I’ve been a writer for 40 years – more if you count the paragraphs I contributed to my weekly church bulletin about the Dorcas Circle quilting group or the camping adventures of The Youth Group.
For years I had daily deadlines. I decided on a story, made some phone calls, gathered facts and wrote like crazy after lunch until the 4 p.m. deadline. Or later, when I was an editor, would plan coverage at a daily “budget” meeting of news stories, get the graphics in place, supervise the layout, get the staff going on the static pages – classifieds, advertisements for the day, cartoon page, editorials. As the page deadlines ticked off, the day ended with the decision for front page coverage (the reporters competed for it), signing off on pages and usually a drink or two. Journalism at its best.
But then I wrote books. Deadlines were set in months, stretching into 18 months on one project. Long swaths of time deciding how to best tell the story, support the message, describe the scene. Writing. Rewriting. Editing. The leisure of being unchained from a printing press roaring like a lion for pages. Part of me missed the adrenaline and for 10 years and 10 books, I spent lots of time thinking about writing and then, finally, a marathon frenzy to finish. That’s how mistakes get in books.
So, in 2012, the six authors that I meet with monthly to critique and encourage each other decided to set goals and plan the year. Seven pages a week. If I wrote seven pages a week, I would finish the book in November. I wrote in dates for blogs, certain conferences where I would meet agents, weeks when I would send out queries, weeks when the proposal had to be done, edited, and ready to go. It was all laid out in plain view. This was what was necessary to sell my book, on pen and paper with unfailing clarity. The only question was, could I do it? Seven pages a week.
It worked. God bless the tortoise and the hare. I plugged away at my plan, finished the proposal, met an agent and completed the book a month ahead of schedule. Added some bonus pages. Added a study guide. An agent has it as we speak. NeuYear created a new me.
I will never again write a book without breaking it into doable goals. It just can’t happen any other way. And that pleasure of ticking off the accomplishments over the course of a year – amazing. (I’m not a dry erase type. Give me the year in black and white. Non-erasable.)
So bring on the NeuYear. I’m going to finish that YA novel I’ve been toying with for the past five years. And it’s only the first of a series.