Nancy: All About That Pace

You’ve probably noticed that we here at 8LW are not big on resolutions. We’d rather talk about the new year as a chance to assess where we’ve been, decide where we’re going, and set some new goals to help us get there. In that spirit, I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to work on pacing.

Yesterday, Jilly discussed her writing journey and plans in terms of tennis, which was apropos, as she was (and probably would still be) a very good player. I’m going to discuss my plans for the upcoming years in terms of running, not because I am a very good runner. Au contraire! I am a terrible runner. My list of writing sins includes: terrible footfalls, which siphon my forward momentum energy into noise (I’ve been told it sounds something like a stampede of buffalo); shallow breathing, which inevitably ends in panting and stomach pains; and lousy pacing – I always run the first few miles at a much faster pace than I can actually sustain, and sometimes have switched to a brisk walk instead by about mile 4.

This post isn’t going to be about how terrible I am at writing, though. It’s going to be about that last running sin – an inability to pace myself – which I tend to replicate in my writing life. In writing, like in running, I take off too fast with no thought to how I’m going to be doing by mile 4 (or chapter 10 or so). And then I’m shocked  – shocked! I tell you – when I’m exhausted and dragging my way through more words.

I’ve actually called it binge writing, and sometimes it can be very helpful,  for instance, to spit out 15k words in a few days. But when that’s not part of a bigger plan, a final push to get me over a finish line, it can just wear me out. Sometimes, I then avoid writing for days or even weeks after word vomiting that way.  And the hell of it all is I’ve always suspected there’s a better way (for me). So this year, I have a plan to work on my writing pace.

1. Touch the story every day. Yes, every day. Not every week day, not every day that’s sunny, or that I feel up to it or that inspiration strikes. This year, just for funsies, I’m going to do my damnedest to do something story related every day. Sometimes, that will mean reading up on a particular craft point, researching, or working on plotting/planning. More often, it will mean getting words on the page or revising. At some point, I hope it will also mean writing synopses and query letters. And look, 4 days have already passed in 2015, and I’m 4 for 4! Now just 361 days to go.

2. Make a plan and put it in writing. This is not new for me, but this year, it is going to be more specific. I know how many stories I want to write this year (and it’s insane!), and I can deduce roughly how many words it’s going to take to get there, adjusting for that fact that I always over write by at least 10%. And then there’s revision time, which  does not need to preclude writing new words on a different project, but will require hours and hours over weeks and weeks. So I’m going to plot it all out on a calendar (I haven’t decided yet whether that will be virtual or on dead trees), and get serious about monthly and weekly word counts, and the best way to achieve them.

3. Assess progress against plan monthly. Looking back to assess progress at the end of one year and forward to new plans at the beginning of the next is a great idea, but when that’s the only self-assessment I’m doing, it gives me way too much wiggle room. I usually have a rough idea of where I am and how well I’m doing, but there’s nothing like pulling out the old calendar and getting honest about my successes or failures to keep my head in the game (or the race, or whatever metaphor I’ve wandered off to now). And here’s an added nuisance bonus: I’m going to share my monthly progress with all of you, word counts and revision progress and warts and all. Each month, on the first Monday after the first of the month, I’ll make it all public right here on 8LW. Anyone feeling brave enough can then join me in the comments.

That’s it. A ‘simple’ 3-step program to help me set my pace, count my footfalls, and control my breathing. If all goes well, I might even be ready for the NaNoWriMo marathon by November. And maybe I’ll need a playlist. Maybe set some new lyrics to Meghan Trainor’s song. Because you know I’m all about that pace, ’bout that pace, no sprinting… Okay, I’ll keep working on that, but first, I’m off to get in my story time for the day!

12 thoughts on “Nancy: All About That Pace

  1. That is a good plan. I would like to think I could write every day, but I just can’t. There is too much going on sometimes to take the time for it. I should probably set a goal for myself of a particular number of days a week – like 3 or 4 – to make sure I get something down on paper.

  2. You have had a lot on your plate this past year, so hopefully you’ll have more time to write in 2015, whether or not it’s 3 or 4 days a week!

    It remains to be seen whether ‘every day’ will be my reality. I know I won’t actually write every day, but I at least want to touch base with my story each day to see if that helps me stay more focused and get more done in shorter periods of time.

  3. I like your 3-step plan, Nancy, and I’m glad you’re planning to give us a monthly progress report. It sounds as though you’re setting yourself a tough target in terms of stories you want to write, and I look forward to hearing what works for you.

  4. Now the pressure is on to report progress, which will help motivate me to track to plan. Although I have to admit, looking at my 2015 plans (which were part of a 15-month plan I put together back in October), I’m already feeling tired!

  5. I look forward to the progress reports, too. (-: Not sure if I’m brave enough to join you in the comments.

    I finally got over the holidays and looked at my story today. And it’s still looking good, and I’m still coming up with new stuff. But, it’s also very easy to see where two weeks off has me forgetting parts of my world. I have them in my notes, but I wanted to write today, not look through my 200+ pages of notes. I wrote a little bit, and I’ll look at my notes for specifics about the Arion Ball before I write a little more this afternoon.

    Pacing. I wish I could get the hang of that in all areas of my life. I’ve always been an enthusiastic starter, and a not-very-good finisher, and realizing that hasn’t helped much. It makes me nervous about even starting, to tell the truth. But, I want to see what happens at the end of this story! (And I think I see a three-book series in here, so there’s more than one start to this project.)

  6. Nancy, sounds like a great plan, especially the regular check-ins. Good luck on keeping up with your daily story work.

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