Tag Archives: targets

And relax… (sort of)

On Thursday evening, I wrote until my brain could take no more and went to bed frustrated.

On Friday morning, I got up in time to shower and feed and dress Arthur and I before we had to leave the house just after half past eight, managing to squeeze a couple more hundred words in between it all: but still it wasn’t enough.

Once Arthur had been safely delivered to his gymnastics class, I sat myself down with my laptop. I was surrounded by screaming kids and chatting mums, and had just under an hour to bring my story to its conclusion. And with seconds to spare before I wrapped Arthur up in a cuddle and we continued with our day, this happened:

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Having set myself a somewhat cursory target of 90,000 words, and broken it down way less rigidly than with my first two novels, I was a little intrigued to discover that as I approached that magic number the story did appear to naturally be coming to a close. I had been all prepared, after the two ‘deadline extensions’ I already given myself, to move the goalposts yet again even after that progress bar had turned its satisfying deep green. But, as it turned out, only 784 additional words were needed before I could safely say that the first draft was done.

It’s a good feeling, coming to the end of a first draft. Even now that I understand just how much work goes on after that point – way more, actually, in terms of both hours and mental exertion – it still feels good to get all of the raw material out of my head and onto (virtual) paper.

And so, to an extent, I can now relax. Except, of course, I can’t.

Along with all of the other endless jobs on my to-do list, I have set myself a bit of an epic mission for this summer. It’s the mission that, if I’m successful, will take me beyond the realm of ‘someone who writes’ into the heady heights of ‘professional writer’.

It is the mission to get published.

I’m keeping an open mind at the moment about how that will happen and with whose help, but it really is time I started to take things to the next level. I haven’t had the confidence before now to really push it, and even now I’m quaking in my boots a little.

But I’ve written three whole books.

And whilst they all still need a bit more work, I have reached a point where I don’t think I can justify turning my attention to another before the ones I’ve written are given a real opportunity to shine.

So there won’t be much relaxing here. There will be lots of research, and investigation, and soul-searching, and letter-writing, and self-promotion. But hopefully by the end of it, once this latest first draft has sat for a while and is ready for me to turn my attention to it once again, I will have a much clearer idea of where it’s all going.

That’s the plan, anyway…

 

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Stolen moments

I had such a lovely writing day today.

I don’t take any of my writing time for granted: it took years for me to pluck up the courage to put pen to paper at all, and when I was teaching full time I rarely had the headspace to write anything longer than flash fiction, or sometimes a bad poem.

Getting stuff written has moved much higher up my list of priorities since I became a mum, but between entertaining a three year old and a growing smorgasbord of employment it can still be hard to find the time. I’m still working on making mornings work, and otherwise guiltily catching up during Arthur’s afternoon nap when I should really be focusing on the rest of my to-do list.

Today, though, was different.

I dropped Arthur off at forest school at 9.15. That may seem like an innocuous statement, but it was actually the first time we’d left him with anyone other than my folks, and the first time he’d been in an ‘educational setting’ for longer than the hour his gym class lasts. I wasn’t worried: the couple of sessions I’ve been to with him convinced me that it was exactly the sort of environment I wanted him to be spending his time in. Still, though, his wobbling lip and wide eyes almost weakened my resolve.

But I have a deadline to keep. And I’ve already put it back twice.

I wandered off through the little village of Stoke Gabriel, heading for a cafe by the waterfront. It was such a beautiful morning that I decided to start off outside, pitching myself up with my laptop on a bench overlooking the weir. There’s definitely a lot to be said for not being tied to my desk.

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After the first few hundred words, I decided I needed a coffee. So inside, for a flat white and a glass of water and a few more hundred words.

Then when I hit a wall again, I went for another meander. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I figured it would be difficult to get lost. I found a bench, up above the road with a view down towards the river, just at the point when the next flash of inspiration hit, so I stayed there for a while.

My last port of call was a pub, for a pint of lime and soda and a little burst of internet. Despite being connected to the world I still managed to get something written, ending my morning’s mobile session at 2,669 words.

What was especially wonderful was that I hadn’t had to rush. I had almost four hours of writing time in total, broken up by walks to kick my brain into gear again. And in that time I could let my mind wander too, and find new ideas in my daydreams.

I’m not sure how often I will have days like today – in the time I was gifted or the headspace to use it well – but I am grateful for this one I had.

And, at the end of it, I am that little bit closer to achieving my goal…

 

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Peaks and troughs

After a positive start, I’ve been feeling a little less optimistic this week about the beginnings of this new novel. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the writing – I really am once I get into the flow. But between me struggling to get myself going in the mornings and Arthur deciding that maybe 7.30am is a bit late to start the day after all it’s been trickier and trickier to concentrate.

Instead of the 1500-ish words I’ve been aiming for, I’ve been managing about 800. And there’s been one morning again when I just couldn’t face getting up to write at all, partly because that target suddenly seemed just so completely out of my reach.

The business of target setting is a funny one, and one that (for me) is so important to get right. I am fully aware that there is an awful lot more to this novel-writing business than just getting the words out. But if you’re not even getting the words out then the likelihood of ever writing a novel is, well, slim at best. And I find that the words are much likely to be forthcoming if I have a sensible, achievable target to aim for each and every day that I sit down to write. It can’t be too low, because otherwise this first draft would drag on forever: I’ll lose momentum and consistency and probably never get it finished at all. But it can’t be too high either because otherwise (as I’ve proven to myself this week) I’ll get all defeatist about it and begin, little by little, to give up.

I had to have a serious chat with myself this morning to avoid the situation spiralling out of control. And in doing so I decided I should probably cut myself some slack.

There was no way I was going to be able to magic any more time out of the ether – not in the immediate future anyway. And with the way I’m working with this particular novel – feeling my way through it rather than sticking to a rigidly worked out plan – there was little chance that I was going to manage to squeeze many more words out of my mornings. The only solution was to aim to write less – to put back my self-imposed deadline just a little.

This means my daily word count target is just a little less daunting, and hopefully therefore will be able to do it’s job as a motivational tool rather than scaring me off. It worked this morning: in fact so much so that I wrote more than I was aiming for, building up a buffer for days when things don’t go quite as well.

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My new deadline has the added advantage of coinciding with an extended weekend trip we are taking to Florida to celebrate the wedding of one of my bestest friends: I’m hoping that in itself will be enough to motivate myself not to push things back any further.

We shall see…

But however things unfold, I think an important part of keeping going when the going gets tough is knowing when to keep on pushing forward and when to ease off a little, to allow yourself to ride the waves and find solace in the troughs as much as you revel in the peaks.

I think I’ve got the balance right now – and if not, well, I guess I’ll just need to keep tweaking until I do.

 

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