Nancy: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


Yes, I know the saying is ‘one step forward, two steps back’, but that indicates lack of progress, and today I want to celebrate progress! As you’ve probably noticed from the recent posts on the blog, several of the ladies (including yours truly) have been diligently been working toward the goal of writing a new and improved, shiny and updated draft of the first acts of our WIPs. Mine required writing some brand-new scenes, revising some existing scenes to be told from a different point of view, and tying it all together. Sure, stitching together all those disparate parts made it resemble Frankenstein’s monster, waiting for the lightning strike to spark life in it. But still, PROGRESS! And CELEBRATION! And HAPPY DANCE!

The writers’ afterglow lasted all of eight hours, and I had slept through six of them. I was in the shower when scenes started replaying in my head, turning over to reveal flaws, forgotten plans, and (lord help us) so much sitting and chatting! Some of my fellow ladies have talked about scenes with their characters sipping tea and chatting about the story. Just to be different, and maybe to start an insomnia epidemic, I gave my characters coffee for their chats. In no less than three different scenes.

It also occurred to me that I had a really integrated plan for introducing character Sarah’s talent for card counting, which I proceeded to ignore completely when I wrote the darn thing. When I did mention card counting (and yes, it was in a sitting and chatting scene), I used it in reference to poker, when in fact my character will use it when playing Black Jack. Who knows what other problems I’ll see when I go back to the file to reread it in a few days.

But here’s the good part (progress, remember?). I recognized these major flaws in Act I within eight hours. So I have 30k words of a reasonably progressing and escalating first act, a lot of issues to fix, and the ability to recognize and address them. Two, steps forward, one step back.

What steps forward have you taken on your writing or creative project recently? What steps back have you taken, and what’s your plan for fixing the problems?

6 thoughts on “Nancy: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. I admit, I often had my characters sitting around drinking a world-wide variety of teas. Part of it was because I wanted some tea, but also, people talk when they are drinking tea. I think it’s a valuable thing in early drafts — the Girls (through your characters) are telling you some important things! Coffee, ditto. And if they all sit around with strawberry daiquiris and tequila shooters, well, you might hear some *really* interesting things, and see some misguided actions, too (-:.

    In my first draft, my characters needed several bottles of wine to start thinking it would be a good idea to confront the djini Hadiz in the caves. And it’s a *great idea* to confront Hadiz in the caves . . . just I have to think of something other than alcoholic-fueled stupidity to get them there (-:.

    • I remembered that you had tea-sipping scenes, but not the wine scene:). I think we gravitate to writing those kinds of scenes because sharing food and drink is short-hand to our brains signaling bonding. I’m not going to completely eliminate my characters sharing coffee, or as is often the case in my book, cocktails (Maddie owns a bar, after all). I just need to find other interesting and character- or plot-developing things for them to do at the same time.


  2. I managed to achieve an important personal non-writing goal recently, and (fingers crossed) it seems to be going well, which means I’m finally in a good place to work out my writing ambitions for the rest of the year and set myself some goals.

    Goal, really. One honker of a goal: I want to have my story edited and ready to query no later than my birthday, which is a few days before Christmas. My husband is taking me to a fancy restaurant and I’d like to celebrate knowing I’m ready to take the next step. I have no idea whether I can do it, but it’s a juicy target and I’m going to give it my best shot.

    • You can do it, Jilly! Or at least, by shooting for that target, you’ll be so much closer to doing it. I like birthday-related goals. I should imagine that with a year-end birthday, achieving goals at that time puts you in a really good place when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. You’ve just done something, so there’s not so much panic when it comes to formulating those January goals . . . . At least, so I imagine.

  3. Oh Lord, Nancy, you hit the nail on the head. I’ve gone from thinking my Act I is brilliant to trash. It’s neither of course, it’s a first draft that needs a TON of work, but I’m also seeing the problems and can fix them (later…much, much later). Still, it’s scary stuff when you realize that you’ve got a couple of story craters (story holes are for sissies…) to fix.

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