Friday, July 31, 2009

Why Not Wednesday?

On Monday I promised both a Wednesday and a Friday post. Why didn't I post Wednesday? Because I have a schedule I prioritize over blogging. I have a weekly page count for Warrior's Hilt, my paranormal romance in progress. I weighed my commitment to blogging against my writing schedule and I chose to write my novel.

Writing a whole book - 95,000 words, 300 plus pages - is that simple. You choose writing over other things. That might be instead of sleeping in or replying to email or cleaning a closet. Maybe you send the husband to the zoo with the kids and decide to skip it this time because after all you went to the playground yesterday and hey you can write three more pages while they're all out. I'm by no means a motivation or planning expert, but after fourteen years tinkering with Shooting Stars, I started writing Warrior's Hilt in January 2009 and today, July 31, I have 290 pages. I am on track to be finished September 1 and polished in time to enter the Golden Heart. Here's what I've learned.
  • Plan your writing realistically in weekly chunks. I use a 3-column Word document with three months of Wednesday and Saturday dates on the left. The middle column contains blank lines for pages achieved each date and a pre-printed weekly page goal. On the right I note expected events (my week to blog, vacation, camping) that add or subtract writing time. I vary my page goals based on the week. On the road for vacation, 5 pages. A so-called regular week, 15 pages. Both kids at camp 9 am to noon for a whole week, 30 pages (didn't quite make that but it was a great goal).

  • Print the plan and put it on the fridge. Forget weight loss, I want to write. I track pages achieved on the fridge instead of wasting computer time opening the chart. Not only does seeing my goals all the time keep me aware, I'm accountable to anyone who looks at the fridge.
    I've had failures. The week my laptop died I wrote nothing and I'm still catching up. I grew distracted the whole month of May and let my writing priorities drift. They slipped so far I had to revise my accountability chart from an August 1 deadline to September 1, and that's why I ended up with a 30 page goal one week and waaay too many 20 page weeks. But now I'm past the hump (see Monday's entry for the rhino). That's how normal slow people run marathons and that's how you raise kids and that's how you mow the grass. You keep going.

  • Write anything, even crap. This is Cherry Adair's view of writing and I believe in it. You can edit the crap out of anything but a blank page. If I can't figure out a transition from a chunk of dialog to the next action sequence, I [add transition here] and move forward. Brackets and speed are my friends.

In this system, do not under any circumstances agonize over phrasing. Maybe spend time choosing one word, but you can put a [boring word] in brackets and come back later to jazz it up. When I write what I know to be a cliche, I add [cl] after it to remind me to freshen during editing.
Two months ago I described three scenes in Warrior's Hilt as [go to his tuscan castle - dinner - bad guys invade]. I wanted to move to the morning after the fight scene, which I could see clearly at that moment, but I think moving linearly is important to character development and manuscript integrity.
By this week I was one hundred pages past that point, stuck at the final part of a snow mobile chase. I couldn't tackle that frigid mess in Seattle's hundred degree heat, so I flipped back to my Tuscan castle brackets and it all flowed, the fight scene with tipped over candles lighting a tapestry on fire, the dining room's historic weapon collection, the hero's anger that the heroine didn't follow his commands.
In sum: make a realistic accountability calendar, print and post it visibly, write fast and sloppy to move forward. You will have a rough draft faster than you imagine and you will be able to edit, polish, tweak and fiddle as necessary - with a new calendar or you'll be at it fourteen years like I was.
Do you have a different system that works for you to get your writing done? I'm always interested in tips and tricks to squeeze more writing out of a day, so please post here. And I promise to post my dialog editing comments when I get my page count back to green-light status.


Alexis Morgan said...


Setting short term achievable goals is one of the most valuable skills a writer can add to the old tool box.
Like you, I set weekly goals for my writing, keeping track on a huge piece of graph paper so I can see my daily progress.
As long as we hold ourselves accountable for those pages, it doesn't matter how we do it.
And when life does interfere (as when my computer was in the shop for 5 days so I had to buy a second one), it's important to regroup, adjust the goals and move on.
When I do my final edits, I work hard to tighten phrasing, weed out word repetiions, and look for threads I've dropped along the way.

Congratulations on being on track to enter the GH! Good for you--


Stella Cameron said...

Anna: An excellent blog. I'm glad I popped in. I absolutely agree with the necessity to put writing before a lot of other things if you want to hold your own book in your hands one day.

I recall working with the old "hot pen" technique. If I got totally stuck, I took paper and pen and found a comfortable hole to hide in. Then I just wrote. The one rule was and is that you keep the pen to the paper and keep writing, even if you occasionally repeat the same word over and over. This truly greases the writing wheels.

Best of luck with the book.

Stella Cameron

Anna Richland said...

Wow! Alexis and Stella, your comments and support for beginning writers like me are why the community grows and readers can't get enough, even in a recession. I called my reading partner, my husband and my mother because I couldn't wait for them to log on. Stella was the very first person who encouraged me when I joined GSRWA, and I have never forgotten her kind welcome. (At the time I told my husband it was like getting an email from Tiger Woods about his putting). I can't wait to read Dark Warrior Unbroken - thanks for taking the time to post when you're so busy with your new release, Alexis.