goals

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

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Making Time to Write When There Seems to Be So Little

First and foremost, I’d like to point out that, in my experience, there is always more time available to write than there seems to be – it’s about making a commitment and maximizing on opportunities. For instance, I’ve been on Christmas break for two weeks. I enjoyed lazy days filled with coffee, revision, and Downton Abbey, with no care given to the time of day. This translated to going to sleep at 3am and waking at 10 or 11 (plus a late afternoon nap or two). I forced myself to wake up early this Sunday morning to break the cycle and spent the day at work prepping for the new semester. I happily fell asleep at 9pm. Problem? It’s 2am and I’m wide awake. I could toss and turn in my bed, or watch TV, but I’m taking the opportunity to write a blog post instead. Perhaps by the time I’m done, I’ll be ready to squeeze in 3 more hours of sleep.

I point all this out to say, seize the opportunities as they arise. And when they don’t arise naturally, make them. Value your craft. Put it above those potentially time draining activities like watching TV or staring at the ceiling, wishing you were asleep. This is going to be more important for me than usual, as I enter my most chaotic time of year. As a teacher and lacrosse coach, I’ll be leaving home at 6:15 every weekday morning and not returning until at least 12 hours later. Game day? Make that about 15 hours. Throw in all the grading and planning many teachers must do at home and there is minimal time for anything but dinner and sleep on Monday through Friday evenings (it’s a good thing I like my job). I’m still amazed that I somehow managed to finish my first draft and complete the final semester of graduate school last spring without neglecting myself, cat, students, or team. That proves that it is indeed possible to find the time. Oh, and shout out to any teacher-coach-writer-moms /dads out there. I know you exist and WOW… It’s a struggle just caring for myself. Go you!

Anyway, here’s how it usually works out for me: I do very little writing, if any, Monday through Thursday. I choose to look at the writing and revision of my novel as another job. This job has a flexible schedule, but there are certain weekly requirements (writing and revision goals I’ve set in advance). I choose to spend the weekends (minus a few lacrosse filled Saturday’s) working to meet those requirements. The problem? Making time for friends and family. I end up turning down lots of invitations. Often times, “just lunch” turns into a five hour outing- an enjoyable outing, but one that most certainly has negative consequences on progress with my book. Does that mean I never see friends or family in the spring (semester)? No! I take advantage of breaks from school and 3 day weekends and I play catch up with my writing when I’ve indulged in a playful weekend. It helps that my friends and family know what this time of year is like for me and they understand what my writing means to me. Still, I appreciate that they also know when it’s time to forcibly draw the hermit out of her shell.

The take away? If you want it badly enough, you make it work. No exceptions. Repeat this to yourself over and over on tough days and you’ll look back with pride, wondering how the heck you managed it.

Happy writing… Whenever it is you make the time.

-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

Building My Platform

I hope that you all enjoyed bringing in 2016 last night! My top three accomplishments of 2015 were coaching my lacrosse team to the state playoffs, getting my masters degree in biology, and writing the first three drafts of my current work in progress. I’d like to do all I can to have a similarly successful 2016. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can commit to an idea deeply enough to write a book start to finish, my next goal is to truly put some effort into developing my platform. I still have more drafts to write and more polishing to do, but I’d like to start preparing for the next step. I set goals year round, but like so many others, I’d like to take advantage of the extra motivation that a new year brings.

My first two goals:

  1. Develop a Twitter presence
    • I had a personal twitter account, but I primarily used it to communicate with my students. Once Remind (an app that allows communication with students and parents through text messages) became a thing, I quit using Twitter as a teaching aid. Last night I made a new account that I would like to use to tweet about writing and connect with others in the industry.
  2.  Get serious about blogging
    • I originally created this blog as a way to keep myself accountable and update friends and family on my writing progress. It’s time for my blog to do some growing up! It’s time for me to make connections and start writing about things that people not so close to me might be interested in reading. I have a few ideas, but cluelessness is my overwhelming emotion. Using Google for help has only served to amplify this emotion, but I felt that way when I first started writing my book, too. I have always found persistence to pay off.

