Short term goals

Changing Gears

Hello and happy Saturday!

The school year is off to a good start. I’m teaching some pretty cool kids biology, but good teaching means busy weeks. I’ve spent more weekends than I care to admit bumming around my apartment playing the procrastination game with papers that need grading. I’m happy to say that I am currently caught up (well, let’s say 95%) and life is good. I’ve even started planting the seeds for my next novel, which is insane because that means I’m getting to the point where I can imagine finishing my current work in progress (what!?). Also, another word on my students- I’ve told many of them over the last couple of years that I’m writing a book and can I just say how much it warms my hard when I see kids in the hall and they say, “Hey Ms. D! How’s your book coming? I can’t wait to read it!” Just, joy to the world. Little (big) sweeties.

On my last post I shared some last-half-of-the-year goals with you all and I think it’s about time for an update. Below are the goals I set for which my self-imposed deadline has passed:

Complete a second pass through my 6th draft by 8/23 DONE! albeit not by that date

Send draft 6 to CP (Thanks Twitter) and Betas by 8/25 DONE! Again, not on time, but done

Draft a synopsis and query letter by 9/15 Not done, but in progress!

Have a list of at least 50 agents to query by 9/23 (I currently have 13) Not done, and I haven’t even tried, if I’m honest

So far I’ve met none of my goals on time, but that’s been pretty standard since I started this novel writing journey. The bright side is that I am, indeed, accomplishing the goals that I’ve set… just on an extended timeline. I am a bit disappointed in myself for literally spending ZERO time searching for more agents to query. That is a critical part of the process and I need to start devoting more time to it.

Sending my manuscript off to my critique partner and betas felt pretty momentous. It’s the first time people will be reading my book from start to finish, which is an exhilarating combination of scary and exciting. It also felt like a major transition point. I’ve been drafting for years and now I’m getting to the place where I have to seriously consider what comes after I decide I’ve polished my MS to the best of my ability. There is a very different vibe to this side of my journey. So far I’ve been focused on writing the best story I can. Now that I’m about 90% done with that part, I have to start thinking about how I can pitch my story in a way that will hook agents. It’s difficult, but I find the change of gears enjoyable. Summarize my 86,000 word novel in 500 words? Challenge accepted! …I’m currently failing the challenge, but I’ve got faith. I haven’t done much on the query side except play around with the first few sentences. It’s tough, but I’m glad to have a break from drafting and revising my MS.

I’ll check in again when I get feedback from my CP and betas. Hopefully that will set me up for my final draft… or maybe they will tell me my story is crap and I’ll spend another year revising… mysteries of life!

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

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Fourth Draft Complete

Hey Folks!

My first major writing goal of the year has been met. I wanted to have the fourth draft of my novel completed by 2/21, and I’ve brought it in four days early. I’m currently on winter break so I will likely devote the rest of my time off to putting a dent in draft five. Right now, I think draft five will be the last one. We shall see. If I don’t feel like it’s ready, I sure won’t be rushing to begin the querying process. That said, aside from a few notable things I want to update, I’m not sure continuing to fiddle with the story will add anything of value and I’ve heard that that is when it is time to stop, lest you go on tweaking until the end of time.

I’ve quite enjoyed the revision process. Getting the first draft out was like pulling teeth, but I’ve found loads of joy (okay, the kind of joy that is drizzled with frustration) in figuring out how to make that little story I wrote better. I love challenging and pushing myself.

Stats on draft four:

Word count: 82,000

Time to complete: 48 days

And just for fun… stats from draft 1:

Word count: 71,000

Time to complete: over 364 days

Goals for draft five:

Do not allow word count to exceed 83,000 (awesome if I can find a way to hack it back down to 80,000)

Finish by 4/6

Make it as awesome and polished as I can

 

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

I Think I’m Getting Close

I’ve spent the first couple days of 2016 alternating between working on the fourth draft of my current novel and learning all I can about how to build a platform. Something definitely feels different about this draft. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much time reading about querying, agents, and publishers, but I think I might be working on my last draft (well, let’s be real, second to last) before I try sending my baby off into world. Perhaps it was the subconscious realization of this that led me to begin my research about what comes next in the first place. Who knows, but it sure is exciting!

Yesterday I shared two of my goals for this year, but both of them had more to do with the “build a platform” side of things. I took some time this morning to outline goals for my WIP and ended up creating a list of all the things I’d like to achieve/do (deadlines included) between today and the end of June. What can I say? I’m a goal setter through and through and if I don’t hold myself accountable, who will? Plus, I’ve gotten really good at setting realistic, acheievable goals. Everything I wrote down is 100% doable, even with the busy schedule of a teacher/coach.

