How #1000WordsofSummer Improved My Draft

Jami Attenberg’s #1000WordsofSummer writing challenge ended on Sunday, and in those two weeks I added 14,013 words to the novel draft I am currently calling A Coincidence of Doors.

I’ll be realllll up-front about it: not all of those words were great. Some of the 1000-word writing sessions helped me understand my characters better, others helped me clarify elements of the plot, and others… um… well, they felt like I was typing words for the sake of typing words.

Like, I knew that I needed to add more description to the conversation my characters were having, but I couldn’t come up with anything and the time I’d set aside for writing was running out, so I’d revert to cliches or type “HE SMILED” for the way-too-manyth time.

At one point, I literally (pun intended) wrote the following:

“And the luggage,” Grace said, still assuming she had a role to play.

“We don’t have a door large enough,” Mya said, playing her opposing role.

But I also wrote some stuff I’m really happy with, and I got the draft to a place where—well, it’s not quite a finished first draft, I still have to write the ending and a few short scenes in the middle, but I’m going to go ahead and move the project into what I’ll call Second Draft Stage.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to begin going over A Coincidence of Doors section by section, looking at everything from worldbuilding to word choices. I’m also going to examine the arcs I currently have written into the book: where does the conflict intensify, and where does it release? How do the smaller conflicts get resolved, and how do they relate to the larger conflict at the center of the story? Does every action have an equal and opposite reaction?

I still have a lot of work to do on this book, especially in the second half when our characters find themselves on the other side of the titular door (this is not a spoiler, you can’t write a portal fantasy without having the characters go through the portal at some point).

The first half feels like the stuff I do really well: close-range, intimate family moments in a realistic setting and a specific time period.*

The second half feels like WAIT DID I REALLY MEAN TO WRITE A BOOK WHERE I HAD TO CREATE AN ENTIRE WORLD FROM SCRATCH, WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, OH DEAR.

But I figure I’ll learn something from writing this regardless of what happens, and I hope what I learn will be good enough to share with the rest of you. ❤️

*I did realize, during the Democratic Debates, that if I don’t get this book into the world quickly enough I might have to rework the whole thing, the same way I had to rework The Biographies of Ordinary People after the 2016 election. Like, this story would be very different if we had a better healthcare system. However, in the long run I’d rather have better healthcare for everyone than the current draft of my book, sooooooo LET’S MAKE THAT HAPPEN, OKAY?

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