What goals do you have for 2016? Who should I follow on Twitter? Post your social media info in the comments and I’ll find you!

-ED

My Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

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

Second Draft Complete!

I completed the second draft of my very first book just a few minutes ago. It feels great, even despite the self-doubt that crept up as I approached this milestone. Once I realized that I was actually committed to my story enough to complete the second draft (I wasn’t so sure during a two month slump after editing the first 70 pages), I started reading up more on writing query letters, finding agents, and how to get your work published. I’m sure many of you know/can imagine how discouraging the information out there can be for a new writer. I took it all with a grain of salt at first though. I figured I would just write the best story I could and hope somebody would fall in love with it when it was done. That sounded just fine until I got about three quarters of the way through the second draft and realized my story would still need some MAJOR work before I could even think about writing a query letter. All these fixable, but numerous, plot issues starting springing up left and right. Just the thought of all the restructuring needed to fix the problems was daunting. Suddenly, all I could focus on is how long it would take me to polish my book, and how much doing so would throw off the lovely little outlining-to-publishing timeline I had in my head (as if I’ve actually stuck to one timeline I’ve made since I started). It took a reminder from a good friend to get me back in the right mindset. All he said was, “The goal should be to make the book as good as you can- not get it sold.” He’s right. I would love to worry about selling this book one day, but I’m not there yet. Right now, I need to put all of my energy into crafting a piece of fiction that I can be proud of. That way, whether I get a shot at sending my baby out into the world or not, I can still feel that sense of success.

It’s been about a year and half since I started this journey. I’m not sure how long this ride will be, but I sure am going to make the most of it.

Next up, draft three! I’ve got a plan for how to approach it… time to execute.

-ED

*My book is an apocalyptic/dystopian/scifi young adult novel currently sitting at about 78,000 words (306 pages)

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

I wrote a book y’all

I finished the first draft of my first novel about a week and a half ago. I think it’s finally set in… both the fact that I actually finished it, and the fact that I have to do something else with it. I’ve spent a good deal of time working to convince myself that what I’ve created isn’t 100% crap. Now, it may be 99% crap, but I can work with that. The big question is where to begin! This time last year I was digging up information on how to outline and get your story started. This year I have to tackle editing the first draft. Do I start with spelling, grammar, continuity, content? Do I do all of these things at once, or make several passes through? It’s pretty intimidating to look at my near-300 page stack of creative vomit and try to figure out how to polish it into something presentable. All I’ve managed to do is go on a mini office supply shopping spree.

Editing tools!

Okay, that’s not all I’ve done… I’ve also taken all of my bookmarks for landmarks and displayed them in a shadow box. Completing a novel from start to finish was something on my bucket list (more as a challenge to myself, not an arbitrary thing to tick off a list- this writing thing is forever) and I have a habit of not adequately celebrating/acknowledging my accomplishments so I wanted to do something nice. I also like the idea of keeping up with this new tradition for any future novels I may write.

My first draft and all eight bookmarks for landmarks

My first draft and all bookmarks for landmarks

If you have any editing tips, please share them!

-ED

PS. Fun coincidence… today is an exact year since my very first blog post!

Bookmarks for Landmarks! #7

It’s done! I finished my first draft about 30 minutes ago and I am thrilled. 71,343 words. I’ll definitely be back with a longer post soon. I’ve been working on this draft for a full year and what an experience it’s been! I’m so thankful to all my friends, students, and family that have encouraged me along the way.

Here is my final bookmark! I’ll be arranging all of them together sometime soon and celebrating with friends this weekend!

71, 343 words

71, 343 words

-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

Bookmarks for Landmarks! #5

Yup. Here we are again and I couldn’t be happier. 50,000 words feels really special, and it’s been a long time coming. My story has taken some surprising new turns that have me feeling very positive and excited. I’m really looking forward to the summer when I have endless hours of time to devote to my book… hopefully I’ll be working on draft number two by then!

50,000 words

50,000 words

Happy February and happy writing! -ED