Let’s see. We moved from Seattle back to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We loved the scenery and the coffee, but home is home y’all. No sooner than we arrived and the movers unloaded the boxes from the moving truck – my mother had a massive heart attack. She was in the hospital for more than a month and then recuperated at our house for the next two months. The same day she moved back to her home, I accepted a full-time teaching position. Never a dull moment!
However, in the midst everything, I’m happy to report that I’ve completed my first novel. I’ve already been in touch with an amazing structural editor who I’m so excited to start work with. I feel so blessed. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t profess to be the queen of time management (hardly!) but I found a few things that helped me keep words flowing to the page and wanted to pass them along.
First, allow yourself to suck. I know, we all want perfect prose the first time. But sooner or later reality has to set in and we must come to understand that God invented the DELETE and BACKSPACE keys for a reason. Even if it’s not perfect, get it on the page.
Second, set smaller goals. While I usually write about 2,000 words a day (my personal best is about 6,500 while working on A Girl Called Graye), I had to lower my own expectations for what I could reasonably do while caring for my mother, completing our cross-country relocation, job hunting, and preparing to teach again. Two thousand words a day was simply too daunting for me at that time. So I set a new goal of 250 words a day. I soon saw that I surpassed that on most days, so I pushed it up to 500 words a day. Which leads me to my third bit of advice…
Be flexible. Writers are, by their very nature, so critical of themselves. When I saw my word count expectations were too high, I lowered them. When I realized I was able to do more, I raised them. Be reasonable with what you can and can’t do. Most days you’ll find that you can exceed your writing goals and other days you’ll check your word count tracker and think, “Only 28 more words I can go to bed.” And that’s okay. In fact, it’s fantastic!
Finally, when the muse has left you and you’re certain this writing thing is all a pipe-dream anyway and you never should have started to begin with – shut-up and edit. Go back to something you wrote earlier, preferably at least two weeks ago or more, and edit. You’ll find that it gets you back into your story. You’ll find sentences so horrible you’ll want to throw something at the screen. But you’ll also find sentences so awesome you’ll think, “Wow, I really wrote that?”
Yes, you did.