Project #2 – Research, Planning, Research Again

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, the majority of what’s been going on between the last update and this one has revolved around research and planning. At this very moment, I’ve been dedicating my weekdays to Project #1 and my weekends to Project #2. It’s a great balance because I get the evenings and days off to work on Project #1 which will hopefully be my debut novel, and then I get the weekends to immerse myself entirely in Project #2, so I get to move from one to the other, which keeps things feeling fresh because I don’t grow tired of being in one world. It’s not that I get bored easily, particularly not when it comes to writing, I just have a lot of stories in my head, and being absorbed for months on end in only one would destroy my creative spirit.

There are times where I’ll be working on one project and I’m really invested in what’s going on, and then I’m meant to switch over. Obviously, there’s no law demanding that, should I want to continue researching Project #2, I absolutely can’t because it’s a Monday, and there have been a couple of occasions where I had one or two more things I needed to do in certain areas, so I would continue, but I try to resist doing that. Discipline is so important in writing, and ensuring I stick to these schedules I’ve created is crucial. Having discipline is how you get novels finished. I think anyone can be a writer, but not everyone can finish a novel, and making sure you have discipline is a big distinction between the two.

There’s five whole days between weekends, and sometimes I’m doing other things that mean, for some weekends, I can only work on Project #2 for a Sunday evening. Whilst this implies some of the progress could have been sped up, I don’t want to rush. If things take a little longer than planned or hoped for, sometimes that’s just the way it is.

In March, I finished the second draft of the first book for Project #2, and I love giving projects the room to breathe. It’s such a crucial part of drafting, letting something sit for a while. If you constantly go in, do draft after draft with no space in between, I think that opens you up to a lot of hazards. If you’ve got certain issues with something, taking time away is sometimes the only way to rectify that. It also means, when you eventually go back after a few weeks, months, maybe even years if you really need to give something some time to breathe, you’re refreshed, you often come back with a better perspective, and you can see things differently. When it comes to issues, you might be able to find new avenues to rectify them because you’ve given it space. Sometimes, you might even come back and not think there were any issues before you left, but you suddenly see loads.

That’s actually a good thing, and another reason why space is so beneficial. If you go in, draft after draft after draft, you don’t or can’t always see what is going wrong or what could be improved. Having space and coming back, you can see sentences that don’t work, you can figure out ways to bridge between plot elements that you didn’t have before, you can rework scenes that you thought were perfect but, upon a reread, have kinks that need working out. And I love that, I love strengthening something after having time away.

These past four months have had dual purpose, then. The first was that I had finished a draft and I needed some time to let it sit, to not be writing and reading, and letting it just exist in the back of my mind. The second purpose was because, like I mentioned in the last update for this project, there were things that needed work. This is a world I have built, and there are so very many nuances to building a world. So, these four months have included a lot of research and building to make sure that, when I came back and started on the next draft, I had a stronger grasp on the world this exists within.

This has included religions and faiths, countries and cultures, background elements and making sure each aspect of plot fits in with the wider scope. It has meant creating characters, family trees, important events in history, flashes of scenes and dialogue that will need to exist in the future so they relate back to the present. There’s been months of planning, sitting at my computer or with my phone on my lap as I write and write and write, and think and think and think. There’s been a lot of macro in terms of creation and decisions, and it’s been daunting, but it’s also so much fun. I really think there’s very little as satisfying as the lightbulb going off just before bed and scrambling for a piece of paper or a notebook because you’ve just had a thought that makes something you’ve been struggling with make sense and fit. I also adore making a decision or realising something that makes me inhale and feel a bit like I’ve created something incredible. I think a lot of research and planning is self-congratulatory, and it’s important to acknowledge the good decisions you make.

So much of the planning is never seen. A lot of books are read just as the finished, finalised, idealised product. As a writer, I think it can be a little disheartening sometimes when you read a book and you wonder at how the author managed to create something so amazing. That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge a book is not only the words you see, but it’s thousands of cut words, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of planning and outlining, context you might know and context you probably have no idea about whatsoever. A book is never just the 100,000 (or much less or much more) words you hold in your hand. So, congratulating yourself for making decisions in the background, even if some of those might never be seen on paper (or an electronic device) is super important. Committing to a novel or a series is a lot of work, so acknowledging all the progress you make along the way is vital to enjoying the entire process.

What’s interesting is that I’ve been working and researching for so long, I’m almost intimidated to come back and start writing and editing again. It’s been over four months, and some people leave things even longer, so I can’t imagine the intimidating feeling that leaves some with.

Because I’ve created and made decisions regarding plot, and I have these characters who feel so concrete, and this world is impressive and grand, actually going in, making changes, writing this story, I want to do justice to all these months of decisions I’ve made, and that’s daunting. I will be quite honest and say I don’t think this project is going to come out for years. That might mean these updates are quite teasing, but Project #2 feels enormous, and because I want to make it the absolute best that it can be, that’s going to take some time. I did start writing again last week, easing myself gently back into this world, and I can’t wait to start writing fully once more, but I can’t deny that I feel a touch intimidated because I want it to be perfect. I’ve said before that I don’t think art can exist in a state of perfection, but I want this to be as close to that concept as possible, and acknowledging that is equal parts exciting and frightening.

Even though I am intimidated by the scope of this wonderful thing, I am so excited to be writing and existing in the micro again. We’ve only just started, and given I only write on the weekends for Project #2, it’ll be slow going. We’ve just had a heatwave in the UK, and sitting at my laptop has not be favourite thing in the world, but now that it’s over, I can dedicate more time to being in this world and writing again.

Draft three, here we go!

Robyn x

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