the drafting table

Given that I have already crushed my January, February and March writing goals, it’s clear to me now that finding the right words is no longer my problem. In fact, I’m starting to work in the other direction.

It can be hard to edit your own work, at least for me. I typically fall in love with the way I phrased a sentence or set a scene. But I have taken some pleasure the last few days out of deleting words, sentences, paragraphs (okay, I never delete entire paragraphs but I do rework them) and improving the flow of my story.

But I need help.

I contacted the instructor of the writing class that started this whole “I’m going to write a novel” craziness. She is not only a published author but also a professional manuscript editor. So the new goal is to get her my completed work by March 1st. This deadline feels more pressing than my noting the daily word count on a calendar. It means I’m taking the next step toward publishing my work.

But… before I get to that point, I need a few volunteers. Much like I straighten up the house before the cleaning lady comes, I want my draft to be as perfect as can be before placing it in the hands of a professional. I’m looking for readers. The qualifications are: you like to read; you have a good sense of story; you aren’t afraid to tell something doesn’t work; and you have time.

I’ve divided my story into three main parts, so I’m not asking any one person to read the entire story. Each section is between 75-125 pages. I’m hoping to recruit six volunteers. I will need comments/edits by February 15th.

Email me directly if you are interested. (Sorry, strangers, this offer is limited to people I know.) If you live locally, I will reward you with a wine night.

Ready, set, go.

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the drafting table

Sleep begets sleep. That’s what I’ve found when it comes to the boys. I can’t explain it but when they were babies, the better the nap, the easier bedtime was. And now, if I put them to bed early, they sleep later. It even works for me.

I’ve learned the same is true when it comes to writing. Writing begets writing. Words beget words. Plot begets plot. I don’t quite understand this is anymore than I understand it when it comes to sleep, but the phenomenon is rather consistent with my personality. When I find something I like to do (sleep, cook, exercise, drink wine) and it turns out I’m good at it then I want to do it every day. And when I don’t do it, I don’t feel like myself.

Until yesterday, I had written every day since January 1st. You already know I crushed my January goal and I’m close to killing February too. But about 24 hours into a headache last night, I cut myself some slack and gave my brain the night off.

That didn’t come without an internal struggle. What if skipping a day killed my momentum? What if it takes me another six weeks to streak again? What if I return to my story and find it sucks? But in the end, a rest was what I needed. And while I haven’t had a chance to sit down at the computer today, my characters and their lives are never far from my thoughts. And I’m not freaking out at all. Really.

After all, I’ve got 63,000 words and counting.

the drafting table

Okay, now that I’ve found my higher purpose, blah, blah, blah, it’s time to achieve it.

I have become one of those people who measures document length by word count, not pages. It finally makes sense to my brain. I think back to all the college papers where I used a large font size and wide margins in order to meet a certain page-based length requirement. Word counts can’t be manipulated. Well, I guess you could add bunch of superfluous words but that’s not my point.

So while apparently the answer to “how long should a novel be?” is “as long as it needs to be” the research I have done yielded the answer: 80,000-100,000 words for my genre.

It’s hard to measure art in quantitative terms, but I need benchmarks to move me beyond “write another chapter.”

After my intention setting classes, I decided to set a word count goal for my novel. I started New Year’s Day with approximately 40,000 words. The January goal is to get to 53,000. The February goal is to reach 66,000 and by the end of March, 80,000. From there I’ll assess whether the story is complete and then undertake the review and editing process. The point is to get the words out of my head and on paper.

As of tonight, I’ve written 56,500 words. I crushed the January goal. By the time I get to February, I might have to recalibrate the goals. There’s a higher purpose but there’s also a process. I might be making it up along the way but at least I’m on the road.

I am a writer

This week, to bolster my chances of keeping the goals/resolutions I set for myself, I attended two yoga intention setting workshops.

The first workshop was held at Capitol Hill Yoga on New Year’s Day. I had no idea what to expect. I went in thinking, “drink less bottled water, be more outwardly and innerly graceful, finish writing my novel.” I came out with my higher purpose.

CHY owner Stacey DeGrasse initially threw me off-guard by explaining we weren’t there to set resolutions but to determine our sankalpa. What the hell is a sankalpa, I thought. Now that I know, let me explain. While a resolution is a determination to do something, a sankalpa is a vow we make to support our higher purpose. Your sankalpa has to be heartfelt, authentic, easily stated in a simple phrase, and able to be stated in the present as if it is already fulfilled. Stacey recommended to the group, a mix of people who had never made a resolution to those who set numerous ones each year, that we focus on only one sankalpa. But definitely no more than two or three. (I mean, really, one? This is DC after all.)

It didn’t take but a millisecond for me to realize my sankalpa. While the action required to achieve it is the goal I went into the session with (to finish writing my novel) my sankalpa is: I am a writer. Once it was clear, I felt energized. I did an hour of hot yoga to seal the deal and came out eager to get to my computer. I’ve barely left its side since then, clocking about 6,000 words (and hours of editing) over the last few days. Not that they’re all quality words, but in the moment I’m all about quantitative progress.

I almost canceled workshop number two, held at Flow Yoga Center. When you know your higher purpose, you know your higher purpose, right? However, teacher¬†April Puciata’s workshop was also valuable in helping me root my sankalpa. Her session actually felt like a continuation of the first workshop. She walked us through a deep meditation from which I emerged with my sankalpa firmly planted in my core. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.

And I got a little nap in too.

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