As a mommy-writer I've often struggled with motivation to get my writing done. After finally putting the kids to bed I usually choose one of three ways to spend my evening: cleaning up my federal-disaster-area-of-a-house, working on my novel, watching TV with hubs (who will undoubtedly complain if I select either of the first two options - I know its hard to believe, but he loves to be with me enough that he tolerates living in filth and squalor.... most days). Of course I choose TV. I'm tired, I want to cuddle with hubs, I want to turn my brain off and be entertained.... but this isn't really conducive to getting a novel written, now is it?
I've been at the novel writing business for all of 18 months now and I have very little that has actually been written. I love to research and I love to read books about being a better writer; its easy to justify those things as productive activities, and they can be, just not when you're using them as an excuse to procrastinate. That's why I was very excited when I came across this little item the other day:
here and I have found it to be very worth the money. One of the statements in the packet really stuck with me. "Short deadlines can actually be invigorating.... [I]f you tell yourself that you have to set aside six months to get a draft down, it will seem like a huge task (will you really ask your family to make a sacrifice for six months?). But what if you only have to ask your family to pitch in for one month?" (pgs 4&5).
So I started thinking... what if I asked my family to sacrifice for one month? They'd have to deal with cheap, quick dinners and a house that is falling apart (more so that usual), but it would only be for 30 days. Could they handle that? They'd have total chaos for 30 days, but after that they'd have me back to themselves... a much less distracted me, no less. So I've decided that I'm going to do this; I'm really going to challenge myself to write my novel in 30 days.
At the risk of sounding once again like I'm procrastinating, there are a few things I am taking care of before I begin. This is my to-do list.
- Prepare for the 30 day cleaning Lent by having a cleaning Mardi Gras. If I'm going to neglect the household duties it would be a lot more tolerable if the house at least started from a clean slate. I intend to take a Saturday to clean the whole house before I begin my 30 day challenge.
- Plan the month's meals. I want to be very efficient with my time during my 30 days of writing, so why not get as much prepared beforehand as possible? I'm going to plan out a menu for the month involving all kinds of quick meals. Grilled cheese, frozen pizzas, takeout... whatever is fast. Depending on your financial situation you may find it beneficial to pay more money for food to save yourself more time for writing.
- Wrap up research. I'm writing an historical novel, so there is naturally some research that accompanies the writing. I'm doing my best however, to research only major themes and not intricate details; those can be added as I go back and revise the draft.
- Solidify outline. I know that there is the whole "pantsers vs. outliners" debate out there. If you're one who prefers to fly by the seat of your pants let me offer you a word of caution: it WILL take you longer to get a final draft of your manuscript merely because you will be practicing trial and error by actual writing as opposed to scene cards. Since this site is all about efficient writing, I will of course be promoting outlining.
- Wait until its sunny. I know, this is a weird one, but I've chosen to wait until its genuinely summer so I can save myself some guilt. I'll feel like a much better mom if my kids are outside having active fun while I'm holed up in a cave neglecting them entirely.
- Finish reading Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques that Ensure a Great First Draft by Laura Whitcomb. I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve not only my writing but my speed and this novel has it all! I've been so thrilled with the advice I've received, but the best advice by far has been her "Shortcut to Scene" exercise. I intend to give you a rundown of the info a little later, but I'm sure she explains it much better than I could. Consider checking it out at your local library or buying it here.
In my next post I will cover some tips to helping you be faster and better writers. This little snippet from an interview with Laura Whitcomb should whet your appetite:Your new book, Novel Shortcuts, is filled with tips on how to write a fast but strong first draft. What would you say the key is to accomplishing this?
The exercise that was the most helpful to me while writing my second novel is the one I call “Shortcut to the Scene” in which I prepare the left brain stuff (action, dialogue) and the right brain stuff (poetry, emotion, metaphor, simile) into a one page model from which to work. When I started using this method I found I was not only writing better first drafts of scenes, but I was doing it about three times faster.
Discussion Question: What nasty habits do you have that look an awful lot like procrastinating?