Jilly: Season of Fruitfulness, 2017

It’s October already. How did that happen? What do you absolutely, definitely, non-negotiably intend to get done before the end of the year?

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.

Revise Alexis
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?

10 thoughts on “Jilly: Season of Fruitfulness, 2017

  1. I have a hole in the beginning of my text because the introduction, as it was, was not strong enough.The text also had way too many flashback scenes. I split the first chapter into two halves, made the first half a new prologue and made the original prologue for the new first chapter. Since then I have written new chapters to fill the gap between the two halves of the original first chapter to get more straight into the plot, without all the flashback.

    Right now I’m writing the eighth chapter. It has become over a hundred pages new text so far but, considering how many flashback scenes and paragraph of repetitive text I will be able to remove, I hope it will even out in the end. There should be three, maybe four more chapters and I hope I wil be able tol fill the gap in the text before the end of the year. Then 2018 will be all about rewriting the rest of the existing text and having a complete script – without any holes in it.

    • That’s exactly the problem I had with my opening pages, Elisabet. One common mistake is to start the story too early; I started Alexis too late, so although the story started in the middle of the action, then I had to break the flow and look backwards to fill in all the gaps. So I started a little earlier (which was the worst of all worlds) and then rewound a little more, which worked really well. Now the story flows cleanly forwards.

      A hundred pages of new text–that’s a whole act! It sounds as though your revised manuscript will be much better paced and should flow more easily for the reader–and you have a clear plan, which is always good. Do you think you will be able to finish the new, hole-free version in 2018?

  2. First, congrats on finishing your manuscript! That’s huge!

    I’m awed by your plan to do your Alexis revision and write what’s possibly a novella, possibly an entire novel by the end of January. It’s been three months since I got my edit report back on The Demon Always Wins and I’m still not quite finished with the revision. With any luck, your revisions won’t be as substantial as mine were (or you work faster).

    My goal for the last quarter is to write a second draft of The Demon’s in the Details.. Just that but, given the current state of my manuscript, that’s enough.

    I’m really intrigued by the Book in a Week concept. Thinking about joining Kiss of Death so I can take book 3, The Demon Wore Stilettos through that process.

    • Thanks–I am soo happy to finally get this ms finished!

      Plans are the easy part. It’s entirely possible that I’ll need much more time for the revisions. Everything else depends on that. Hence my goal to get as much of the prequel written as possible before I get the edit report back. I already know the characters, the world, the ending, and quite a bit about the story, so I’m hoping that will give me a head start. That might turn out to be delusional, too–we shall see!

      I do like the Book in a Week concept. Would be great if you decided to join KoD and signed up to play along. They say they have some tools to help the process, and they’ve been running the program quarterly for a number of years now, so I’m thinking it would be worth a try. Kay and I were discussing it and she said she’s tempted to give it a go next year, too.

      • Add me to the “tempted by the BIAW” concept. I’d love to give that a try and see how it works. If nothing else, it should be a good framework to spend some really focused time on a project. I’ll be doing NANO again this year, but BIAW might be a nice change of pace afterward.

        • Oh, good! And the KoD chapter could be good for Agent Cassie too. Would be fun if a few of us could give BIAW a go together, and very interesting to compare and contrast what works (or doesn’t) for each of us.

  3. I’m almost a little phobic about goals at this point. I feel like I don’t want to make any more promises that I’m going to break, but I also recognize that as some sort of “stinkin’ thinkin'”. The fact of the matter is that if I make goals, I do more than if I don’t make goals.

    For example, Friday I made up a goal of household chores for the weekend, and I actually checked it two or three times, and knocked off some of the easier ones AS A RESULT OF THE LIST. In fact, the only one I avoided completely was a reading goal that was supposed to help one of my fun writing side-projects (but I didn’t really need to do). I didn’t do the list perfectly, and I need about three or four more hours to finish up the list (except for the reading part), but I got a lot done.

    I don’t know if I should make the plunge into a crazy set of goals in order to trick myself into getting two or three things done, or if I should just take it as it comes. Taking it as it comes hasn’t really been doing it for me this year, but goodness sakes, I am weary. I don’t want to make any more goals!

    (LOL, but I’ll probably do it for Nancy’s post anyway. The short-term seems a little less frightening than a three-month stretch.)

    • I understand your phobia, Michaeline–I don’t do New Year’s resolutions for much the same reason. These aren’t so much hard goals as me identifying the things I want to get done, that will leave me happy and with a sense of personal satisfaction if I finish them. I’m not trying to put pressure on myself, just to keep these things top of mind so that (frex) next Monday, after I send Alexis 1 to Karen, I don’t spend the next week reading and doing jigsaw puzzles. Or maybe I do, if I feel I need it–but then I choose to give myself a break instead of letting it happen to me.

      Tl:dr. Do what works for you, and what makes you happy 😉

      • I wonder if the thing I like about New Year’s Resolutions is that the decks have been cleared quite a bit by December. There’s huge pressure in Japan in December to clear one’s debts, get the house as clean as you possibly can, take care of social obligations, etc. New Year’s Day is actually a huge relief. You aren’t even supposed to cook or do housework during the first three days of New Year’s, so you’ve probably spent the week before cleaning and cooking like a demon, and then suddenly you have this day to relax and watch the New Year’s cards come in.

        Without that Real Live (TM) hanging over my head, it seems like it’s easier to set goals without getting distracted by the million things that need to be done.

        If I’d take the last week of every quarter to clear the decks (or even the last week of every month!), I’d probably be in better shape. Hmmm. I guess that’s my goal for the last quarter — do some writing if I can, but concentrate on clearing the decks for a great 2018. I’ve already got a pretty good start, with two sets of guests in September. I’ve just got to consolidate my gains, and keep chipping away at the rest for October, at least.

  4. Pingback: Jilly: Seeking Playlist Recommendations – Eight Ladies Writing

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