November 4th, 2014
My new office set-up

My new office set-up

Though I haven’t written anything here in a long while, that thankfully does not mean I haven’t been writing. In fact, just the opposite. After several busy weeks with family and events in late September/early October, I was itching to get back to writing fiction. And blogging, well, it seemed distracting and less fun. So I didn’t do it. I apologize to those who have been waiting impatiently for my lustrous words to grace your screen again. In the words of my daughter, “WALA!” I have returned.

In the meantime, I have been attempting to stick to the schedule I set for myself (write, lunch, writing-related-activity) which has met with mixed results. I’ve discovered several things:

  1. I generally require a warm-up period to get into a writing zone; this usually consists of an hour (though sometimes two) of re-reading previous sections, brainstorming, thinking, research, and… a lot of checking social media and reading inane internet articles about gluten or Sweet Valley Twins or parenting. Grah.
  2. I am blessed to have friends that I can meet for lunch to get me out of the house. However, if I don’t do a significant portion of my writing before I meet with said friends and/or strictly limit my time with them, little to no writing gets done that day because see point #1. There usually isn’t time for point #1 after lunch because I need to pick up my daughter from daycare.
  3. I need to plan at-home lunches as well as at-home dinners. Otherwise I eat popcorn and applesauce and cheese and crackers. Grrreeat. (Note to self: stock healthy snacks)
  4. I generally haven’t gotten around to writing-related-activities in the afternoon… I’ve found I try to use it for continuing the morning’s writing (or finally getting started). Otherwise it gets eaten up by non-writing related activities (extra long lunches, errands, appointments, internet, prepping dinner).
  5. Word sprints (saying to myself “I will write X number of words in the next 20 minutes. No distractions. Go!”) actually works really well, peppered with other tactics.
  6. Scrivener is a delight and jives well with my haphazard writing style.
  7. Giving myself the time to write is the key to actually writing. So much of the pressure of the past has been removed and it is such a relief. I feel the pressure on days when I let my warm-up period turn into a warm-up morning and barely get anything done. Or just those days everyone has when nothing feels quite good enough. But most days I am excited to sit down and figure out what happens next.

Now for the numbers…

Scrivener has a feature where you can set project goals and session word count targets. Meaning that you can say you want a project to be so many words and it will calculate how many words you need to write per writing day to get there by the deadline you set. So to use this feature I settled on a deadline of May 31, 2015 to have the first draft of the Ghost Story project completed, entertaining the idea, for now, that this will be a novel. I chose May 31st with the thought that it gives me 8 months to write, at which point I can take the summer to not think about it, and then tackle revisions in the fall. Or sooner if I feel inclined, but it seems like a good, symbolic dividing line.

As for total word count, I decided on aiming for 100,000 words, which is something like 250 – 300 paperback pages. According to this website, that’s the high end for literary fiction and young adult, but on the low end of genre fiction. Sweet. I am still discovering where this story will be shelved and marketed as I’m writing it. I try not to think too hard about the marketing side because that’s the cart before the horse but I do want to keep in mind the marketability of what I’m writing. What is the story about? How can I tell you what it’s about in less than three sentences? How would I pitch this to a literary agent/editor/reader? I’m not quite there yet, but it’s taking shape.

When I started this new gig on Sept. 1, my Ghost Story project was sitting at something like 9,100 words. It has now blossomed to 24,000+ words, making it close to a quarter of the way done. Scrivener calculates that, what with three writing days a week, I need to write at least 850 words per writing day to finish by the end of May. I have found that a very reasonable goal to hit, certainly on average (sometimes I double it, other days barely reach half). Heck, this blog post exceeds that word count. I’ve found it doable.

I want to slowly ramp that number up, if I can. This month, the month of November, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Traditionally writers of all stripes will use this month to bang out 50,000 words in 30 days to prove it can be done and allow themselves the freedom of “quantity over quality.” I’ve attempted NaNo in the past, though never completed it. I’m not sure it’s the right fit for me just yet. But I find it inspirational to try to set a high goal for the month. So I am going to try to roughly double my current word count. I want to try to hit 45,000 words by the end of November (bonus points if I hit 50!) This means doubling my daily word count. I think it will be a challenge, but a good one.

I didn’t think word counts would work for me, but it is a good motivator so far and a good benchmark. If I don’t hit my word count but still feel satisfied by the work, it generally doesn’t bother me.

I’ve been reading too, but I haven’t written a single review. I haven’t updated my Goodreads page or pursued any other writing projects/contests/submissions. I’m all in with this one project right now, which is a nice feeling. Now if only I could figure out a strategy to keep me away from the internet wormhole…

Anyone else out there tackling NaNoWriMo or setting yourself a creative challenge this fall? What keeps you motivated?

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