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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Novel-In-Progress Update

When I heard what I needed to do to make my book commercially viable, I admit, I felt overwhelmed. I’ve been grappling with the big job of it, and it just seemed insurmountable. There’s only one thing to do to make something outstanding huge seem manageable: turn it into a series of small jobs. Oddly enough, it’s not that different of a concept than the one used by recovering alcoholics or smokers trying to kick the habit. It’s a “one day at a time” sort of motto. You can say to yourself, “I can’t do this huge thing. It’s too huge and important and I think I’ll just go curl in a ball and weep instead.” Or you can say to yourself, “I can’t do this huge thing all at once, but I can do this series of small things that lead to the big goal.”

For a writer, it amounts to something like: I can write three pages by the end of this day. Or I can write 1000 words by the end of this day. Or I can finish this scene by the end of this day.

 It really does work, because if you do that each day, by the end of the week, you have 21 pages or 7ooo words or seven scenes. The farther you get along the small trail of manageable goals, the more manageable the insurmountable goal becomes. I think that’s where I am now. My last writing-related blog found me with a start to one of two completely new stories, four already existing stories in need of revision with no real plan for how that revision would take place, and a complete chapter reorganization needed to make the chapters seem more unified as a book.

That’s a huge job.

 It seemed too huge as I started out, so I made a list of every day between the current date and the last possible day I would be willing to wait to send the completed novel in to my agent, which in my mind is the end of October but before the mayhem of Halloween (Oct. 29). For each weekday between that first day and the beginning of September, I committed to writing one new page of material. For each weekend of the same time frame, I committed to writing a minimum of two, with a complete date of Ang. 24 and Sept. 3 for each of the two stories, during which any unwritten pages would have to be finished. It worked. I then had a date in mind for when to get the chapters in the hands of readers and when to have plans in place for chapter revisions and novel reorganization.

The results so far are positive. As of today (Sept 12), I have two new story drafts complete that have been read by a peer (and are in the hands of a second who has not had the chance to read them yet) and revision plans are in place. The novel chapters have been reorganized, with a new novel M.S. Word draft saved that reflect the shifts in position of all affected chapters. More than that, I have strict revision tasks in place for each of the existing chapters that required tweaking. If all keeps up at this pace, I may well finish my goal well before the end of October deadline. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am proud of my work ethic.

The rest of the list of novel completion mini-goals feels like a cake-walk compared to what I’ve already finished. Pretty much, it’s down to focused revision. That feels manageable to me, and when that’s done, I’ll have a book in my agent’s hands. Can’t beat that.

While working on the novel, which will be largely third person centric, which a few exceptions, I’ve had to stick with reading material written in a 3rd POV to stay on track. I started with Revolutionary Road, mostly because I’ve been meaning to read it for quite some time. In fact, I’ve avoided watching the movie because I wanted to read the book first. Then, I allowed myself a sci-fi fantasy fix with Ursula Le Guin’s Malafrena, which seems to be an alternate history/period piece genre blender with a lot of pro-democracy political heft to it. I also am a story away from finishing Jill McCorkle’s Going Away Shoes story collection. All three shaped up to be just the ticket inspiration-wise, fabulous reads all. Go and grab yourself a copy of each and read them this minute, if you haven’t already. Support your local bookstore if you’re able.

On a side note, my apologies for letting new installments of the blog lag a little the past few weeks. Obviously, my writing efforts were otherwise occupied. Hopefully, I can get back on track now with my outside-world commitments and post with more frequency in the coming months.

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