Agile / Writing

Writing Progress 3/2/13: Going to dark places

Well, it’s been two weeks since my last writing update, and I’m hopelessly behind getting part 3 of my Agile series completed. I do still plan on completing it, but am not sure when; thankfully, it’s my novel writing that is pushing it back.

A part of the Agile process is a “Sprint Retrospective”, where you look back at the last iteration to discuss what went right, what went wrong, and how things might be improved in the future. I plan on using these writing updates for that purpose; at the end of each 2-week sprint I will gather my thoughts and update my loyal fans (Hi mom!) on my progress.

I left the end of last sprint almost finished with chapter 1, having written about 5000 words total. This sprint, I finished chapter 1, reworked the prologue, and find myself about a third of the way through chapter 2. I have written around 2500 words this sprint; half as much as last time, but to be honest, the writing tasks were far more difficult. More on that later. I also thought up, spec’d out and created tasks for a few new scenes for later consideration. Finally, I identified new chores – writing related – that I need to work on to make my writing time go more smoothly.


  • The first chapter consists mostly of dialog and setting up the plot devices that will be used throughout the rest of the book. The second chapter begins the meat, though; action, multiple settings and complicated descriptions. This writing is far more difficult.
  • I find myself grasping for the words to describe the things in my head. I have tried online sources such as and VisuWords, but have not yet found a good source for exploring word choices. One chore I’ve set for next sprint is to identify tools to help with words and phrasing.
  • Describing things that exist only in your head is HARD. My novel contains elements of the supernatural, demanding descriptions of visual phenomena that are unique (as far as I know). It took four tries to get the first paragraph of chapter 2 to express the vision in my head correctly. Out of my five hours of writing this week, more than two hours were spent devising those 200 words.
  • My book goes into some pretty dark places; I had to write a scene of cruelty and violence this week that is totally against my nature. My stomach churned and I almost felt like crying while writing the scene, and that shocked me., as I am not an overtly emotional person. I even tried to soften it up at times, but it made the scene less real; became obvious to me that I could not go halfway. The destination that I’m guiding the reader to – which is intended to be glorious – will lose its effect if the reader does not travel through the darkness. You must experience the pain to fully grasp the intended joy. I am nervous because this is only the first such scene I must write, and definitely not the darkest one.
  • There is a constant need to “invent” things such as settings and characters. I have been going back through my own experience for this. I am worried about describing places or people that actually exist; the last thing I want to do is offend somebody. The strategy I’m using is to merge characteristics from two or more things to make them unique. For example, one extremely unpleasant character was constructed using attributes from three people from my past, none of whom is unpleasant. If I finish this book and somebody thinks a character is them, two things: 1) it might be a little, and 2) it’s not you!

I’m not sure how much writing I’ll get done in the next two weeks. I’ve allocated 10 hours per two weeks so far; I worked about 10 hours the first spring and 6 hours this sprint (so far, I may not be done for the day). I won’t ascribe an official velocity – the amount of time I am able to finish per sprint on average – until after the next two sprints. I’m hoping I’ll discover a better rhythm by then.

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