So far on the Exploring Authoring blog, I’ve published a lot of practical advice and tips. I wrote a little bit about my personal progress in Tips to help you write faster but I want to start doing this on a more regular basis so that Future Me can look back one day and go, “Wow, look how far I’ve come.” Also, for Present Day Me, I think it will be both therapeutic and encouraging to sit down, once a month, and think about what I’ve achieved and the difficulties I’ve experienced / overcome.
I know it’s not quite the end of April yet but next week I’m scampering off to the Cheltenham Jazz festival for a few days, so now is as good a time as any to think about this month’s hurdles and successes.
1. Word count.
A lot of things have changed word-count wise since last month. Firstly, I’ve changed my target from 120,000 words to 100,000 for the first draft. This is because I’m becoming more used to my own way of working, and I’ve discovered that when I go back over things I notice plot lines and character developments that need to be enriched and end up adding in extra scenes (and words). In order to progress things quicker, and stop this back and forth motion, I’m trying to focus on reaching that 100,000 in the first instance. When I’m there, I can add in the extra material that’s needed. And then, I can go back to the beginning and start cutting it back down!
The second word-count change is the actual figure itself. Four weeks ago I had around 21,000 words. Last week I hit 50,000. But this week I’m back down to 46,000! Now you might think that this would be disheartening but, actually, I’m really excited because I had an epiphany and decided to rewrite my first four chapters. The first two are done and I’m in that kind of writing space where you just can’t type quick enough and you feel truly excited by what you’re writing. This is a fantastic feeling because, in the beginning, there were a couple of elements with my opening chapters that just didn’t sit right. Now, I feel as though I’ve had a true, “Woo hoo!” moment.
2. Managing the writing-work-life balance.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would quit my day-job and dedicate my life to being a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I love working in the publishing industry. But when I write, I feel alive and excited and a bit like one of those people on the X-Factor who say, “This is all I’ve wanted to do, my whole life… I just can’t see myself doing anything else.” Also, forgive the slight arrogance here, I feel like if I just had more time I could be truly good at this authoring business!
However, as I write, I have not yet won the lottery - so I need to keep working. And I need to keep finding a way to fit writing around my busy life. Back in The Write Time I talked about the practicalities of this. But I think I am learning to be less strict with myself than I was in the beginning. Some days, I’m too frazzled from work to create anything worthwhile. If, on those days, I look after myself - have a nice meal, a hot bath, a cuddle with the dog, and an early night - the next day, I will probably achieve double my target word-count. This also ties in with my post about realising that thinking is a very valid writing-related activity!
3. Maintaining momentum in challenging times.
April has been a challenging month for me, personally. With my past writing endeavours, I’ve allowed myself to be thrown off course by external stressors. But this time I managed to keep going. In fact, writing helped me to cope with everything that was happening. It gave me something else to focus on and bury myself in. I will say, however, that if you’re having a tough time, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write for a few days, or weeks, or even months. Do what feels right and everything will fall back into place eventually.
I am still aiming to have my first draft - that’s those 100,000 words - finished by my 30th birthday. I have christened this year the Year of Me, and I am determined to meet this goal! So far, I have done a lot of plotting, and planning, and thinking. And finally, I know exactly where my story is heading. Hopefully, this means that if I just concentrate on writing - and take some of my own advice - I will get there!
A more long-term goal is that I’ve realised I want authoring to be a long-term career, even if it remains part-time and squeezed in on evenings and weekends. Beyond the novel I’m currently writing, and its two sequels, I have so many ideas for things I would like to research and write that I’m just bursting to keep going. So, Future Me: if you’re doubting your ability or whether all this hard work is worth it, remember that you love what you’re doing and that it doesn’t matter where it leads to because you’re doing it for you, no one else.
So, between now and the end of May I need to reach 80,000 words. This needs to happen in and around my sojourn in Cheltenham, a trip to Norfolk, some hefty work deadlines, my newfound dedication to swimming and doing pilates three times a week (long story!), and other life goings on. Wish me luck! And check back in four/five weeks to see if Future Me is proud or panicked!