Justine: Setting Goals for National Writing Conferences, Part 3

justine covington, eight ladies writing, romance writingTwo weeks ago, I talked about my goals for my writing before Nationals, and last week I blogged about SMART goals (which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented/Relevant, and Time-bound).

This week I’m looking at the work I have to accomplish to see if I can indeed get my book done by the end of May, prior to RWA Nationals in July.

First, lets look at what I have left to do:

  • Write/rewrite 5 scenes
  • EDIT (using Margie Lawson’s EDITs System, which I love) 36 scenes
  • 1 final read-through and changes
  • 1 professional copy edit

My current pace has been about 1 scene a week. Now that included a lot of rewrites and some plot problems that had to be solved. Most of the rest of the book is in decent shape and just needs cleaning up/sharper words/to sound better.

Still, based on that pace, I’d be finished sometime around next December. That’s one week per scene (including the 5 new ones) plus 1 week for a final read-through and 2 weeks for copy editing. Heck, it may be January if the copy editing takes more than 2 weeks.

How demoralizing. I don’t want to be done with this book in a YEAR. I want to be done with this book NOW.

Maybe if I worked backwards, and saw how much work I’d have to do to achieve a May deadline, I could make it happen.

Going by an end-of-May finish date, based on what I have to accomplish and when I want to get it done, I’d have to EDIT 3 scenes per week, including sneaking in the other 5 somewhere, which still gives me 3 weeks for a final read-through/changes and professional copy edit.

Note the following: this assumes I will work EVERY week, which I promise you I will not – Spring Break will be a bad week for me with the kids home, as will the week I’m in England with Jilly touring Brighton, Dover, and areas in between.

So three scenes a week is unrealistic given my current commitments (which I go into a bit more below). I don’t think I could get it done. Without going crazy and having my husband divorce me, that is.

But, can I really accomplish this? Perhaps I can, but it would take some reworking in my personal life.

Remember that Stephen Covey graph I showed you last week? Here it is again:

From Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"

From Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

Anything that doesn’t fall into that upper right quadrant should be tabled for later. If I want to maximize my writing time, I need to look at everything in my life and decide how important and/or urgent it is. Some of the things I need to evaluate include:

  • Volunteering in my kids’ class (do I really need to be there? Yes, my kids like it, but I already spend my evenings with them on their homework and there are plenty of other parents who volunteer)
  • Tae kwon do (I actually gave this up last week…it was too difficult for me to get to the evening classes because of my husband’s travel/work schedule and lack of a sitter, and the daytime classes ate up writing time during the day. We have a new puppy and walking him provides plenty of exercise for me)
  • Writing vs. Errand time (as a SAHM, it’s convenient for me to do errands during the day when the kids are at school and the husband is at work, but it’s also great writing time that I’m giving away because I don’t do the errands after taking kids to/from school or on the weekends)
  • Sleep (yes, we all need it, but I’ve been lazy since Christmas and haven’t been getting up, showered, and ready for the day at 5:30 a.m. like I did before the holidays. Instead, I spend writing time – when the kids are at school and the hubby is at work – getting myself cleaned up for the day)

Some things are sacred:

  • I have to spend quality time with my husband and kids in the evenings and on the weekends.
  • I have to get out every now and then and speak with adults (meet for coffee, have lunch, whatever).
  • I have to take my kids to their after school activities and help them with homework.

These things won’t change.

But I still haven’t answered my question: can I really get this done before the end of May?

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I’m going to give it a test-run this week and see if I can EDIT three scenes. Perhaps then I can set goals that might be realistic. It might mean changing the deadline. It might mean changing what I actually accomplish (perhaps I skip the copy editing? Given that I used to be a technical writer and copy editor myself, I can probably do it myself in a pinch. Maybe, too, I skip EDITs on all my chapters and only do it on the ones with a real emotional punch).

I do know that the things I mentioned above – volunteering, errands, getting up early, and TKD – are changes I’m going to make. I think I’m also going to make a visual representation of the work I have to achieve and see if “seeing” it every day helps motivate me.

I know some of you were looking to my goals for ideas on setting your own, and while I haven’t come up with firm dates or a schedule etched in stone, I hope I’ve raised questions you must ask yourself when you’re determining what you can and can’t accomplish and by when.

I’ll be chiming in every now and then with my progress (or my goals, if I can solidify them). In the meantime, I’m going to keep moving forward!

6 thoughts on “Justine: Setting Goals for National Writing Conferences, Part 3

  1. You can do it, Justine. And remember, no agent or editor is going to want that manuscript handed to them at RWA. You can send it two weeks or a month later and they’ll still remember it if you include something in the cover letter about your meet. I have set deadlines for myself for my story. Without them, I know I would blow off writing this scene or that scene, but I’m on a deadline and I am also accountable to Pam Regis, which adds a layer. I’m finding that if I have a bigger carrot than just what I want, I’m more likely to have my butt in the chair working. Good luck.

    • I have to focus on deadlines. The accountability part is missing — right now, it’s just me (yes, there have been requests, but they haven’t given me a deadline, either). I have to think about that a bit and how I can up the ante there. And you’re right about the carrot. The bigger, the better.

  2. Having witnessed your amazing organizational skills, I have no doubt you will accomplish this. And next summer we’ll read about how you sold your book at Nationals.

  3. I think you’ve got a good amount of flexibility built in here — things like trying three scenes a week, and if it makes life too crazy, being willing to step back and reorganize the plan.

    I’ve always been a pantser when it comes to scheduling my time. Suddenly, I have a lot more demands on my time this month (one kid is going overseas for a year, and the other kid is going overseas for spring break), and I bitterly regret all the stupid internet I did in the “easy” four weeks of late January and early February. I consider internet to be a fertilizer — necessary, but perhaps adequate in lower doses.

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