(called out in a, hopefully, cheerful voice)
I’m so not the right blogger to write the festive season post.
I’m traumatized by childhood memories of polishing silver, cleaning the porcelain and hurting my back from pulling out the couch to remove the colony of dust balls that had sought shelter there since last Christmas. They knew it was the only place in the whole house where they’d be safe from the vacuum cleaner until next year’s Christmas clean. These were just a few of the points on Mom’s endlessly long list of Things to Do and we worked our asses off up to the afternoon on Christmas Eve.
When dusk finally settled and Mom could do nothing more than fret over her mother-in-law (also called The Dragon) and stare through the foggy glass front of the stove, as if she could will the pork rib to roast to perfection, the rest of the family (except The Dragon, I suspect) would sigh in relief and silently vow to eat whatever came out of that stove, regardless how burnt or raw it was. (It took me a while, but as an adult I’ve realized the pressure of catering for a mother-in-law who’s keen to grade everybody’s effort, and why my dad would insist he’d have to make certain the aquavit (Norwegian schnapps) was still drinkable, long before the dinner guests arrived.)
The real celebration was that it would be a whole year until the next time our household would be turned upside down, and my mother, normally a gentle and docile woman, would turn into a dictator wearing an apron.
Because of this, I’m more a New Year’s person, like the dust balls under the couch, I enjoy new beginnings and clean sheets/floors to fill. So enough about Christmas. Let’s look ahead instead. Toward a new year and the upcoming peak season for resolutions.
I’m a master procrastinator. Really, I could give courses. Let me know if you’re willing to pay me to show you how to be ineffective. I research, critique others’ work, play Candy Crush Saga, edit photos, revise old chapters, weed my flower beds… You name it, if it can keep me away from writing, I’ll do it. There have been times when I’ve actually prioritized laundry before writing. It’s been that bad.
If I don’t snap out of this and start to work on my story, I’ll die of old age before it’s done. And that’s so sad…because, despite my sloth speed and ample excuses, I’ve actually put in quite a lot of work in this project, and if I don’t finish it, it’s been a complete waste of time. (Not really, I’ve learned tons of stuff and grown as a writer, but I try not to remind myself of this because it could be used as an excuse for more procrastination.)
During my meandering writing of 2015, I learned a few things that I should, with some effort, be able to use to my benefit in 2016.
– Word sprints work! I always told myself (any everybody that cared to listen) that these kinds of gimmicks didn’t work for me. I’m a slow endurance runner, I used to say, who needed to submerge myself into the story and delve into the very soul of my characters. Naturally, this takes time. Unless I had half a day to my disposal, there was no point even opening Scrivener. This is so wrong!
During NaNoWriMo 2015 I joined a group of super-enthusiastic, hyperactive writers. (It was madness and I declared myself a rebel aiming for half the word count already before 1 November.) I only caught a brief glimpse of the Duracell writers as they shot out of the starting block, producing thousands of words every day. How the hell do they do that?! Anyway, in the dust trailing them, I learned that short, intense periods of writing work. Even for me.
When I’m on the clock, there’s no time to sensor myself, or to procrastinate, and the words come surprisingly easy. It might not be stellar prose, but at least the story progresses. In this free writing frenzy, I discover some diamonds too. Descriptions and dialogs I can’t even remember writing seem to have a natural freedom or ease, unrestrained by my critical mind. They’re glimpses of a very honest voice, I suppose. Surely, for a first person writer with a strong focus on the narrator’s voice, this must be good.
So here’s the thing: If I’m able to set aside 30 minutes per day, I’ll manage to write around 4-500 words on my first draft every day. That means around 3000 words per week, 12 000 words per month, or more than 140 000 words per year. That sounds like a bloody good plan! That would mean that the first draft of the NeverFreakingEndingStory could be completed in 2016. Yey!
I learned something else from these sprinting writers too. Group pressure is effective. We have a small Facebook group were we announce times for planned sprints. If you join, you’re expected to report your word count afterwards. It’s like a weight loss program; no one wants to have written fewest words.
While only a small percentage of the participants of NaNoWriMo 2015 actually managed to write 50 000 words. more than half of our Facebook group won NaNo. To be held accountable works.
And this is why I need to continue to submit weekly chapters on Scribophile in 2016. To know that I have a group of critters waiting for my work every Sunday evening has kept me up far into the night in order to finish before the deadline. Actually, the interaction with my critters is what drives the entire process and develops the story. I don’t know what I’d do without them. This relationship must be maintained and it’s worth spending time and energy on.
So that means, in this rambling post, there are two writer’s resolutions for 2016:
– 30 minutes effective writing per day (or more, if there’s time and I’m ‘in the zone.)
– Continue with weekly submissions of chapters on Scribophile (to ensure that my word production turns into coherent scenes others can make sense of, not just babbling from a mad woman).
If I live by these rules, I should reach my main goal of finishing the first draft of my trilogy toward the end of 2016. Now I’ve said it out loud, so now I have to live by it. (You will notice that I haven’t said a thing about avoiding chocolate or exercising three times per week in comparison).
How about you? Do you have any writer’s resolutions for 2016 you want to share with us, to make them official and binding?
Cayenne Michaels is a Norwegian expat living in Namibia. She’s a scuba diving desert rat and a Jack of All Trades, master of…er…none? A couple of years ago she woke with the crazy idea of writing a book, and she’s been hammering away on the keyboard ever since. It’s a crazy project, a gigantic slice of life type of story and based on the word count it can probably be sold as a brick instead of a book, if it ever get as far as proper book form.