Beginning to Write, Again

When I wrote about playing the long game recently, I said at the time that I wouldn’t really begin working on something new until September. When I wrote it, I thought it would take me longer to come up with a plan of execution. I also realized I was hedging a bit. Why wait, if things began falling into place.

I think things have finally started to fall into place. I know what I want to write about. I have a plan for completing a draft in what I think is a reasonable amount of time. I have a method for tracking my progress. All I really need to do is get started.

I am going into this trying to learn from my previous mistakes. A big change is in what I think of a the “pre-production” phase of writing. With short fiction I’ve always had an idea, an idea for how the thing might end, and I’d just start writing. No real planning. I also did this with the first novel draft I wrote back in 2013. This time around, I am trying to be more strategic.

For one thing, I learned from the first novel draft attempt, as well as the many failed attempts since, that flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me when writing at that length. I have therefore been jotting notes down. I’ll be continuing to do this, putting together a kind of skeleton of the story, more so that I understand the gaps and know how to fill them. So while I am considering today my first “official” day on this project, there may not be any writing beyond notes.

For another thing, I’m trying to keep things simple. I often get bogged down with the tools I use, building all sorts of elaborate means of tracking what I write. Not this time. I’m writing everything using Obsidian, story, notes, and anything else. I’m treating it the way I treat software projects, committing my changes to a git repo each day. If I want to go back and get information about my writing, I can use git’s functionality to do that. Finally, I’m keeping a log book that I think might be handy when working on a second draft.

I do have a schedule. It’s the only way I can work on something like this. I’m giving myself 4 months to complete the first draft. Call it 120 days. I’ve given myself a goal of 1,000 words/day with a target of 100,000 words. But 1,000 x 120 = 120,000, so what gives right? Like on a software project, I’ve built a 20% buffer into my schedule so that things don’t get too stressful if I don’t hit my goal on some days. Sometimes, the writing just doesn’t come. Indeed, my initial plan is to write 6 days a week, giving me a day off each week. I may write on my day off, but I won’t feel compelled to do this.

One thing I won’t be doing is talking about what I am writing about. I get that people are curious. But I am one of those writers who lose interest in what I am writing if I talk about it. I want to save everything for the page.

So there you have it. If all goes well, I will report on or about the end of September 2021 that I have completed the first draft of this first novel in this reboot of my writing career. Fingers crossed!

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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