The plan, the challenge

As you may know, I’ve switched to working on the potential-novella referred to as M. I read the opening I wrote several years ago and felt somewhat overawed by how awesome the idea was, and wondered why I stopped. I can honestly say it was because I hadn’t plotted any of the story out besides the general idea; it slowed me right down, and I can see that, now. At the time, I just drifted onto other projects that had more immediate appeal, without ever realising what was holding me back.

While the ideas for this story were still there, they needed a lot of developing. And as my last blog entry covered, the strange little ideas I’d worked out, and the interesting plot directions I wanted to use have finally started to make sense as a whole story. I got excited and I have begun planning out the plot properly. The best part about doing this is always knowing what to write next. Once this is sorted, I can sit down and throw whatever words I want at the page. Editing will be challenging, but the important part is always finishing that first draft.

My plan is to have the overall plot finalised, to whatever extent I usually do, by the end of this week. Then starting Sunday, I intend on writing like a maniac (or if you’re a fan of Dear Sugar, writing like something else!). Novellas clock in around 40,000 words in length. I want to hit that in two weeks. Madness? Oh, yes. With my lifestyle, most certainly. And that’s precisely what draws me to it.

I have always been inspired by challenges. Put some kind of ridiculous deadline in my head and I want to tackle it wholeheartedly, just to see if I can. Looking over my writing records for TDM, I don’t often reach 3,000 words a day, but where’s the fun in it if I already know I can manage ~2,000? I could do it in a month, but two weeks? We’ll have to see.

There’s always the distinct possibility that I will get directed, bored, or grumpy with this whole plan before it’s finished. You guys can always call me on it if my happy little word counter isn’t rising daily.



Schedules, part two

So, I talked about using a good schedule system, one that works for you. But something I didn’t cover is missed days.

We all have missed days. Maybe we get sick, or we take a family vacation. As a writer, I can be dedicated, but I can’t drop everything just to write on a day when it’s truly inconvenient to.

To account for this in my overall scheme, every day that I write the minimum, I mark honestly. Any day which I exceed my goal, I list as a great day and congratulate myself on a job well done. But days which I miss, I leave empty and have to make up lost ground.

During my next session, I write until I hit the designated daily minimum, then mark it as completed on the missed day, until I’m back up to date. No matter how many days in a row I missed, I still have to make them up with the minimum for each day accounted for. It isn’t until I’ve covered all the lost ground that I can start adding to my “extras” total once more.

This works in two ways. The first being that when I look back over my schedule, I don’t feel bad about old lost days. I usually know when this happened (it’ll be the week full of minimum marks), but I know I did my work and made up for it. There’s no red cross through my schedule, guilting me into feeling like I failed, because I still put in the effort and got back on track. That’s something to be proud of!

Secondly, I’m always keeping up with my overall word count, because all the “extras” days still put me in front. Once I’m ahead, I’m always ahead, as long as I work through my designated minimum in the meantime. There are always good days, and there are definitely bad days. I don’t believe in self-punishment, just as much as trying to make rewards for myself doesn’t work (there’s just no value in saying to myself, “you can’t have that until you’ve completed this”).

Using my schedule this way keeps my confidence up, rewards me when I’ve genuinely worked hard, and shows the true dedication I have to keep at it. Because every day is filled, even when it’s retroactive!


Schedules, part one

There have been several occasions where I’ve written out a schedule for writing, and promptly failed to meet it. I was going about them all wrong: expecting things I cannot personally meet. That’s discouraging, disheartening, and more than anything, I resent a difficult schedule. Then I decided to use something that suits ME! So far, I’ve followed two schedules very well, and I’m working to my current one with great success.

None of my good schedules are terribly ambitious: the first was my own version of a “NaNoWriMo” dealie, where I just demanded that I wrote SOMETHING every single day for a month. That went well enough, because I was equally pleased by a day of ten words as I was by a day of over a thousand. I had met my goal.

The second schedule was a daily page-log, following in the same theme of the first but with a little more personal expectation. I drew it up on a huge sheet of paper, divided into squares like a regular calendar. At the end of each week, I had my minimum goal marked. One page per day (of approximately 250 words per page). That would give me around 1750 words every week. Just before I went to bed each night, I would record how many pages I’d written, then tally it up at the end of the week.

I liked this schedule a lot, because I was handwriting the story in a notebook, and one page was the equivalent of 15 minutes of my time. I had 15 minutes spare every day during the drive to work with my husband. Anything else written outside of that was a bonus.

This variety of scheduling was fantastic as an ego booster, too. After a while, this very simple and outrageously easy-to-meet minimum was really showing progress. Sure, it wasn’t getting amazing results in terms of word count, but every single box on my schedule had something written in it. For weeks. Then months. A whole, huge A3 size sheet of paper, filled with proof of my dedication. Whether it was “1 page”, or “13 pages”, every day had something to show.

I was able to bypass my minimum goal the first week. And in the third, fourth, and fifth weeks. And others. I stayed ahead of my target word count, and at eleven and a half weeks, where I should have been hitting 20,000 words, I was up to 30,000.

My current schedule follows the same rules. A nice, reachable minimum (though higher than the “handwriting in a notebook” minimum expectation, that’s for sure!). Tally at the end of the week. A date I can be expected to finish my story by. I like to know my limits. Over 1000 words every day isn’t something I can expect in my lifestyle. But when you realise that even when handwriting, I can get 250 words out in 15 minutes? That’s easy. That’s doable. That’s a coffee break worth of time.


I didn’t write, because I was writing!

Yesterday is a haze of words and writing and tapping away merrily. Obviously that doesn’t include creating a blog post, but I’ve declared my efforts yesterday a rousing success!

I don’t like the idea of measuring things too much. If I wrote this amount of words, or kept at it for that amount of time. We all know there are days when you slave away for hours, and your pour out thousands of words, then find out that they are part of a scene you scrap entirely. That’s okay! Those hours and those thousands of words were just part of the practice that turns us into better writers. They aren’t a waste! They aren’t really lost! But it puts the achievement scale into a different perspective to me.

Other days, you might jot out a handful of lines, and that be your only writing work for the day. Or the whole week! But those words might be a pivotal point in your story, and the enormity of it all has to stew for a while before you can really put it together.

So instead of making measurements (don’t worry, I still glance at the “words added today” bar when I’ve saving and closing down for the night!), I just celebrate the effort. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about these stories. I tried to plan them a little more thoroughly, but it got to the point where I just needed to get them out from sheer excitement. So I’m back to my usual, “I know where this is going, but how we get there is a bit murky for now”. I guess this is just how I write!

I also happened upon the relieving success of finding the right name for a character. It had been evading me since the beginning, but I have something going here that seems to be pretty awesome. Now I can just charge through the rest of the story with a carefree demeanour, and see how we arrive at our destination!