Writer-Talk Tuesday: May 2012 Update & Summer Writing Goals
Well, you know what my April was like . . . not much writing for most of it and then a flurry of activity the last week of the month.
I promised myself when I signed this new contract back in August that I would get a first draft knocked out with plenty of time to have MONTHS to do revisions, unlike the last several books for which I had to turn in what amounted to the first draft (edited as I wrote, but still, there are things I would have changed, polished, eliminated, or added in several of my manuscripts if I’d had proper time for revisions).
However, due to unforeseen circumstances—grappling with the decision of whether or not I was going to have to give up my life in Tennessee and, at forty years old, move in with my parents again (which I did after dropping out of college at age 21); then, getting a part-time job at a local church which allowed me to stay in Nashville, but which didn’t offer the income needed for me to stop being in a constant state of panic about finances; then, there’s the health issues I’ve faced and am still dealing with; and, finally, interviewing for and being offered a new, highly anticipated full-time job at the beginning of April and starting the week before my book was due—that just didn’t happen.
There wasn’t a lot of room in my brain left for creativity over the past nine months. And when I did try to write . . . well, the best analogy I could come up with is when you go to bed so exhausted that you’re certain you’ll fall right asleep and enjoy the most refreshing night’s sleep you’ve had in a long time. But then you lie there in the bed staring at the ceiling because your brain just won’t shut down. Your body is relaxed, fatigued. You may even have your eyes closed. But sleep remains elusive. Then, joy of joys, you doze off, and it’s wonderful. But moments later (it seems) you’re wide awake again.
That’s what the experience of writing this book was like for me: I could feel the story right there, and if I could just fall in to it (like falling asleep), I’d get into that “dream state” of writing in which everything else disappears; and my writing wouldn’t be taxing, it would be refreshing, invigorating, even. Instead, I was like that fatigued person, wishing, begging, for sleep to come, but only experiencing small “cat-naps” which left me more frustrated and fatigued than I was before. I would write a few hundred words, and it was a horrible, wrenching chore. I did, on occasion, manage to lose myself in a scene—actually picturing it in my head (which was the most difficult part of the process of this book, which is highly unusual for me) as I was writing. In the past, that always led to momentum, to being able to pick right up with the next scene, and the next. This time, I’d finish the scene and I was “wide awake” again, knowing “sleep” would remain elusive.
Unlike with my first manuscripts, where I was very much like a baby learning to walk, this book made me feel more like a stroke or traumatic-brain-injury patient who was having to re-learn to talk, walk, and eat. Every word was a painful struggle to get it out of my head and on paper.
But now that I am working full time again, there’s something I absolutely cannot do. I cannot allow myself to get into the position again in which I’m a few weeks out from deadline and tens of thousands of words short of getting the book finished.
So here’s my summer writing goal, and I need some accountability partners to help me stick to it.
My goal for An Honest Heart, Book 2 of the Great Exhibition Series, which is due October 15, is to begin writing it on June 1, write at least 1,000 words every single day and have the first draft finished by August 31. That, then, will give me until the due date to work on revisions/edits/rewrites. And to possibly even turn it in a little early.
Other than an overnighter to Birmingham, Alabama, in July to speak to the RWA group down there, I’m not going on any trips/vacations this summer (no vacation time until I hit my 1-year anniversary at work), so there should be no major interruptions/distractions. (And it’s about a 2.5 hour drive to Birmingham, and we all know how much I love to write in the car!)
That means I need to spend considerable time this month doing research on mid-Victorian seamstresses and doctors (as well as the part the Australians took in the Great Exhibition). But I hope that a focused, concerted effort on research will not only mentally prepare me, but it will get the story ideas flowing.
And I’m hoping, now that I’m working full time again, that writing will once again become something I need to do—to clear my head from work, to decompress after a long day, to work things out in fiction—rather than something I have to do because I need the money so I don’t get evicted or starve.
What are your writing goals for the summer? How do you intend to stay accountable for keeping those goals?