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2014 is the first year I’ve made a concerted and extended effort to write with the goal of having something published. I had written a script years ago, fiddled around with another, and dabbled in other miscellaneous activities, but this was my first real effort to do Something.

The effort has given mixed, but generally positive, results. I’ve learned quite a bit, I think, though most of them will be better applied to The Rewrite(s) or the next project, than the draft I’m currently working on.

1) Writing every day is huge. Before this past year or so, I’d had projects lying around that I knew I needed to work on, but couldn’t get started on or keep going. By my best guess, I wrote at least two out of every three days on average in the last twelve months. That number might be closer to three out of four days, or even five of seven, but my manual record keeping makes counting things up pretty exhausting.

However, my gut tells me that I did pretty well in this area, but I could do better. Between Journal, Blog, and Novel, I figure I produced somewhere around 300,000 words over the course of the year, the majority of that (200k+) on The Novel. If I’d written every day, or closer to it, that number might have reached 400k.

2) Allowing enough time per session. When I gave myself at least an hour to write, my production was solid – typically in the neighborhood of 1,000 words. Writer’s block wasn’t ever really a problem, but I found that with proper time and writing a passage I was really interested in, 1500 words wasn’t unheard of. However, when I didn’t allow myself a suitable interval to write in, especially when I struggling with the content, it was hard to get 500 words down.

3) Outlining. When I wrote the first draft for the The Script, I spent several hours outlining and organizing it. As a result, that first draft went pretty quickly. I finished it in a couple of weeks at the most. It was certainly crap, but I had a ‘finished’ product in my hands that I could adjust and refine.

I haven’t made an outline for The Novel, and I regret it. I’m approaching 900 pages and expect to have another 100 at the minimum before it’s done. I knew going into it that ‘discovery writing’ might produce a lot of material that wouldn’t make it into the second draft, but I fear as much as half of what I’ve committed to paper is going to get tossed. At best, I’ll be able to split it into the three or four separate books and keep most of it. We’ll have to see, but I think there has been a lot of writing that will end up going to waste, unless we can count them as ‘practice pages’ that will make whatever my next project is better than it otherwise would have been.

4) Objective Feedback. This has been a grand and glorious thing. I sent The Script out to a couple of Trusted Readers for review. That was both difficult and invigorating. I sent the copies out with no preamble or explanation, just a terse ‘read this, please’. What I got back was hard at first to read, as it was my first experience since college of having my work read by critical eyes. Once I remembered to separate Myself from My Work, it got easier. I found the criticism to be most helpful. Parts I thought were clear, weren’t. Things I was sure worked, didn’t. Other things I didn’t like so much received positive feedback. It is a good thing to see your work through someone else’s eyes. Once I’m done with this draft of The Novel (if it ever ends) I will go back again through The Script and apply what I learned.

The key thing here is that you have to treat the feedback as objectively as you’ve asked your Trusted Readers to review your work. It isn’t personal – it’s (if you’re lucky, as I was) an honest effort by them to make your piece better, which is exactly what you wanted and hoped for.

Those were the big things from the past year. There were a few minor things, such as buying things in bulk when they’re on sale; expensive isn’t necessarily better, especially when dealing with pens; and Pandora can be your best friend, but those are minor details that I chalk up to preference rather than hard and fast rules, if there is such a thing when it comes to writing.

The last observation is about this blog. I made a good run of it, especially in the middle part of the year when I was able to commit more time to it than I have lately. If you’re going to have a blog, it needs to receive as much dedication as your primary writing project does. More than anything else, the blog has been put lower on the priority list because of holidays, work, sickness, the World Cup, and the like. I will endeavor to pay it the attention it deserves in the coming year. It shan’t be easy, but nothing that is worthwhile ever is.

Thank you again to everyone who reads this and has followed my Adventures in the past year, and thanks in advance to those who chose to stay with me in the coming year.

~James

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