Elizabeth: Writer Reboot

computer_reboot_buttonJanuary was a busy month at Ye Olde Day Job. It started off with some high priority projects and ended with everybody’s favorite activity, the Annual Performance Review.

Though it can be a pain, the review process is a good opportunity to look at what was planned, what happened, and what did and did not work. After finishing the reviews at work, I thought it would be a good exercise to repeat the process for my writing.

It did not go well.

When we started blogging here almost 2 ½ years ago, I think it’s fair to say we all had high hopes that we would finish the book we were working on before too long and move on to the next phase in our writing. I for one did not expect to still be trying to completely finish that first book.

I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but . . . .

97% Of Writers Don’t Finish Their Book” ~ random fact from the internet

I want to be part of the 3%, but I am a master at getting things “almost” done.

I put hardwood floors in my house years ago. They’re 99.9% done and have been since I ran out of glue just before the last row of boards in one of the bedrooms. One distraction led to another and now, years later, those remaining boards are still sitting out there in the garage, waiting to be cut and put into place; mocking me when I pass them by.

It’s a family disorder. My dad was a master at using duct tape to hold things together “temporarily” until projects could be finished.  For my mother, unfinished quilting projects were left pinned together, awaiting their edging or some final embellishment.

There is actually a theory about why people don’t finish things (besides, I got lazy / tired / disinterested and didn’t want to). According to therapist friend of mine, it’s a way to keep people from criticizing your work. Your work can hardly be “wrong” if it’s “not finished yet.”

Interesting idea, but . . .

I have a pretty good draft of my book The Traitor just waiting to be finished and sent out into the world, sitting on the corner of the desk, going nowhere fast.   I have a fairly decent 50,000 word start on my contemporary story “Second Chances” keeping it company.

I have the time to write.

I have minimal other commitments

I have supportive family and friends

So, what’s getting in the way?

Me.

Yep, instead of maintaining a consistent writing process, I get distracted and wander off and do other things. I get lost in the wilds of the internet and put off writing until “tomorrow” or “the weekend.”

When Random Word Improv rolls around on Friday however, I have no trouble whipping out several hundred words in pretty short order. If I can do it for those stories, then there is no reason why I can’t do it for the other stories I have in progress, if I’m really serious about writing.

In my post a few weeks ago, I asked “where does writing fit in your life?” It’s pretty clear to me that I’ve been treating my writing as a hobby in recent months rather than giving it the career focus I started out with.

So, it’s time for a writer reboot.

How do I do that? Three things:

  • Accountability
  • Small deadlines
  • Fun

One reason that my NaNo experience was successful last November (besides the fact that I had a story I was really enthused about) was that I posted my progress publicly every day. There was no way I wanted a string of “didn’t meet my goal again” posts. Wanting to be able to say that I had met my daily goal kept me focused on what I was doing and kept me from giving up and moving on to the next new shiny idea. So, this month I’m hoping you’ll help keep me accountable. I’ll be documenting my progress at the bottom of my posts here every Wednesday.

Experience has shown that writing every day is the best way for me to stay on track. The 1,667 words a day for NaNo was okay in the short-term, but not sustainable in conjunction with the demands of the day job, so I’m going to set my daily goal at 500 words. I’ve had no trouble hitting that target for the Friday Improv entries, so I should be able to hit it for my WIP. By the end of the month, that will give me 14,000 that I didn’t have before. The long range goal is to completely finish the book, but I’m going to focus on the smaller daily word goal so I don’t wind up feeling overwhelmed by Finish the Book.

The only thing missing now is a little fun.   The Friday Improv stories have been fun, and they definitely leave me feeling more creative. So, part of my writing reboot includes doing something writing-related but fun at least once a week. This week that involves mocking up a pretend cover for my recent improv story and brainstorming log-lines/back-cover-copy. I’ll share some of the results on Friday.

So, how is your own writing going? Have you found a process that works for you or are you in need of your own reboot?

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Writer Reboot

  1. I am definitely tip-toeing around my writing goals these days. I’ve had a lucky week, and I don’t want to jinx it as long as things are going well. Those sprints have been a big part of being able to write again, I think. They remind me of how fun it is to write.

    So, my goal tomorrow is to write for an hour, or until I don’t know what comes next, whichever is more practical.

    Having time or not having time just makes no difference to me, it seems. I had loads of time yesterday and today, and only got 1000 words done. Tomorrow will be hugely busy, but I wouldn’t be surprised (if I get to bed early tonight) if I got 1000 words done nevertheless.

    Knock wood.

    And raising a toast for fun!

    • Michaeline – knocking wood here for your continued writing success. It’s great that you’ve been able to rediscover the fun of writing. Seconding your toast to continued fun!

  2. I didn’t have a great year in 2015. I did finish off Book 1, but I lost a lot of time in the first half of the year to house refurbishment (the place was full of builders, dust and noise from February until June), and almost two months at the end of the year to helping some friends with a business problem. Both those things had to be done, and I kept working on Book 2, but it was one step forward and two back.

    I agree with you, Elizabeth, and Michaeline, that the writing sprints have been a good thing. They’re no pressure and a lot of fun, and I always look forward to seeing what everyone will come up with. I’m going to try to build on them and reboot myself by working on an idea I have for a new story in a different sub-genre. If I’m lucky, the project will go somewhere. If I’m really lucky, the change will also be good for my contemporary series when I come back to it.

    And I’ll definitely share Micki’s toast to fun 🙂 .

    • Jilly – I’m envious that your Book 1 is truly finished. Even though Book 2 didn’t go as far as planned last year, you have at least made definite progress. Looking forward to hearing how the new story works out and continuing with the Friday Improv fun.

  3. I wonder if the weekly status updates are frequent enough? As someone who is the all-time reigning universal champion of finding distractions and official holder of the Zeno’s Paradoxical Progress badge, I’ve found that I need tiny, frequent nudges to keep my mental train on its tracks.

    • Scott – point well taken. With weekly updates there is always the possibility of waiting until the last minute and then trying to cram a week’s worth of writing in to meet the goal (not that I’d ever do that 🙂 ). I’m hoping to avoid that by reporting my daily numbers in that weekly update, rather than just a single weekly number. Will have to play that by ear and see how effective it is.

  4. Thirteen days ago I set a mutual accountability goal during a Skype session with a friend that we’d talk again in three weeks and when we did we’d each have 20,000 new words.

    As of this moment, I’m on track. Although that may have more to do with the fact that I’ve hit that point in my manuscript where I’ve finallly figured out who the characters are and where the story’s going. I suck at getting started, but once I get the first 1/4 or 1/3 done, I pick up speed.

    Need to remember that pattern when I’m in the beginning doldrums of the next book.

    • Jeanne – that’s great. How wonderful that you’ve hit that magic point in the manuscript. Good luck with the new words.

Let Us Know What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s