Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gearing up for the big challenge

If you intend to be a regular at this site you should probably be warned that I dabble in puns.  Bathe in them, really.  Hence the picture.

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:
I downloaded it for $9.99 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.
Stay tuned!

Discussion Question:  What nasty habits do you have that look an awful lot like procrastinating?


  1. (this is MaryAnn, blogger won't let me post as myself)

    I am ALL for this. Not because I plan on writing a book myself, but because I'm ready to read YOUR fantastic book already. And since you asked, all my procrastination leads back to the computer. I tell my kids I'm being productive, but even they have stopped believing me. In fact, Keira told me yesterday that I just stay home and look at facebook all day (SO not true...I obviously read blogs too).

  2. Good luck Rachel! I will be rooting for you. Your family will survive and you will have a lot to show for one month. (Besides a messy house.)

    Right now my biggest time suck is trying to figure out how to promote the novel I sold while writing my next masterpiece. (Is that called procrastinating???)

  3. That sounds great! When are you going to get started?

  4. @MaryAnn- You make me laugh. And I'm glad you're excited about the book. It definitely helps motivate me :)

    @Jennifer- I'm not sure that promoting your published novel counts as procrastination.... It sounds like a lot of fun though! Are you thinking about doing book tours?

    @Mallory- I'm planning on starting next Monday the 23rd. That would put me finishing on Saturday the 25th (since I don't write on Sundays). You up for joining in?

  5. I wish I could! I'm trying to finish up edits for a contest later this year. I do National Novel Writing Month every year, though, and it is such a great boost. I don't know if I ever would have finished my first novel (or the second, for that matter!) without it! Doing concentrated writing like that is so much fun and so productive. You're going to love it.

  6. @Mallory. Wow. I've been reading posts on your website (and I added you to my twitter and facebook accounts) and can I just say thank you! Seeing what an awesome advisor you are and all of the knowledge you already have I'm totally flattered that you've visited my little (VERY new and comparatively infantile) site.

    The story ideas you have sound wonderful. My favorite one was the one you've put on hold... about the girl who wakes up in the morgue with amnesia... Intriguing! But your heart book is also captivating and I can't wait to read it when you're published! (as I have no doubt you will be!)

  7. I added you too! I loved the name of your blog (I am mommy author) so I had to come by! I'm really looking forward to seeing your blog grow and following your book in a month adventure! And I'd love to guest post if you're interested. :)

    Thank you so much! I've been reading Story Structure by Larry Brooks and realizing all the mistakes I made with This Life so, who knows, I might pull it out again one day. In the meantime, I'm so in love with my current characters and can't wait to get to the rewrites! I'm sure I'll change my mind once I'm knee deep in them... ;)

    Thanks for checking out my site and your kind words.