Shelley Widhalm

Inside look at a writer’s writing process

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Novels on September 20, 2015 at 5:00 am

Typically, I blog about writing processes and the elements of writing and storytelling, as well as what I think about the writing life and my reflections on writing.

I thought this week, I’d do something a little different and reveal snippets of my journal on my reflections of writing my current novel project, which is about an unhappy waitress who wants to be a musician but is stuck from underlying, ignored trauma.

In early June I journaled: I want to write another novel, but I’m a little stuck. I know I’ll work through this and will figure out the steps I need to take. I feel a little lost. I feel like I need to be writing, but specifically, what do I write?

June 29: I ended up writing 650 words in my novel, if that’s what it is, and reached 2,000 words (including a few notes). It was a struggle to write, but I made myself keep going, and I came up with a few words.

June 30: I wasn’t going to write, but I figured I should try. I wrote 300 words.

July 1: I finally got past my writer’s block. I didn’t even know if what come out was any good, but here it came, all at once, the sound and feel of the words carrying the fury of the soul. I wrote 1,050 words, and I loved it.

July 2: I worked on my novel (I wrote 425 words).

July 5: I sat out on the balcony with my dog, Zoey, to work on my novel and wrote 1,750 words, feeling like I was done and couldn’t write more without forcing it. It’s the most I’ve written in one sitting for this novel. I’m now at 6,000 words. It seems like it’s a slow process, and I’m not sure, exactly, where I’m going with this one, but I do feel more anchored when I write.

July 9: I met my friend, Sarah, at the Coffee Tree for a write-in, where I worked on my novel. I wrote 750 words.

July 15: I wrote 1,000 words. I felt better about myself and life, because I could do it and feel like I had a purpose and a direction, even if I’m still not exactly sure where my story’s heading.

July 23: I worked on my novel, but only had 45 minutes. I wrote 560 words.

July 24: I went to the LoCo Artisan and wrote 830 words and now am at 10,000 words. I figured out a couple of the scenes and felt better about where I was going with the novel.

July 25: I took Zoey with me to the Coffee Tree to work on my novel. I stayed for three hours, spending one-and-a-half hours on the novel and writing 1,900 words.

Aug. 4: I met Sarah at the Coffee Tree and worked on my novel. I wrote 1,650 words, and it felt like the words were flowing, and I had fun writing. I felt more centered and calmer after I wrote, and it felt like I was heading somewhere with my novel.

Aug. 5: I wrote 400 words, because I didn’t have much time, maybe about 45 minutes. It was nice to sit outside on a slightly cooler day and be next to Zoey, just doing writing. That’s the life I really want.

Aug. 9: I went Dazbog to work on my novel. I wrote 1,500 words in two hours.

Aug. 10: I went to the LoCo Artisan with Zoey along and worked on my novel. I wrote 1,100 words in one-and-a-half hours.

Aug. 12: I went to the Coffee Tree to meet Sarah and worked on my novel. I wrote 1,250 words in one-and-a-half hours, bringing me to 18,000 words.

Aug. 16: I worked on my novel. It was a struggle, but I kept pushing through. I wrote 445 words in 30 minutes and then figured I’d do better at it the next day (I just didn’t feel the magic but was able to leave off at a good starting place).

Aug. 17: I went to the LoCo Artisan, where I worked on my novel by identifying character and setting traits because at nearly 20,000 words, I’m forgetting little details. I then realized the work I struggled to do yesterday was lost. This is the third time I lost stuff with this computer. I wasn’t happy about it.

Aug. 19: After work, I took Zoey out and met Sarah at the Coffee Tree for our write-in. I wrote 440 words, basically the same number I lost, and I recalled most of the scene, so I felt better about things.

Aug. 20: I went to the LoCo Artisan to work on my novel. As I wrote, it felt like my novel was slowly unfolding where I just sat down and wrote, writing one thing after another. Things were getting set up, and then the spilling out of one thing after another guided me, and I imagined my setting, and it all started coming out. I wrote nearly 1,000 words in one-and-a-half hours.

Aug. 23: I took Zoey with me to Starbucks and worked on my novel for two-and-a-half hours, stopping for pet-Zoey breaks, because she’s an attention magnet. I wrote 2,150 words, feeling good about letting it pour out and unfold as the characters worked out the storyline. It’s like you write something and then you think of what to write next, and on it goes as words or images pop in your head to be written down.

Aug. 24: I went to the LoCo Artisan to sit outside to work on journaling and my novel. I wrote 1,500 words in one-and-a-half hours. It’s odd how fiction bubbles underneath with truth. It’s like I’m telling the truth of my story with lots of made up characters and plot happenings.

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  1. You know, I feel the need to comment. I don’t really have a lot to add to this, aside from the fact that it spoke to me. In writing my own novel, I have days exactly like these that you have described.

    In a way, it is good just knowing that I’m not treading water, as is often the case. I just made it to the 1/4 mark for my target word count of 110,000 words, and it feels like such a milestone.

    Small steps, eh?

    • Sometimes I do feel like I tread water, not knowing where my project is headed, even if I do plan. It’s such a big undertaking writing a novel, creating a new world and committing to working on that world.

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