Sunday, February 17, 2008

Progress Report: My Big "Client Project"

So, I wrote in January about landing my "biggest client ever"--myself. In the wake of NaNoWriMo, I decided I needed to look at novel writing the way I approach client projects: with a detailed outline and a schedule I can stick to. I wrote an outline of my remaining story, detailed in places and general in others. I set a schedule. This is a big change from the way I used to write, mainly by the seat of my pants. So far, it's been a resounding success in the past month. Here are some of the things I did wrong in the past--that I'm doing right now.

I've learned that the outline is absolutely necessary. I have to admit, I'm not always on the same mental page when I sit down to pick up a narrative thread as I was when I left off. Sometimes I forget where I was going before, or what the point of that scene was anyway and what I wanted to do with it. Other times I'm just in a different mood and that can affect where I want to take my writing. With an outline, I can check back to see where I was in the narrative and what the scene I'm currently in will lead to--I can keep myself on track. I cannot stress how important this is.

Before, I would rely on inspiration to carry me--and sometimes it would carry me quite a ways before abandoning me, lost, in foreign territory--but it would always abandon me eventually. I've learned that yes, inspiration and imagination are key--but I have to use them within the framework of an outline, not rely completely on them. They are undependable, and my writing needs to be regular if I ever want this to be my job.

I also build flexibility into my schedule. My schedule is 2500 words per week. I don't say "per day," I say "per week." I can do them all in one sitting, or I can spread them out throughout the week--as long as I make my quota, it doesn't matter. I've been successful at setting aside a few hours each week, once a day, to work on the novel. I've found that within those few hours, I can usually get more than 2500 words easily. But if I don't, it's okay to do a little more later.

Before, when I set schedules, I'd be very harsh with myself: I must write 1,000 words a day, or I am Not A Real Writer. If I didn't have time one day or just didn't have the energy or inspiration, I would feel like I was doomed to failure. This would make me so discouraged I'd eventually give up on writing at all for a while. With this schedule, I have the flexibility to allow life to intervene--which it always will. It doesn't matter, I still get my work done.

So far, this experiment has been going great. For the first time, I really feel like I'm doing something sustainable. No, I don't feel like I'm being carried away by inspiration. I'm not convinced I'll like my book when I'm done; I'm pretty sure it sucks. The difference now is that my outline is keeping me on track and I'm finding it much easier to resist the delete key--because I have a plan. It's less easy for me to talk myself into believing that if I just start over again from a different place, the whoel thing will be better.

Will I wind up with a full-length book in less than a year? At the rate I'm going now, you bet. It's an exciting thought, but I'm not getting too excited yet. I don't want to jinx anything. Right now, I'm content to just plod onward, one step at a time.

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