May I add something to your schedule? Earmark a few minutes each day – five, ten, fifteen, whatever you can shoehorn in – to make sure your story doesn’t get lost in the seasonal brouhaha.
Even for a holiday humbug like me, December is a time sink. It was worse when I had a day job – closing the payroll ten days early with the extra headache of bonuses to calculate and pay; a year end to prepare for; and in the middle of the financial scramble, parties to organize and/or attend for staff, clients and suppliers.
I’m glad I don’t have to do that any more. My life is also relatively quiet on the family front, but my calendar is still filling up. Multiple catch-ups with friends and ex-colleagues who are home for the holidays. A birthday trip to see the Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy. A night at the theatre. A few days with my mum, even though she doesn’t really know it’s Christmas anymore. Visits on mum’s behalf to her friends and ex-neighbors. A haircut. Gift and grocery shopping. A rare opportunity to see my expat brother, who’s flying home for a couple of weeks.
In the midst of all this activity, my immediate writing priority is to use my critique partner feedback and contest scoresheets to edit the first 50 pages of Alexis’s story and re-write the synopsis in time for entry to the RWA Golden Heart contest. I’m pretty sure I’ll get this done, but I’m worried about what happens thereafter. The danger is that I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and award myself a two-week (or longer) holiday. Then I’ll come back to a cold, soggy, lumpen manuscript in January and it will take me another two weeks or more to regain my momentum.
If you’re facing a similar prospect, please join me in brainstorming a few quick tricks to keep your story alive amid the holiday madness.
I’m thinking there are two possible ways to approach this: set aside a sliver of time and defend it against all intrusions, or incorporate your WIP into your December routine.
Option One – ring-fence a few moments every day for a Story Shot.
- Pick the same time every day – as soon as you wake up, or just after you cleaned your teeth, or right before you go to bed, whatever works best. Schedule it on your phone, or wherever you set your reminders. Tell your nearest and dearest (or not!) – whichever is most likely to get the right result.
- Ahead of time, set up a list of micro challenges that are do-able in the time you set. If you only have five minutes, choose five-minute jobs.
- Set a timer.
- Keep a record of what you did each day.
- A selection of ideas:
- Write a few new words. 50, or 100, or a paragraph.
- Follow Michaeline’s suggestion from yesterday, and write a haiku or short poem about some aspect of your story. I tried it and managed two in fifteen minutes. Helpful, and good fun, too.
- Tackle a challenge from your list. One of mine might be to flesh out a minor character – Drake or Farris (Kierce’s men), Prince Darryl’s younger brother, Father Tyce (Alexis’s mentor). Another would be to find a more distinctive word for blending – Alexis’s chameleon-like knack of becoming part of her surroundings.
Option Two – sneak a little story discovery into your holiday schedule.
- If you’re out in a restaurant, decide what your hero/heroine/villain (HHV) would order from the menu.
- If you’re shopping, find a gift for your HHV
- If you need a little distraction during a friends or family celebration, ask yourself how your HHV would describe Uncle Alfred or Aunt Lily.
- Ask for family reminiscences that might help with world-building or backstory.
- Figure out what expertise your friends and family have that you can cherry-pick for research purposes. At family parties past I have shamelessly quizzed my in-laws about matters as diverse as alternative energy, fishing, and arctic survival.
What do you think? Is it just me, or do you think this would be worth a try?
Any suggestions to add to my lists above?