Free to Be You and Me for Writers

I had plans, big plans. I would be a paragon of writing diligence and finish my novel by Easter, come hell or high water (I love that saying). I had ambitious daily word count goals, a decent outline, and a lot of chocolate. My family had agreed to writing days where they couldn't speak to me - and they even kind of stuck to it. It was my own personal NaNoWriMo.  

And a week before Easter, my outline was more fully realized, the chocolate was significantly depleted, but responsibilities had popped up causing my daily word count goals to crumble and the novel was no where near done. I had failed.


So what happened?


I had managed to keep up with my goals for a week, then my brain froze. Every idea I had, every word I typed reeked with suckitude. I didn't make any progress. My daily word count goal had risen to scary numbers. I freaked because I could never meet them and the Work In Progress was awful anyway, so why bother. I spiraled (we’ve talked about the spiral before).


Now, let’s be very clear here - I didn’t meet my goals because of me. I am my own worst writing enemy. I either set goals  too high or not high enough. There’s a balance to doing this writing thing, where you can maintain steady progress, keep your writing tools in tip-top shape, but still enjoy the rest of your life. I’m trying to find that perfect balance of writing, family, house, and me. Here's the important point in all this - my perfect balance is different than your perfect balance. When it comes to writing habits, only yours matter - or as Marlo Thomas taught me - I'm free to be you and me.


Not only will my balance be my own, but it will also be no better or no worse than other writers. I know people who frequently crank out three thousand words a day (I’m side-eyeing you, Mark), and I know people who will make their daily word count even with children vomiting on their laptop (I bow to those dedicated folks). We all have a different formula where we find happiness and fulfillment and mine hovers around 1K a day.


A thousand words seems about right. On a good day, I can blow by that in 90 minutes and turn my attention to the laundry towers of doom. On a slow day, I can squeeze out those words between youtube videos, dream vacation planning, and scouring the internet for adorable corgi pictures to send my agent.


So, dear reader, there are no right or wrong writing habits. We're free to be you and me. I’m finding my balance. Share yours in the comments - I’d love to hear how you make it work.




Recipes and Revelations

I'm in the midst of writing book 2, and I'm struggling, a lot. I know kinda where I want to go and kinda how I want to get there, but it isn't clear how to do it. When I wrote The Cake Effect, I had months of notes, a detailed outline, and then more notes on top of that. I'd been writing it without actually putting words on the page for months, so when I typed out chapters, I knew exactly what I was writing. No one knew what I was up to yet, so there was no pressure if it never went past the planning phase.

With WIP2, I had an idea combined with the self-proclaimed title of Writer. That was it. I sat at the computer with an idea which evolved into an opening scene, then a few more chapters to meet the characters. Then the brick wall.


Since then, I've  fumbled to get to the other side of that damn wall. I jumped ahead and wrote some scenes where new characters are introduced and a bit of the denouement. But it wasn't helping me get the story rolling. I was missing something important. Combine my floundering with seeing all my fantastic writing friends posting astronomical word counts and failure began stalking me (never mind how cute and fuzzy it is).



Fortunately, I already had the answer in my other passion, cooking. When I cook, I always start with a recipe - my plan to get me started. The first time I make a new recipe, I follow it perfectly. Then the next time, I make tweaks until it's what I want. This is what I needed for my writing; I needed a recipe, something I could tweak as needed but got me started.

Unfortunately, if you google my book title plue recipe, nothing useful (or even gifable) comes up in the results. And then my second revelation - the January 2014 Writer's Digest magazine (so new I couldn't find an image of it online). It has spectacular articles about writing your novel in 2014. One article has a handy dandy chart laying out the plot beats and what they need to include. It was the recipe I needed.

Using their fantastic chart as a guide, I mapped out my novel on the dry erase board. I know what I need to accomplish to get my main storyline cooking. As I go, I can sketch out the sub-plots to revise later.



So, dear reader, with a little help from Writer's Digest, I have the recipe I need to finish my novel. Perhaps I should make some cake to go with it.