I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but I do like to end the year with a feeling that I’ve achieved something, finished something, made some progress. So I usually take stock around now, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and set myself some objectives for the next three months.
They don’t always work out—two years ago Life intervened almost immediately and my entire plan was a bust. Last year was mixed: I intended to work pretty much full-time on finishing Alexis, but in reality I spent a lot of time resolving two real-life challenges—one related to my mum’s health, the other to my personal finances. They weren’t on my list, but they were important, I got them done, and they’ll stand me in good stead for the long term, so I’m fine with that.
It wasn’t a total disaster on the writing front. I did get Alexis entered in the Golden Heart contest, and I also added the Daphne. With Jeanne’s help I wrote a new opening scene that sets up the story way better than my original effort. She also helped me to make the manuscript more voice-y, and I’m sure that’s what helped me win my category of the Daphne.
I’m pretty clear about my writing objectives for the last three months of 2017. They mostly revolve around Alexis, and the good news is that I can see how much progress I’ve made since this time last year. Yay progress! Now I just have to:
Get Alexis Edited
The book is the first of six, it’s an epic story, and the fantasy genre is a new one for me. I expect to be working on this series for the next two or three years at least, so I’d like some strong developmental input now. Enter Jeanne’s editor, Karen Dale Harris. I loved the report Karen did on The Demon Always Wins, so I asked Jeanne to introduce me. Karen and I talked at length at RWA in Orlando, and again by email after I sent her some sample pages. The full manuscript is due to Karen on 9 October. It’s finished (finally!!) and I’m busy tidying it up. Some days I think I’ve written 95k words of weird crap that nobody will ever want to read. The rest of the time I think it’s not bad. I’m curious and excited and scared to see what Karen makes of it.
All being well, I should get my edit back from Karen in November. Until I see her report I have no idea what she’s going to say, or how much work I’ll have to do. I’m allowing a month, less if I’m lucky, six weeks if I need it. In addition to all the stuff about characters, and plot, and worldbuilding, I want to see what Karen says about the balance of the story because next year I have lots of indie publishing decisions to make about titles, covers, blurbs, marketing and the like, and before I can do any of that I need to decide how to position the book.
Write the Prequel
Once I send Alexis to Karen, there will be a hiatus of a month to six weeks before I get the edit report. I plan to use the time to start on the prequel—the story of Alexis’s parents. I’ve always intended that story to be a novella, but the stakes are high, things happen and I have a feeling it’s going to take me more than 25k or 30k words. Both the main characters have a big story to tell and right now I don’t even know whose story it is, Annis’s or Daire’s. I plan to publish this book before Alexis, so I need to get moving.
By the time I receive my Alexis edit, I’d like to have a first draft of the prequel finished (assuming it turns out to be a novella). If it’s longer, I’ll settle for a first act.
Improve My Craft
I’ve said repeatedly that I won’t sign up for any more craft classes or take any more workshops unless they’re total no-brainers. Guess what? I have two no-brainers, both in the month of November. Firstly, Robert McKee, legendary screenwriting guru, is coming to London to give a four-day workshop, three days on Story (I really, really like that book) and a genre add-on called Love Story. And then a couple of weeks later, Damon Suede and Geoff Symon are offering a two day romance and suspense writing workshop in Bristol. I’m expecting that to be high octane, smart, funny and inspiring. Great fun as well as educational.
Try Something New
I’ve tried freewriting on a very small scale, for an hour or maybe a day, but it seems to run counter to my process. I think I’m temperamentally unsuited to it, so I hesitate to spend a whole month on NaNoWriMo. I haven’t had any luck with outlining either, except as an editing tool, but I keep hoping I can find something more efficient than pantsing every book. One of my RWA online chapters, Kiss of Death, runs a group exercise called Book-in-a-Week. The idea is to get down a solid storyline, a good rough draft of your beginning, middle and ending, and an in-depth idea of your main characters so that by the end of the week you have the bare bones of a book to develop and build on. The next BIAW takes place in December, so the timing looks good. I think I’d be prepared to invest a week trying to get the second Alexis book set up, and if it helps, I’ll build future BIAWs (March, June, September) into my plans.
If I’m being honest, I expect to achieve at least three of these goals. I want to try Book-in-a-Week, but if I’m pressed for time in December I’ll defer that to next March. My chances of finishing the Alexis rewrite and a full draft of the prequel depend on when I receive my edit report, how much work Alexis needs (could be three weeks, could be six) and how long Daire and Annis’s story turns out to be (might be 30k, or 60, or 90). Whatever happens, I’m giving myself a fallback deadline to have both projects done by the end of January, 2018, when I have a second round of Alexis edits booked in with Karen.
So, no pressure, but it would be nice to end the year in style.
What are your plans for the next three months? Is there anything you must, should, could, will finish before New Year’s Eve?