Highlights:

  • Finish draft 4 by 2/21
  • Complete final draft and polish by 4/6
  • Let manuscript rest about a month. Use that time to knock some books off my reading list and think about other projects
  • Read and revisit manuscript by 5/8, make note of problem areas
  • Revise by 5/31 (the last day of school)
  • Use first few weeks of summer vacation to write query letters etc.
  • Start sending out queries, maybe participate in a Twitter Pitch Party or Pitch Wars

Of course, I could finish draft 4 and decide the whole thing needs a complete overhaul, and if that happens, it happens! I’m not going to rush the process if my book isn’t ready. Maybe I’ll work ahead of schedule, maybe I’ll be forced to push back some of my personal deadlines, but either way, I take great joy in having a plan.

Happy writing, y’all.

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

Editing: Day 1

I officially started editing/revising my first draft today! I was going to start last night, but instead I read a book (The DUFF, which I started around 8pm and didn’t put down until I finished it at 2am). Anyway, I got comfy on my couch, whipped out my multicolored pens, and came up with this beautiful color legend:

Lovely, isn't it? Especially the handwriting.

Lovely, isn’t it? Especially the handwriting.

Of course, I forgot to change pens here and there while editing so the whole thing is pretty much obsolete, but that’s alright.

I started with chapter one (I’ve read about people starting with random chapters to view it more objectively, but I know there a few plot and continuity issues I need to correct before I can do that). Chapter one was probably one of the longer chapters in my book, coming in at eleven pages, while most others are about eight. It took me about three hours to sift through the content on those pages (with women’s World Cup soccer as a frequent distraction). I made several changes, from swapping one word for another, to replacing or deleting entire paragraphs. It felt nice to strike through lines and lines of nonsense. By the end of it though, my eleven paged first chapter turned into two chapters spanning fourteen pages. Not only do I feel better about the content, but I managed to split up that clunky first chapter into a size that fits better with the flow of the rest of the book.

Last summer I set word count goals, and that worked out pretty well for me (during the summer- that absolutely did NOT work when I started back teaching). Since goal setting helped me through a large part of my first draft, I’m going to do the same with the editing process. So here it is:

  • Edit one chapter per day (on average), for a total of 7 chapters per week.
    • My first draft is 35 chapters so in a perfect world, I could finish editing the whole thing in 5 weeks (before I return to work full time, which is kind of critical)
  • Editing should include making paper/pen changes and then adding the edited content to my Draft 2 word document

Sounds good now, but as usual, I’ll see how the first week plays out and then decide if my goals are realistic or not.

I have lots of fun plans this weekend so I’m off to start editing chapter two in anticipation of not having time to get much done Friday and Saturday.

🙂

-ED

Bookmarks for Landmarks! #6

60,000 words! Hooray! I am absolutely giddy now because the end is truly in sight (well, the end of my my first draft haha). For a while I was worried my first draft would come up a little shorter than I wanted, but now I think I’ll be sitting around a comfortable 70,000 words. It’d be lovely to finish by May because that would mark a full year on this adventure. I rarely ever see out my creative projects start to finish– I have so many unfinished sketches (I’d love to stat drawing again) and stories hanging around, it’s ridiculous. Time to change the trend!

Hopefully my next post will be celebrating my biggest landmark yet!

Until then,

ED

Well, I saw this one coming…

One of the main purposes for me making this blog was to keep myself accountable. I didn’t meet my writing goal for August. I actually failed quite miserably. The goal was 10,000 words and I wrote 5,003. I could tell by my pacing early on that I wasn’t on track to meet my goal, so no surprises there. The bright side? Forward progress was made. That’s always something to be proud of.
Now with work, grad school, and a big move on the way, making time to write will be hard (as it was even without those things to get in the way) but I’m not changing my goal yet. I’ll give it another month. If I’m still unable to churn out much more than 5,000 words, then maybe my original goal was too ambitious, and that’s okay.
I am planning to look at September as a fresh start, as in, my goal is still 10,000, not 15,000 in attempt to make up the slack from August.

