The definition of progress does not, to my surprise, include backward movement. The definition of progress is to make forward momentum and movement toward a goal. In my mind, ESPECIALLY when applied to the pursuit of writing, progress is defined as forward AND backward movement. Do we not write 50,000 words to chop and hack it down to 20,000 and build it back up to 60,000+? Do we not create characters and subplots only to eliminate them entirely and create a whole new story line within a manuscript? Similarly, do we not take out a manuscript we’ve previously set aside, thinking that’s what was supposed to happen in this part of the journey, only to realize, nope, no that doesn’t feel right at all? Well, that was my experience this week anyway.
I’ve been deep in the process of hustling since the new year began, making mindful and steady progress toward the goals I’ve set for myself and the things I’m currently working on. I’ve been researching and querying agents who I’d love to partner with, enjoying time with my peer critique group and other tendrils of work related to, and dabbling in this first manuscript. I set about plotting out each act of the story with sticky-notes for each chapter, and I took notes on how I’d want to revise those chapters. And then, that old familiar wall came at me and stopped me in my tracks. It actually really disturbed me, because I felt differently approaching this story this time around, it called to me rather than I to it, and I enjoyed revisiting the characters and idea behind the story. Instead of judging myself (that nasty voice that wants to sabotage as its day-job) I let myself journal on it for awhile. Here’s what I realize. This story is the beginning of my work as a writer. It was what set me into motion on trying to create a world, on following a character and building their lives and histories. It’s where I played with what that looked like, where I tried to figure out how to get this world and these characters in my head out onto a page using words. That world and that manuscript isn’t a product of who I am as a writer now. It’s a map of that beginning piece of my journey. When I was able to put that into words, I could feel myself really and fully let it go. It’s a map I love to study, because it’s the beginning of my journey as a cartographer.
So, after I figured that out, I put that story back in the file cabinet and pulled out the manuscript that I’m going to work on revising next. This is the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. I am ridiculously excited to work on this story because I know the grief I was swimming in changed the way I put those words on the page. I wrote it as I was navigating the loss of my Papa, and while the basic journey of my characters is there, I also know that the journey I was going through is woven into it as well. It’s the right time now to go back into it. I took the time to fill out post-it notes for my plot board, which is turning out to be one of my new favorite tools, and familiarize myself with what I’ve done so far in the story. I want to do some journaling about certain relationships in the story I didn’t fully develop in the first draft to figure out how they’re going to happen in this next revision. I’m also going to read The Plot Whisperer this month, as it has been recommended to me by a couple of friends. I’m excited to read it, especially as I begun the journey of revising this story, and to see what kind of progress I make in the weeks to come.
How do you measure progress on your writing projects? What books are you reading or have read recently that have been valuable resources for your writing?