I Can't Come to the Phone Right Now
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I’m not here right now! As you are reading this, I am on my way to a residency at the Spruceton Inn, where I am going to finish my book! For real! Or, at least the shitty first draft of it. I told my editor today I was going to do that so now I actually have to. I’m so excited.
Here’s what I’m going to do this week:
Finish the shitty first draft. I’ve been working steadily on the book since this summer, writing for an hour or two twice a week and assorted weekends/vacations, and I have just under 60k words. My goal was 80k-ish, and I’ll probably be under that in the end, but this is all in the realm of normal. I have a chapter and a half to go, various appendices, and there are a whole lot of tk tk tk tks in this draft, so the word count will ebb and flow just as it should. I’m not worried about it.
Review past posts. I’ve been writing this off the top of my head/from my outline and notes, not cribbing from past entries of the newsletter. So, I’m going to take some time to scroll through the last almost FIVE YEARS here and flag specific things I want to include/update/revisit in the book, as well as make sure to immortalize all my best jokes in print.
Gussy up a section for my editor. My wonderful editor has given me a long leash in drafting this book, but it’s probably a good idea for me to clean up a few chapters (3 or so?) and send them her way, so she can make any comments on them ahead of me completing the non-shitty first draft to deliver in February. We’re coming up on the holidays, so I don’t actually expect to hear more back until January, and will keep forging ahead. It’s very unlikely she’s going to come back and say OMG YOU RUINED EVERYTHING, so I’m not worried about editing one way and having to go back and undo it later. That doesn’t happen as often as writers fear.
Figure out what secondary sources I want use and any interviews I want to do. Remember all those books I bought, lol? I’ve read half of two! I’m going to bring a few with me to read and also scroll through the draft to see if there are places where quotes, anecdotes, examples, etc would be helpful/are needed. I’m also going to do a specific read of the book down the line to ask myself what am I missing here? What perspective have I not considered? So, I’m going to prep for that, too.
If I do one of these a day, I’ll reach all my goals. And you know what? That’s actually not a whole lot of specific writing time. But that’s ok! This is where I am in the process and this is how I will use this incredibly valuable time. I can’t wait.
I mentioned last week something about an accountability worksheet, and that perked up a lot of your ears. I’m happy to report that this is very easy to set up! Here’s what you do—get ready—you write things down. That’s it! No special format. It can be as detailed or special as you want. I have a page in my project-specific notebook where I write down the date, how many words I wrote that day, and the total word count.
As you can see, it is neither exhaustive, complete, or fancy. But it is effective, because I want to write down that number and I want to fill the page with dates and totals, so that is the motivation I need to get in a writing session, no matter how big or small.
My fantastic writing group is doing something a little more detailed in a shared google sheet. We’re writing our accomplishments—word counts, editing milestones, research goals—on a calendar of sorts, as well as little notes of encouragement and praise at the bottom. It’s great! That reminds me, I need to go log what I did on Saturday!
There’s no magic here except the magic you personally need. You could make a chart or graph! You could download one of those thermometer images they use for fundraisers and color it in for all the words you write. I know Scrivener has word count goal counters and such and I’m sure there are many other tech-facing things you can set up that will congratulate you for doing a thing. You can clock words written or edited, minutes writing or reading, or days you touched your book in some way. It all counts, not just word count. Give yourself permission to record what will motivate you, what fits with where you are with your book and/or your life, not what you think should count the most. Don’t measure word count if that doesn’t make sense for where you are right now, or if you’re a slow drafter, or if it feels like a drop in the bucket at this point. Do ten-minute writing sprints (without checking socials) and count how many you can do in an hour or two. You are allowed to do this anyway you want. It’s not cheating to tailor it to what works for you.
So, see you later, alligators! Don’t worry—I have content in the can for Thursday, too. If you need me for anything while I’m away, no you don’t!1
Clients, you will still be taken care of. I won’t be unreachable if you really, really, really need something.