The Christmas story is done. I’ve sent out all the postcards (save for the one in the pocket of the blazer I forgot to wear to church last week), I’ve fixed up the .pdf, and I’ve done all the hoping I can that Pendleton Ward won’t sue my beard off. The fact is, 2013 is over.
And now January is nearly over, which is a big deal, because I want to finish the outline for my novel Greenwood (working title) before we tick over to February. It seems like a big bite to take. I’ve been hunting the elusive end of this ridiculous outline for more months than I’d care to admit- hunting it like some kind of Sasquatch or Chupacabra, like something I’m almost afraid to find.
And in a way, I was. I’ve been outlining so long in a blunt, lumbering, present-tense format for so long I was a little scared of finally getting back into an actual, on-page voice. Yes, you can cover the whole autocross course in a dump truck, but there are better ways.
Skellan and Boxter bolstered my confidence, however. It’s a children’s story, bereft of flowery detail and deep, grinding heart-shifts, but there’s probably no better inclined plane along which to push yourself back up into prose than a children’s story. The audience knows nothing, and you need to tell them, and since they’re all seven, you don’t have to tell them that much. Their imaginations will do the rest and enjoy it.
My other confidence prop came in the form of goals. This may seem a bit 101, but you’d be surprised how many aspiring authors are just “too creative” to set goals. Or maybe you won’t, because it will be a million people you’ve never heard of who never got anything done and published.
I’d rather not swim in that sea, so after a meeting with fellow ginger and writer, the incomparable Jesse Koepke last weekend, I’ve made a list of my own. And by “of my own,” I mean, “mostly ripped off of Jesse’s list.”
1. One blog post per month. That doesn’t seem like much until you scroll down to see that 2013 saw two blog posts all year, and 2012 just saw one. It’s a big step. I don’t want to steal time from progress on my novel, but I do want to a) network with other writers, b) get some exposure, and c) share my thoughts on what I’m learning. It’s also a great way to clear the jets if I start thinking too heavily about The Project, and I can list my goals and have you folks kick me around if I don’t keep up.
2. 250 words per day. As February dawns, I should be finished with my final outline. Diving into the real prose, I’m going to shoot for a bare minimum of 25o words every day. That means 500 on Saturdays so I can turn my brain off on Sunday and watch stupid movies. (Just because Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is on Netflix doesn’t mean you should watch it. And if you do, you need to have a great appreciation for camp.)
Once again, this is a small goal, but between work, exercise, church duties, and keeping the WRX on the road, I’m not left with a crap ton of hours. If I can hit my quarter-thousand a day, I’ll at least have trajectory. There’s also the acceleration factor. As I get used to 250 words, I’ll get faster. I’ve been working on this blog post for about half an hour, and I’m already pushing 600. Hopefully my thorough outline will improve throttle response.
3. One development item per weekday. Historically I’ve been the guy who doesn’t want to take writing time to read about writing. But that’s a bit stupid. When I get into a car project and I don’t know what I’m doing, I tend to try to figure it out. For hours. Then I fail and I go look it up on Youtube. Yeah, when you replace the rear brakes on a VW, you need to turn the pistons as you compress them.
I need to learn that lesson with writing, as well. So I’m going to take 15-30 minutes per day to listen to a podcast, watch a Youtube video, or read a blog post put together by one of the myriad brilliant authors who offer them. I’ve started with this so far excellent lecture series by Brandon Sanderson, whose Mistborn series I currently have trouble putting down.
You know how you wanted to learn about creative writing in college but you only got a room full of stuffy hipsters whose only criterion for a good writer is how few people outside the university system have ever heard of him, and who really just wanted to see more, and who felt that paragraph was very strong? No? Well I do. Had I known all this awesome stuff was available online, I would have skipped the broodfest and designed my own college courses with professors like Michael Sullivan, Kenneth Oppel, and Scott Westerfeld.
4. A first draft by July first.
I know the math for a 350-400 page novel by mid-year doesn’t quite line up with the 250 WPD goal listed above, but remember, that was a minimum, and there’s always acceleration, right? This one’s just a shot in the dark. I don’t know if I can knock together a first draft in six months, but I’m definitely going to try, because I want to be on the road to publishing by the end of the year. I don’t know if that means having my agent, having my publisher, or having my contract, but it’s time to shut up and get to work.