2019 Novel-Writing Challenge, Week 5

Hello from Philadelphia! Week 5 is done — and I’m now more than halfway through my minimum overall word count! I’m now at 26,980 words. Bit by bit, chunk by chunk, I’m getting closer to calling my work a novel.

I’m starting to realize that 50,000 words may not be enough, which is both scary and exciting. There’s both a sense of “Oh, man, when will this thing ever be done?” and the Obama-era “Yes, we can!”

I’m eager to spend more time with my protagonist and her supporting cast — and to tell everyone’s stories — and, along the way, thanks to my world-building research, I’m learning the answers to lots of questions I never thought I’d ask, like “What are the different types of lava flow?” and “How do you fly an autonomous drone?”

I’ve also been thinking more, during the past few weeks, about the interactions between my characters. When I jump backwards to update previous scenes I’m written, I focus on finding ways to increase the tension between characters, take a relationship in a new direction, or offer a new revelation. For me, that’s one of the most fun parts about this project. (In case anyone here’s curious, handy articles like this one offer some great tips).

While I’m excited about where all of it’s headed, I’ve also noticed that I’m not feeling as motivated to write each day as I did during month one. It’s become far easier for the voice inside my head to say, “Oh, you’ve had a rough day, so just take a night off!” or “You’ve done such a good job sticking to your goal already. Give yourself a break!”

When it comes to writing, or working out, or even getting to bed at a decent hour, I’m typically terribly inconsistent. I procrastinate. I skip a day. I get off the treadmill after ten minutes instead of twenty. I aim for instant gratification rather than slower, more solid achievement.

But, over the past few years, I’ve developed an appreciation for steady, incremental growth. Five years ago, I never pictured myself working in tech. Then, after a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hard work, I found myself on a new path. I’m a couple of years into my software engineering career at this point — and, in addition to building software, have published articles on Hacker Noon, taught web development courses, given talks at meetups, mentored new developers, and helped found an organization to support women and non-binary individuals in tech — but the fact that I get paid to write code every day still sometimes feels completely absurd.

It’s time I applied the work ethic that got me here to my first love: Storytelling.

Even as I aim to be tough as nails on that voice in my head, I try to end each week with a spirit of celebration. Each week that I make it through, having written just a little every day, feels like a victory.

So, today, I’m eating brunch in Philadelphia with my favorite scientist, and tomorrow afternoon, after flying back to Boston, I’ll play a vicious game of dodgeball and then drink beer with my team. This weekend is my chaotic version of self-care: Full of good people and stimulating experiences, and great for my creativity and mood.

I look forward to seeing what the next week of writing brings!


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