- Read 52+ books.
- Attend 3-5 readings.
- Beta read for at least two new people.
- Read at least one new book on the craft of writing.
- Freewrite and do more exercises when not actively novel writing.
- Revise Project A until next stage.
- Revise Project B until next stage.
- Plot, research for, and begin writing new book. Ideally finish first draft this year (though that may depend on how/where things go with A and B).
- Pursue new experiences (which feed the pen).
- Volunteer at local book festival.
So, you know how sometimes you’re working on something, and you’re really into it, and you look up and a couple hours have passed? Yeah. Well, I’ve been working pretty intently on my manuscript lately, and the last time I really pulled my head up to see where I was was TWO WEEKS AGO (see previous post).
In the two weeks since my last check in, I have…
- Completed Draft 3 of WIP
- (+7,000 words from previous draft)
- Made a fourth complete pass through the manuscript, tightening and streamlining as I went
- I needed to redo the beginning, AGAIN, because I didn’t kill my darling properly the first time and
- there are two other scenes that would really benefit from tightening/reworking/total rewrites
- Rewritten the beginning…twice? Version #3, the current version, started from scratch in a new place, made the opening tighter, more action-oriented, and only kept about half a sentence from previous versions. Also, it was a lot of fun to write. I tested it on a critique partner yesterday and she laughed aloud within the first few sentences, so I’m thinking I’m finally on to something.
- Edited the synopsis I wrote back in January
- Drafted my query
- Oh yeah. Took a random break in the middle and remodeled my blog. It’s green now! And it’s got my name on it!
I originally aimed to be querying by the end of this month, and it’s possible I will still hit that goal, but if not I shouldn’t be more than a week beyond it. Another thing that happened in the last two weeks was this unexpected sort of pressure spike. I felt a sudden, intense push to hurry up and get this thing out there, stop sitting on it, stop nit-picking, why wasn’t it good enough already, BLARGH!…and then I talked myself down from it. Again and again you see agents saying to submit your very best work only, and that one of the biggest mistakes made in queries is work submitted prematurely. Reminding myself of those things settled it for me. I will work at this instrument like a madman, but I will not rush submissions. I want to give myself and this book the very best chance we can get, and in order to do that I must first saw and sand and string and restring and varnish this thing until I can make it no better.
The main things left to do before submissions:
- Revisit the other two scenes I earmarked. Rework as necessary. Trial and error until right.
- READ potential comp titles to make sure they are the best fit (Why didn’t I do this sooner???).
Back to business. If another two weeks go by and you don’t hear from me, send help!
This post follows my successfully-completed endeavor to read one short story every day for 30 days, write about it, then post what I wrote on my blog. I challenged myself to do this in order to observe good writing, apply what I learned to my own writing, and—at least, where blogging is concerned—work on that other goal of expanding my writerly platform.
Now that the daily reflections are over, however, the time has come to reflect on the process as a whole.
Let’s look at the charts, shall we?
THE 30 STORIES IN 30 DAY CHALLENGE
Number of stories read: 31*
Number of words looked up: 135
Number of followers gained: 71
*Rounded up for the 31 days in January.
It’s a little harder to quantify just how much I learned in terms of craft, but there was at least one lesson in it for me each day. Every story, besides generally being a pleasure to read, had something to teach.
Looking at everything I’m coming away with—more stories in my head, better craft, new vocabulary, and no small amount of new followers—I definitely feel that this practice was worth the time I put into it.
That being said, of course, time was probably the biggest tradeoff in this investment. Reading a story every day (anywhere from one to twenty-six pages) might have cost a minute or a couple of hours; summarizing the story, looking up words and reflecting on writing lessons probably took up to another hour, or longer if the story was lengthy; compiling everything into daily blog posts (and formatting, finding an image, tagging, etc.) likely cost upwards of another half an hour.
That’s a pretty big commitment for thirty consecutive days, and it didn’t leave a lot of time for me to focus on the task this whole endeavor was meant to serve: writing! And yet, I did manage to write an entirely new short story in the month of January…(hooray!)
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely.
Would I do it again? With pleasure.
Am I in a hurry to do it again? No, sir—I have a manuscript to revise! That’s going to be priority #1 for a while.
I am, however, contemplating another, less time-consuming series. I like the idea of using those 135 words I picked up for something—maybe printing out and cutting up the definitions, putting them in a jar, and drawing a handful at random each day to make sentences with. We shall see.
Alternatively: blackout poems. That could be a fun break.
At the very least, coming up are a complete list of the 31 stories I read for my challenge, plus a compiled vocabulary list (all 135 new words).
Right now I’m still enjoying my (it feels as if new-found!) free time to write write write, anything I want! So far, since January and the challenge ended, I’ve written:
- A letter
- A poem that I’m really excited about…and might name a chapbook after
- A rant about ugly pajama pants (look for it shortly)
- Roughly twenty pages of manuscript (well, re-written; I’ve changed a great deal, plus wrote a character into one of the first scenes).
Well, lads—for now it’s back to the books, as they say!
Today’s Forum Friday question is simple:
What are you doing for your writing?
Writing is a long-term journey. Since I started striking out on the path I’ve realized just how much work is ahead of me: finding an agent. Making myself appealing to an agent (writing short stories, getting short stories published, building a platform, etc.). Finding a publisher. If all else fails, self-publishing and promoting like the dickens.
Since almost all of these steps are long-term processes, I’ve tried to arrange my writing efforts into more tangible, short-term goals that I can use as stepping-increments. For example, to improve my short story writing (with the long-term goal of getting short stories published, with the longer-term goal of having publication credits) last month I read a well-known short story every day.
As always, of course, there is probably more I could be doing for my writing or more creative ways in which to do it.
So I wonder: what specific, short-term writing goals do you have, and what are you doing to achieve them?
Day 23: If you held all the cards, where would you want your writing to take you?
Short answer: Europe!
Slightly longer short answer: As early as third grade I dreamed of writing best-sellers. I suppose, if we’re talking ALL the cards, I won’t give up on that dream. But ultimately I don’t need fame or fortune. I would be happy just to live comfortably doing what I love, and have the resources to follow my other dreams like world travel and living abroad.
Alright. If we’re really going to play the “ALL the cards” game, I think a list is the best way to go.
Julie’s Quick List of Writing Goals & Dreams
- Be able to afford a comfortable, debt-free life
- …as well as travel
- Get published by a respected publishing house
- Make the NYT bestseller list
- Appear on The Daily Show and / or The Colbert Report to discuss my future best-selling books with idols Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
- Attend a book-signing in which I am the author
- See my book(s) discussed on television, in high schools and universities, debated by scholars
- Make a lasting contribution to culture, the arts, and humanity
If you’re going to dream, dream big.
But even if you fall miserably short of your goals, have a laugh. Failure is often the first step to success.