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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No Sense of Progression

One of the hardest things for me to understand when I first started writing regularly was that writing wasn't measured in page length or word count alone. I thought more writing equaled progress, and that's not always true. First drafts are easy to measure like this. "I wrote three pages." or "I wrote six hundred words." But later drafts don't have the same sense of rapid progression.

I'll admit that some of my first novels failed because I got caught in the doldrums of the Mucky Middle. Somewhere in the second or third draft I'd feel like nothing was getting accomplished and give up. It's really easy to do this. I'm convinced this is why there are so many bad queries and half-baked self-published novels in the world. The book is written and the frazzled author doesn't know if they're making any progress at all so they push the raw book to the next stage of publication.

It's like someone doing a Couch to 5k program and deciding in the third week that they aren't running faster or losing any more weight so it's time to run that 5k.

To combat this slump and help myself visualize my progress I use something that Victoria Schwab calls The Calendar Method. She apparently caged the trick from Erin Bow, but it was Vicky's vlog that encouraged me to give this method a try. For every 1000 words I write, I get a star sticker. For every 5000 words I edit (that's about two chapters in my books), I get a butterfly sticker. Finishing a book earns a frog sticker, and publishing a book earns a fish sticker on the release date.

On any given day these stickers offer a visual record of my otherwise unseen work. The days spent editing are filled with butterflies. Days with writing have stars. Sometimes I have both. Sometimes I have a whole constellation of stars because I had an amazing writing day. Some days I get half a star.

This works for me. It means on a day like today, when I feel I'm spinning my wheels and wondering when I will ever have a draft of this book that doesn't suck, that I can look back and see how far I've come. I am making progress. I can't see it right now because I'm too caught up in the minutiae, but there's a record of this and that keeps me sane.

Star stickers - keeping authors sane for at least a couple of years now.

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