Writing Is a Muscle

I’m dusting off the blog for a pretty exciting reason:

I’ve written a new manuscript!

If you’re just stumbling across this page and you know nothing about me, here’s some important context: I started drafting my last manuscript, now known as A Sweet Unrest, in November 2018, and I finished revising it in March 2022. That is a really long time to be working on one book, and I’m incredibly proud of the final product.

But over those four-ish years, I also felt a lot of anxiety about how long it took me to write and finish the book, especially because I didn’t work on any other writing projects during that time.

Oh, I tried. I fiddled around with some novel ideas as well as some serialized fiction ideas, but I was never able to make any headway. Even if I tried to write something else, I kept getting pulled back to A Sweet Unrest. I don’t necessarily think it was a bad thing that I was so focused on getting it just right, but the longer I worked on it, the more anxious I got about the fact that I wasn’t writing anything else.

Whenever I thought about drafting something new, I would feel this creeping sense of dread. What if I spent so much time revising that I’d forgotten how to draft? The idea of coming up with an entirely new story from scratch instead of working to perfect an existing one started to feel nigh on impossible.

And then I finished A Sweet Unrest. There was nothing left on my to-do list other than to query it, and I thought, “Finally, I can work on something new.” I was excited about the prospect of a new project, but also really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Unfortunately, those nerves weren’t completely unwarranted.

At the beginning of April, I wrote around 3,000 words on a new project, and then just stopped. Things weren’t feeling right, and I didn’t see a way forward. Every few days I would think about sitting down to try and write through the block, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. By the end of April, I’d pretty much given up, and for the next few months, I didn’t do any writing.

I worried a lot about writing. I obsessed over the fact that I wasn’t writing. Writing is a huge part of my identity, and yet, I wasn’t doing it. What did that say about me, and what kind of person I am if I’m not a writer?

It was a pretty stressful time to be inside my brain. But July rolled around, and with it came Camp NaNoWriMo, and I decided that I would give it one more go. I had an idea that I thought I could get some mileage out of, and I figured if I could just build a new writing routine, I could get it to stick.

And it worked!

Although, not right away.

My word count goal for the month was pretty modest — 15,000 words, or 500 words a day — and at the beginning, it was like pulling teeth. Most days, I didn’t write, and if I did manage to log some words, my totals were often only 200 or 300 words.

But it was still writing. With about a week left in July, I still had around 7,000 words to meet my goal, and I really, really wanted to meet it. I still wasn’t totally feeling the manuscript yet, but I told myself if I powered through and hit 15,000 words, I could tell myself I’d at least made a solid effort, and if I wanted to shelve it, then I could at least say I tried.

By the time I hit 15k on July 31, I’d finally gotten in a groove. I took the first couple of weeks in August off of writing to flesh out a short outline, and after that, I finally started writing in earnest.

My goal was, initially, to finish the first draft of this project by the end of October, but I had a couple of really productive weekends at the end of August, and I decided to be ambitious: finish by the end of September. It would require writing around 60,000 words over the course of six weeks, which is more than I’d written in the past three years combined by a wide margin.

Of course, you read the beginning of this post, so you already know the outcome: I finished the draft!

It’s a hot mess, but it’s done. Considering that in April, I was convinced that I’d never write another book, I’m just pleased that it exists.

This whole experience has really driven home the fact that writing is a muscle. If you don’t exercise your writing skills, you’ll have to build up your strength. By the end of September, I was pretty consistently clocking 2000- and 3000-word days. Compare that to those early July days when I was struggling to get 200 words down.

Keeping that in mind, my goal is to get better at multitasking. I don’t regret the time I spent revising A Sweet Unrest, but I also don’t want to get into a situation where I go so long without working on new writing, and that means learning to juggle writing and revisions.

I’m going to spend October thinking about a revision plan for this new project, but also coming up with an outline for the book I’m planning on writing during NaNoWriMo this month. Now that my writing muscles are toned, it would be a shame not to use them!

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