write a thousand words a day. Or five hundred, or whatever works for you. Then just do it. Day by day. Those bits will add up faster than you expect.

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  27. We've been puzzling, too. Did three in April alone.

    Double space your work and then you'll have 160 pages. LOL

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  28. I've been working on the third book in a series, and I keep looking at it, and how much story I think may still need to be told, and I have no idea how I managed to write the first two. I'm not sure this third installment will ever be finished, but I probably said the same thing about the first two. One page at a time, I guess.

    Love the pic of your cat helping with the puzzle. My cat loves to help out like that, too.

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  29. Cats! My cat used to help me do my homework exactly the same way. hehehe

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  30. You are making progress!! Putting pressure on ourselves usually makes things worse, but, on the other hand, deadlines do help keep us moving. :-)

    It's so funny how cats always manage to plop themselves down in the most inconvenient (to us, not them) places.

    My mind spins 100 miles an hour as well, in showers, on walks, in bed, in situations with the least access to a keyboard or notepad and paper. I'm impressed with your ability to write those ideas down before it's too late.

    Thanks for co-hosting and congratulations on the release of "Voyagers", Ken!

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  31. Yes, showering helps me too. Some of my best ideas came to me in a shower.
    Love the photo of your cat in the jigsaw puzzle.

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  32. Yes, cats dedicate their lives to 'helping out.' Mine makes it his life's purpose to be in the exact place that is most annoying/inconvenient as possible. If, perchance, Hemi can make both hubs and me annoyed at the same time, well then, his life's mission is complete and it's time for a nap.

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  33. Hah! All those new puzzle people are making it difficult for us long-time puzzle to find our products! I actually usually work out the next scene in the shower too. 80 pages is a good start.

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  34. I wonder how many new books will come out of this COVID mess. It's made my life more difficult and for the first 4-5 weeks, I was working more than before. Hang in there (I lived in West Michigan for 10 years and love the state--especially the UP.

    www.thepulpitandthepen.com

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  35. Showers always work for me too and yes, if I don't rush to write it down I forget.
    Thank you so much for cohosting this month.

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  36. Loved the photo, Ken! What is it about cats and jigsaw puzzles? Every cat that multiple generations of my relatives have had loved to go after the puzzle pieces. I'm working on one that's making me nuts right now. I wish I had a cat to eat or hide a piece or two. Then I could give up.

    When I was teaching and my kids were groaning over a project that seemed overwhelming, I'd ask them how to eat an elephant. "One bite at a time," they'd reply. Then we'd look at how to break the task down into manageable chunks. Maybe focusing on just the next bite will help. This still helps me.

    Thanks for co-hosting! Take care!

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  37. It can be daunting facing a new writing project. But all we can do is take it one step at a time. I think that's why I love writing fast first drafts. They are messy, even ugly, but I'm writing so fast I don't have time to worry. It's easier to edit a mess, than it is an empty page.

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  38. I think that period of lull is common and you mustn't worry. Since the draft is already there, I'm sure it will work out soon.
    As I read about your inspiration in the shower I was just wondering how most people just hurry up with theirs. Actually it could be a good me time utilized productively. Thanks for co hosting.

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  39. I love that the cat's tail is in the air so your wife has space to do the puzzle.

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  40. I try not to think about words or pages until I've finished the story. You can always add, edit, or delete later.
    The picture of Smokey "helping" made me smile. Good times, those.
    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  41. Hi Ken. Good luck with writing the sequel novel, you'll get there, I'm sure. I have a lot of notebooks lying around the place, I'm always worried I'll forget something when it pops int o my head.

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  42. Taking showers is an interesting way to get into the zone. I'm not sure it would work for me. I can imagine that the thought of writing the entire book is daunting. How about looking at the small steps rather than the entire journey? Also, your wife is very brave to do a jigsaw puzzle with a cat around. Mine would scatter the pieces when the midnight energy spurt hits them.

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  43. Hi Ken,

    Don't STRESS about word count. Once you forget about that and just write your scenes, the thought of word count will go right out of your head. You will be amazed how quickly those other 220 pages will flow! Good luck with the sequel.... I have four more chapters to finish on a novel I started over two years ago...I believe the time it takes IS the time it takes... worthy writing doesn't have a time schedule. Stay safe!

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  44. It certainly looks like Smokey's a big help, haha. Good luck getting the sequel done.

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  45. Thanks for co-hosting! A blank is the worst. And getting to "the end" is just as bad. You would think to start with a blank slate would be freeing. Make it easier to fill up the page to reach "the end." If I didn't have music to get me into the ZONE, it'd take me a long,arduous time to get the writing flowing.

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  46. Thanks for co-hosting! I have had ideas pop up in the shower!

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  47. There's a speed writing link on my blog today. Maybe that will help. You can do it! I bet you'll write faster this time, regardless.

    Love the cat in the puzzle! That's cats for ya.

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  48. Speed isn't all it's cracked up to be. You're just going uphill at the moment anyway, so you have be in compound low. When you reach the top, you'll be able to coast all the way to those last pages.

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  49. I'm a month late, but...

    I get the issues with getting down the sequel. I've been working on mine for six years now and I'm already back where I first started, which is writing things from scratch. You'll get there, though. I know you will!

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