Writing at 20%

I have a weird writing pattern that seems to carry through just about any project I work on. I write about 20% of the book (maybe the first 40-50 pages), put the book down for six months, then write the rest in a flurry. The times and specifics vary slightly, but the pattern is the same.

It took four years to write my first novel, but most of it was in the last year. Every revision cycle of Surreality has had this ebb and flow, and right now I’m trying to push through it on The Sky Below.

Starting a project is never a problem, and ironically finishing it isn’t either. But there’s this bit in the middle where the pull of other things is strong, or you hit your first real roadblocks and suddenly it can be a slog.

The act of writing regularly isn’t so tricky, but writing the same thing day in and day out is.

Admittedly a little of why I was stalled on this specific chapter was dreading to read what I had written after two Diet Dr. Pepper and Maker’s doubles. I shouldn’t have worried. Sure in my haze I used the word antiseptic completely wrong, and there were some run-on portions, but generally speaking I liked the passage better than some of things I’ve written sober.

Now I’m not advocating for drunken writing all the time, but I do think that sometimes the appropriate action is to relax and just do it. I’ve had sections that were like squeezing blood from a turnip in rough draft, that become so much easier in revision because I’ve got the bones of something to work from.

20% is a spot where you stop and think if you really want to finish something. You’ve invested enough to get a real sense of what you’re doing, and hopefully where it’s going, but not so much that you’d feel like it was a waste to put it down. That’s what comes of writing hundreds of thousands of words, throwing away 20K seems pretty commonplace (and is actually a goal when you revise).

But generally speaking anything I’ve written that’s reached 20% has called out to me at some point and demanded to be finished. It may be a spot where I think I can stop, but I never really do.

The one nice thing about stopping at 20% instead of 50 or 60 is that it isn’t that hard to get back into the swing of things when you finally pick it up again. There’s only so much you have to read to get going, and there’s less to keep in your head that you have to remind yourself about.

That being said, I really want to try to write a book in a year that I can be happy with. So chapters may be late, but they’ll get done.

Chapter 9 should release tomorrow or Friday and hopefully it’ll really be two weeks till we see Chapter 10.

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