100 Days of Writing Begins

I ran across the 100DaysProject on Medium and it piqued my interest as I was already back in my groove of daily writing . I looked up the hashtag and saw that most of the projects existed in the visual realm. Though the visual fuels my writing, I deal in words and I’ve got Big Urgent Writing Goals to tend to. I thought about how to both write and document my process and came up with a plan of how to encompass a wider girth of inner creative challenges.

Here begins my 100 Days Project with an extra scoop of ‘outside my comfort zone’ thrown in.

First off, this is my writing schedule: I wake up at 6:30, jerry-rig my 10 millionth broken coffee maker, stop my dog from waking up my kids, write longhand for 20 minutes in my journal catching dreams and to do lists in its net, then focus on pushing my story forward.

Right now, I have two pieces of fiction in the works and a long finished and beloved work languishing in a drawer. I quit querying the finished piece after 20 rejections, 1 agent speed dating conference, a few writers conferences, and 1 promising but ultimately failed major publishing house consideration. It’s generally gotten desirable feedback but there’s one thorny issue of signposting with the book I just can’t solve. It’s a mystery I don’t want to reveal too much, but apparently I reveal too little and readers want more guidance. In the old days, it might have taken a passionate editor or agent to champion me and coach me along, but who has time to fix an unpublished writer’s conundrums these days? I still dream of finding that person. In the meantime, I’m doing what’s easier. Writing more.

I’m nearly done with a first draft of a novella? unfinished novel? about a monster-in-disguise and another about a girl who is transformed by a discovery she makes in the woods. I imagine that one as a Netflix series. I’m focusing on the monster story first as it’s closer to completion.

The past few days, I’ve focused on character development, namely a character named Cal who is my protagonist’s impromptu travel partner (I just stopped for 10 minutes to find the right word. Impromptu is not it but hey, this is the naked process.)

I ask myself these questions. Is character really simply to advance plot? What about character studies? What about supporting characters? It would be easier for me to be a non-fiction writer as I feel like I’m still figuring out what a story is. I’m not 100% sure what makes a story a story and not just, say, a recounting of events. To that end, I’ve picked up Stephen King’s The Stand. I much prefer literary fiction in general but as Stephen King wrote one hell of a book on writing, honestly my favorite on the topic (even among some of my most beloved writers on writing like Annie Dillard, one of my favorite writers, period), King is largely considered to be the master storyteller of our time, and The Stand is thought to be one of his best. Half way through, I’m turning pages and hooked on plot but turned off by the racist epithets and rampant stereotyping. That aside, the story architecture is arguably flawless. Each character is built up and considered over 200 pages or so before they’re subjected to a choice between good and evil (I assume, I’m on the precipice of this second half) and I’d like to have the same clear logic and pacing and craft in my own work.

I tend to start with an image that comes out of nowhere about 10 minutes into a free write. I build a scene out of that. Yesterday I saw the two characters of my monster story scaling a huge mound of dirt stockpiled during the leveling of land in a forest. I saw dirt under their nails and the loose soil giving way making it difficult to summit. I started to see what they saw on the other side. I then realized the perfect symmetry with the books title in that image.

One hurdle to overcome, I don’t share my fiction beyond my writers groups. I don’t know what stops me. A lot of friends and strangers have asked to read my book. I say yeah, sure, then never send it. I’m afraid. It’s a pretty vainglorious paranoia. Like they’re going to let it out into the ether and someone will steal it and publish it as their own. Even worse, someone will take parts of it, make it better, and publish it. That’s probably more like it. It’s a deep seated fear that I’m almost a great writer but lack the planning and vision to make a seamless finished piece. The Search Engine Optimization on my Imagination... But enough boring self-criticism. Part of my 100 Days is to work in tandem on another creative goal: sewing.

I can not sew every day but I will put one foot in front of the other to learn the skill of sewing and see where the writing and sewing inform one another or intersect at the end of the 100 days. I like the idea that I’m not supposed to be good at sewing as I’ve never done it so I won’t ask perfection of myself. Just that I stay patient with myself and take steps. So far, I’ve learned how to thread the needle, fill the bobbin, turn a corner without making a thread nest, and make a button hole. Let’s see how the next 100 day goes. I have some ideas. I’ll update here as much as I can while making room for the writing first.

See you there!

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter and read my non-fiction pieces here on Medium published on my page, P.S. I Love You, and The Start Up, my most popular being one on choosing yourself after choosing losers, and my favorites being Let It Happen — Reflections on the Death of My Father, and recent explorations into carving a Future in pandemic times and Race in America.

Creative writer and strategist / storyteller for brands. VP of Marketing at tech company. You can find me at www.chaunceyzalkin.com and www.slcontentstudio.com

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