Here’s to fresh starts! Hopefully September will bring me more success.
-ED

Managing Time

So as I mentioned in my last post, I’m struggling to balance work with keeping up with my writing. I’m a high school biology teacher so summer was the most perfectly beautiful, awesome time to immerse myself in writing my first novel… and many days were still a struggle! Now, the first week of school as a teacher is chaos, but as we get going, I’ll fall into a relatively comfortable routine. Still, teaching pulls a significant amount of time outside of work. I wake up around 5:30am most weekdays, get to work around 6:45, leave at 4 on a good day, get home, relax a bit, eat something, maybe grade a few papers and BAM it’s pushing 9pm and my eyelids are getting heavy. Let’s add on top of that that I’m three classes away from my masters degree in biology and I’ve got two classes starting week after next. Ah!! Let’s not even talk about what my days will look like once it’s time to put my lacrosse coaching hat back on.

It’s alot… but I did choose this life and I do love it! (more…)

Summer’s almost over

3 more days… then it’s back to waking up at 5am! I’ve been desperately trying to get my sleep schedule back on track, but I continue to struggle to pull myself out of the bed before 10am. At this rate, I’m not too hopeful about correcting that by Monday, but that’s what pre-planning week is for,  getting used to waking up… that, and going to meetings, and getting my classroom set up, and preparing my syllabi, and blabbing away at open house, and getting ready to meet 150 bright eyed 14 year olds on August 4th.

Summer has gone by pretty quickly. I didn’t do, or go anywhere particularly special, but I can’t complain. It was a good break. I am disappointed in how incredibly lazy I’ve been. You’d think, with 6 weeks off, I would at least keep my apartment pristine and work out regularly, especially considering that I didn’t go out of town, at all. Nope, I spent quite a large amount of time sitting on my bum. I can already imagine the burn I’ll feel in my calves and feet when I go back to standing on my feet a minimum of seven hours a day. Granted, I wasn’t doing absolutely nothing while lounging on the couch. I’m very proud of the time I’ve spent working on my manuscript and I’ve been doing very well in grad school. This week I was even able to get a head start on some back to school stuff. I just have to find some balance. Gotta make time to clean, time to eat, time to read, time to study, time to write, time to work, time to take care of myself, and time for friends and family. I’ll be a stressed out mess if I can’t develop some kind of consistent routine.

This weekend will be particularly busy as I try to get my life in order before Monday. I’m still trying to hit 30,000 words by Sunday as well. With a current word count 26,538, I going to have to have a couple of spectacular writing days. :-/

Wish me luck!

-ED

Reading Challenge?

I need to read more.

I love to read, but I don’t do it as much as I’d like or should. I’ve probably read far fewer books than most aspiring authors and writing my first manuscript has definitely exposed a need for me to read more, but not just casually. I need to read attentively, making note of style and pacing.

Since I’ve been all about goals lately, I thought I’d set a reading goal to be accomplished by the end of the year. I’ll be extremely busy (grad school, teaching, coaching, writing) and I’m not sure what a reasonable goal would be, so I may tweak it as time passes. Right now, I’d like to read 10 books by December 31st (counting The Spectacular Now, which I started last week).  As a teacher, this last week and a half of summer, fall break, Thanksgiving break and the first half of Christmas break will surely knock out 5 or 6.

I imagine that most of the books I choose will be popular YA fiction, one because I’m writing a dystopian YA novel and two, because I teach 9th graders and I like keeping up with what they are reading, plus it gives us a good talking point other than biology now and then (even better if the book ties in with biology). I also want to do a few rereads so that I can take a closer look at some old favorites, but I won’t count any of those toward my 10 book goal.

Yay for goal-setting!

-ED

P.S. Something sure felt nice about reaching the 100th page of my manuscript today (25,899 words). 🙂

Bookmarks for landmarks! #2

Finally! 20,000 words! It took longer than it should have (24 days to be exact, which averages out to a little over 400 words per day) but I’ve reached my second mini-milestone. Yesterday I popped into a Starbucks while my boyfriend went on a big job interview down the road. I was able to pump out 1,900 words in an hour and a half. Maybe a change of scenery needs to happen more often.

Bookmarks for landmarks

Bookmarks for landmarks

Now it’s time to set a new goal. Doing this actually brings me some joy so 🙂 🙂 :). I have to go back to work July 28th. I’m feeling pretty excited about the start of a new school year but I’m definitely set to enjoy the rest of my break. I have 19 days before my days get pretty hectic; you can count on a separate post about how the heck I’m going to keep up writing while in school, working full time and coaching sports. Anyway, these last 19 days will not be obligation free either. I’m taking two summer graduate courses that end on the 31st and I have every intent to complete all my assignments before I go back to work too. That noted, I’m shooting for another 10,000 words. I know I won’t get there by writing everyday, especially when the school work piles up, but all it takes is a few very good days and I think I’ll have some of those.

(more…)