focusing on focus

Who needs a mindfulness app when you could just write a novel?

Novel writing continues apace. I will pass the halfway mark, word-count-wise, this week, which is thrilling. It really doesn’t take me that long to write the first draft of a novel once I have the ideas and the drive and the time to do it – usually around three months, and I could probably even cut that down if I had an externally imposed deadline. (Internal deadlines are fake and easy to ignore.) The second draft, however, takes me much longer, and I have to take a few weeks off in between so it gets out of my head a little.

It’s quite important to keep my focus on the draft right now – it’s a stupid mindfulness exercise, I suppose. I was telling my kids about how it’s going the other day, since they are deeply invested in it, and one of them suggested that I go back through what I have already and fix things for consistency. I explained that the way my brain works doesn’t allow me to do that. If I go back over what I’ve written, I’ll get bogged down in editing and incapable of continuing the draft. I write in Scrivener (it is such a neat program), so I label all the sections in each chapter as descriptively as possible, so if I have to go back to find out exactly how the protagonist’s mom explained her experiment, I can find it really quickly and don’t get stuck reading through the whole thing trying to find one word.

I also can’t think about the future. Like I said in a previous edition, I stop myself from obsessing over word choice and sentence structure and awkward dialogue for now, because that is what the painful second draft will deal with. It is a problem for future Annemarie. I also can’t think too much about the post-writing process of writing a query letter and trying to find an agent, a process I’ve attempted twice. It is a drag. I don’t know how to keep from getting my hopes up but I know that the chances of getting through agents’ slush piles is one in a million. I am actively working on my habit of being Chronically Online and Twitter is more of a disaster every minute, so I don’t know how to “build my brand,” a phrase that makes me break out in hives anyway. This newsletter might help me, if it goes beyond my loyal group of friends (hi friends!), but I have no idea how to make that happen. But this is exactly what I can’t get too obsessive about, because a of all, it is futile to just ruminate on it, and b of all, the draft is the focus right now. I can work on the other parts once the first draft has been cranked out and I am in my little break before I dive into the edit.

Writing and publishing a novel truly is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t make any sense to put myself through this whole process again, and yet here I am, because if I don’t try, I will regret it forever.

I forgot to put in these bits last week I think.

Currently reading: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. For a massive tome, it sure is zipping along. I am entranced. It also breaks the rule that the more made-up words a book has, the worse it is. It is high fantasy and excellent.

Currently listening: Lo-fi girl. I put her on full-screen on my second monitor and I swear it works like body doubling, and keeps me focused. Also I am singing the “if I were a fish and you caught me” song from Tiktok on a loop at all times.

Currently eating: nothing. Food is not my friend right now. I hate it when this happens. Thank goodness for smoothies with protein powder so that I at least get some nutrients.