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Destination, Determination, Deliberation

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Anyone who is familiar with the Harry Potter novels will know that I lifted the title of this blog from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. These are the three guiding principles behind apperating–the way wizards in his world travel, disappearing from one place and appearing in another (like a Star Trek transporter without the technology, just magic).

Over the past week, these three words have been running through my head when it comes to my writing. My agent had me fill out a detailed questionnaire about myself and my writing life when I signed with him last month. Several of the questions focused on my writing habits: what time, where, when, and what hindered me from having more time to write. Being completely honest in answering them, I was a bit ashamed to admit that even since completing my Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction, I was still treating my writing like a hobby, not like a career. Now, I am under no delusions that, even should I be published soon, I will be able to quit working and be supported by what I earn in advances and royalties–not for many years to come, if ever. But, if I am ever to be (a) published and (b) taken seriously as an author, I realize that I must look upon my writing almost like a job. I hate to put it that way because I never want my writing to be a “job.” Writing is something I have always done because I love it–because it gives me a way to escape the real world of being single, having to work full time in jobs I haven’t always liked, stress from involvement in different organizations and the mantle of leadership either voluntary or thrust upon me, etc.

But even though writing is that for me, I must consider my destination. I did this seven years ago when I set my goals in 2000 looking ahead to the year I turned 35 (2006). One of those goals was to be in the process of seeking publication. I achieved that goal when I signed on with a literary agent. Now I must look further down the road. Where do I see myself as a writer in two to three years? Five years? Ten years? Do I want to be multipublished? YES. Okay, then I need to get a move on and start churning out a rough draft of a novel every six-to-nine months. My last two manuscripts have taken me three years (Happy Endings, Inc.–including a year-long revision process) and two years (Ransome’s Honor, which is still not quite finished) to complete. I know I can complete a rough draft faster than that–before Happy Endings, I completed a 75,000 word manuscript in four months–and that was during a semester when I was taking three undergraduate courses (9 hours). Over the past week and a half, I have written over 20,000 words on Ransome’s Honor, mostly by making myself sit down and write every night, and all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday this past weekend. This was how I turned out my first complete manuscript, What Matters Most (from 2001-2002–120,000 words) in nine months, never having written a story from start to finish before. The next manuscript was finished in seven months, and the third, as stated above, in four. What slowed me down with #4 (HEI) and #5 (RH) was first, working with critique partners for the first time and feeling I had to go back and revise and revise and revise every time I got feedback from them; and second, taking the critiques too much to heart while writing the first draft and becoming blocked and unable/unwilling to sit down and write because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it perfect–make it pleasing to my mentor and critique partners–the first time I wrote it. But now, I have decided to be “over it.” I’m going to write without worrying about if I use “as” too much or start too many sentences with “-ing” verbs. The only thing that will get me to my destination is to just write.

Which brings me to determination. It’s amazing how life still goes on when I don’t watch TV every night. This started back in the fall when I determined I was not going to continue watching ER on Thursday nights. I’d been hooked on it for years and years, and even when I grew frustrated with it, I still watched it every week. But this TV-year, I decided that since I had not been watching the reruns all summer, I could make the break and just not watch the new shows. And I haven’t missed it one bit. Additionally, it was quite easy for me to give up watching CSI, which I had watched before it. And guess what? Even though I do not turn on the TV on Thursday nights, the sun still rises on Friday mornings. And I have the whole evening to do things like write blogs for the Favorite PASTimes blog, visit a list of about 75-100 other writers’ blogs that I like to read to keep up with friends, do some research, or (and perhaps this should be first on the list) WRITE. Now, NBC has done me another favor–since Vincent d’Onofrio is so rarely on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, I don’t watch TV on Tuesday nights, either. And since giving up these shows, I have found myself more and more often skipping other shows that in the past I have been addicted to in favor of going in to the office and writing or participating in writing-related activities. Monday night, point in fact, I only watched about 15 minutes of CSI: Miami, one of the few shows I usually make the time to watch every week, before turning it off and going back to the computer. So, now I only have one night during the week when two shows come on that I really want to watch (and both come on at 9:00 on Wednesday evening).

Which brings me to deliberation, both in my writing and in my reading. I operate best with set schedules and deadlines. I can no longer waste so much of my time sitting in front of the idot-box, which is my biggest time killer. Since Wednesday evenings are curttailed due to church/choir practice, and since that is the night the two shows I’m recently addicted to come on, I will deliberately watch TV only on Wednesday evenings after I get home from church. This means that on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, I will deliberately spend at least two hours (8-10 or 9-11) writing my novels, with the time before that available for other activities such as critiquing, blogging, visiting blogs, forums, ACFW volunteer work (coordinating the online courses), etc. If I can write a chapter each of three nights during the week at an average length of 3,500 words, I can have the first draft of a novel knocked out in eight and a half weeks! And that’s just writing three nights each week. Now, granted, the evenings recently when I’ve written a full chapter, I have written for more like four or five hours. But if I had not sat down and started writing and hit a zone, I would not have finished those chapters and gotten myself ever nearer the end of the manuscript. On Friday evenings (two shows I like both come on at 9:00 p.m.), I can spend the earlier part of the evening writing, then watch my shows (and if I get on a roll and miss them, oh well!). Then, once I complete Ransome’s Honor and am writing the sequel to Happy Endings, Inc. during the week, I can spend the weekends either working on revisions to RH or writing its sequel. In this way, I will always be able to have two projects in different stages of progress–and when HEI sells and I’m having to do rewrites, I will already have time blocked out in my week for working on my writing and can easily slide it right into the schedule.

I must also become deliberate about reading. I used to be a voracious reader. But once I started graduate school, reading became an academic activity–something that had to be done and must be picked apart and analyzed instead of just enjoyed. But to be the best writer I can be–as well as to know what is being published out in the market–I must become a deliberate reader. So, I will spend at least one hour before turning off the lights reading new books in my chosen genres of contemporary and historical inspirational romance. And just for accountability, I will post to my other blog what I’m reading along with my thoughts/comments.

Destination, determination, deliberation. And a happier, more productive me.

5 Comments
  1. Erica Vetsch permalink
    Thursday, February 8, 2007 1:03 pm

    Goals, schedules and shooting at a specific target are def. the way to go. I posted my own goals for 2007 on my blog. Maybe we can help keep one another accountable. 🙂

    Like

  2. Kaye Dacus permalink
    Thursday, February 8, 2007 3:06 pm

    Believe me, having critique partners again is one of the main things that will help keep me focused on these goals!

    Like

  3. amyanne permalink
    Friday, February 9, 2007 12:21 am

    hello Kaye,

    I am Tricia Goyer’s assistant. I’m putting together the blog tour for her latest book, Valley of Betrayal. Would you be interested in participating?

    Thanks,
    Amy
    amy@triciagoyer.com

    Like

  4. Candice Speare permalink
    Friday, February 9, 2007 11:39 am

    Kaye–awesome blog article. I so admire you for everything you’ve accomplished and are doing right now. Thank you for this. I needed this encouragement right this minute. We need to chat soon! Candice

    Like

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