This past year has been amazing and fantastic and wonderful, but I have not written enough for my satisfaction.
Time truly flies on hidden wings.
As I look back at the year, the lack of writing stems directly from my failure to plan and manage my time. I have spent the past 9 months cycling back and forth between various projects with little progress.
On the plus side, I published a non fiction book under the name T.U. Darby. It is all about habits.
The irony is clear. If I had been better about applying the lessons of that non fiction book in my own life, I would have had a much more productive year on the writing front.
My day job has kept me much more busy than I expected. Throw in a few family obligations and my writing time has diminished to nearly nothing. These are but excuses I offer and as I lay them out before you, I realize how weak and ineffectual they seem in the bright light of reality. The moral of this story is that life’s obligations will conspire to rob you of your precious writing time. It is each writer’s responsibility to protect that time.
In a deliberate act of choice with the desire to change the future into something I will be more satisfied with in another year, I sat down and reorganized my schedule to reflect the things I want to achieve instead of the things that come my way.
I have set aside over 5 hours M-Th for writing. Friday gets a paltry 2 hours and Saturday gets a minimum of 4. I take Sundays off. This puts me at 26 hours for a week.
What will this allow me to produce?
With my average rough draft pace of 750 words an hour, I should have nearly 20K words a week. This gives me a solid rough draft in 4 to 6 weeks depending on how the writing plays out.
I spend about 20 hours writing the initial book plan. From start to finish, I estimate about 8 weeks to produce a solid first draft.
Yes I do write a book outline. I call it my zero draft. I use Amy Deardon’s book, The Book Template. I follow it religiously. The first time through her book, I struggled and railed against the oppression and tyranny of planning. When I finished, I realized the power of the template. The product of my effort was a better zero draft than any first draft I had ever written.
In reality, once you have gone through all the steps she outlines in her book, you have a true understanding of where the book is going to take you and what you are going to deliver to your reader. This series of planning sessions is a powerful tool that allows me to create a better product in less time.
I used to be a pantser and it got me nowhere. Now I am definitely a planner. Each and every idea for a novel goes through the steps. Some don’t even make it past the first 10 steps because I realize the idea isn’t viable. The process saves me a ton of time and backtracking. By the time I am ready to start on the 1st draft, I know exactly where I am headed and have the confidence that I will achieve my intentions.
Seriously–what professional doesn’t create a plan before they start their project? Can you imagine an engineer telling her boss, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to fly by the seat of my pants on building this billion dollar dam?” Haha, you laugh. And yet we aspire to be professionals without doing the one thing professionals always do–plan.
Everything starts out as an idea. Just having an idea isn’t that impressive. It is the ability to put the idea into motion that creates things of power and beauty. And to get something created properly, you need structure. You need a plan, a direction, a guide. The Zero Draft will be your trusty guide. Now don’t give me the whole, “but it takes away my freedom,” crap. That is what rewriting is all about. You have your zero draft. You rewrite it into your first draft. You rewrite that into your second draft, and so on and so forth. Each time you rewrite, you have total freedom to make whatever changes you want. That is the point.
After I finish my first draft, I give it a 2 to 3 week cool down period where I studiously ignore it and try to forget everything about it. I spend this time working up the next book or working on some short stories. Then I get to rewrite.
“Rewrite?” you ask.
“Yes, rewrite,” I answer. The act of writing is really about creating the finished project suitable for others. Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Once you are done, you realize how much better you can tell it the second, third, fourth, and even the fifth time. As Hemmingway once told a reporter, “I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.” Rewriting is the key. After I begin the rewriting process, the actual time spent on original writing falls back down to just 2 hours a day. The other 14 hours of writing is actually rewriting.
And so it begins again. Hopes are high, my mind is full of ideas, and my heart is determined. I’ll let you know how this newest project went in 8 weeks time. In the meantime, watch for regular posts about other sundry thoughts and ideas.