I’m not an organized person but I have a thing about computer files. It needs to be clean and collected or I lose my mind. This weekend I made sure all my writing files were sorted properly; a file each for first book material, second book, and overall series.
Then I got curious. I pulled open the file for the first chapter and looked at the content creation date. September 6th, 2008. Four years ago! I had been married for three months, hadn’t written anything, hadn’t even had an idea, in over a year. It was a weekend and it was the first night I had been able to sleep all week (I worked nights). But I couldn’t fall asleep. An idea hit me, an addendum to a short story. That night it became something completely different.
The point I am trying to get across though is that this story took four years to write. This summer I finalized the plot and wrote a little under two thirds of the material. Everything else was one third of the story and a lot of thinking about it. A lot of that was probably good for the story. I had a whole world developed, trashed, redeveloped, ironed out, and tweaked by the time I dedicated myself to finishing it. I had organizations, politics, mythologies, cultures, all that stuff. But overall, this could have and should have been done a long time ago.
What kept me back? I never set goals. The best I did was to keep track of my word count. I did that for a month before Gabe was born. That is certainly a powerful thing and I should be doing it still, but overarching goals help me out more than these smaller ones.
I remember working on a chapter for months. Going over the same lines and paragraphs over and over until I thought they were perfect. And as soon as I put it down for longer than a week I would go back and see new imperfections. Everyone has their own way of writing and I really, really try not to tell anyone anything is off limits, but I strongly encourage you not to do this. The only exception is if you are making consistent progress. Editing, and not just copy editing but enriching the writing, can always be done on the back end. But you’ll never write anything if you don’t, you know, write anything! Sounds simple but it was a trap I fell into time after time. It took me a long time to figure that out.
Amelia doesn’t need to be organized, we’ve both established that on our blogs, but she needs goals just as much as I do. Even though our approach is spectacularly different, not just from each other but our own personalities, we both set goals along the way and have set goals for the future. The below quote is something that has always spoken to me. I don’t know if he really said it, but it’s true of a lot of things.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it.”
As I long as I didn’t have a goal I was making progress. For me a novel was something that would happen eventually. If I had never set a goal, it would still be happening “eventually”. These are the four goals I mean to stick to for the end of this year.
- Editing on first book feedback done this month.
- Second book first draft by Dec. 31st. That’ll be tough with the holidays, but there it is.
- List of agents by Nov. 31st for first book.
- Begin sending out query letters in December when Amelia is out of school.
The goals need to be serious, respected. If you can’t do it you can’t do it, but they need to tax you, need to drive you forward. You need to do things you didn’t think were possible. If you’ve got an idea, set a goal and work it. I wish you the best of luck.