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Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Tale of Two Calendars

 Let me introduce you to two calendars. My writing calendars. This first calendar was my planned writing schedule for the past three months. I take Sunday's off, and the other six days of the week my schedule requires at least 1000 words of new writing each day and, on editing days, five to ten chapters cleaned. The color blocks are each a project I'm working on. Gray was the family reunion.

This second calendar is what actually happened. Notice the large chunks of white space. Notice the holes in my schedule. Notice the lack of coherent theme. It's depressing, isn't it? 

This is what happens when you have too many projects and not enough focus. Or perhaps not the right priorities. 

You see, juggling multiple projects at once is a required part of writing for most young authors. We have short stories, novellas, and multiple novels all in different stages of development so that no time is wasted. You can't spend a week writing a 10,000 word short story and then six months twiddling your thumbs and watching cat videos on Youtube waiting to find out if the story was accepted by a publication that's going to pay you five cents a word.

What you need to do is spend a week writing the 10k short story, another week editing it, and then kick it out the door so you can go back to work on a novel or novella that will definitely get published in the next 12 months. And as soon as that project goes off to your beta readers, or editor, or agent, you need to open up the next thing on the list and get writing.

This can be a very smooth process if you're somewhat smarter than me and have a plan for both success and failure.

What happened to me in mid-July was I had a crisis of faith. 

After sending off my latest novella to my editor and my revised novel to my (soon-to-be) agent I was worried that both of them would come back with rejections. The longer I waited, the more I was convinced my writing career was over. I didn't have anything ready for publication, and when a short story rejection came in I started making a plan for escaping the publishing madness.

I started looking for graduate programs that taught what I was interested in. I made budgets and a five-year-plan. I talked to my family to see if they'd support another parent in grad school. Luckily, my husband's experience had been fairly decent and the kids didn't see anything wrong with mom doing homework. If anything, it was divine retribution.

Then, a few weeks after I started planning to bury my dead career, my agent called to make The Offer. My editor sent me a contract for EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS (Delilah on the calendar), and mentioned that the press was considering expanding to print and audio books. Suddenly my world was flipped upside down and I floundered like a frog on a hot skillet. 

Instead of having vague, self-appointed deadlines I had two hard deadlines with more coming. I had contracts. There were people waiting on me to get things done. A lot of those white days were planning, but quite a few were days I curled in on myself because I had no clue what I should be doing. 

Indecision paralyzed me. 

And I wasted most of August and September panicking over what to do next in between rounds of edits with both my agent and my editor. Finally my good friend Kait Nolan sat me down and made me figure out what I needed to actually do.

Now the problem is getting back in the habit. It's painfully obvious from my calendar that I'm out of the daily writing habit I'd developed back in May. Vacation is murder for good behavior. October and November will be spent remedying this lapse of behavior. October is the month for finishing everything. LADY OF THE LAKE and EVEN VILLAINS SAVE THE DAY need words, about 20k apiece which is just a few thousands words shy of the 50k everyone aims for in November.

November will be the month I tackle JANE 2 and let LADY and SAVE rest with the betas. And then in December I'll kill all my good writing habits by moving to Alaska and dying of frostbite. But at least I have a plan! 

1 comment:

  1. One day, one sentence at a time, sugar. This is how things get written.