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!