Writing & the Holidays

November 22, 2011

I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of November and entering the holiday season. I’ve already put up outside Christmas lights, bought some presents, and the next few days will be full of cooking and eating. The next weeks will continue with baking, buying, wrapping, decorating. With a little one around, this means that most of that has to happen during nap time. Nap time is usually writing time.

Houston, we have a problem.

This is the first December in years where I am not working outside the home. So, you’d think I’d have like all this extra not-working time, right? But, the truth is, I rarely wrote those Decembers that I worked. Also, having an almost two-year-old running around and the whole being six months pregnant thing takes up a lot of time. Sleep is a hot commodity so my former life of all-nighters isn’t an option. I have some concerns about my writing time this December. Where will it fit in, if anywhere?

So, I’m wondering, in the midst of this busy holiday season, how do you stay on track with your writing? Do you budget words per day and sacrifice whatever to get them? Do you cut yourself some slack in some area of your life? Do you have a magic pill I can take to be super efficient and awesome, and will you send one to me? Please share your holiday writing secrets!

Nicole

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I’m working on the rewrites of Randi, my WIP, (I call my manuscripts by the heroine’s name until they have a title) and learning monumental amounts as I work. I’ve always loved rewrites. In fact, I’ve always said that the real writing happens in the rewrites. (I’m sure I’m not the first to say that.) Up until now, however, I’ve never finished the first draft of a fiction manuscript.

I have one draft that is nearly complete. It’s over five hundred handwritten pages. Okay, there are more like two thousand pages to Angela, but that’s because as I wrote that draft, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, and at this point have not finished the manuscript.

I have several other stories that have made it to ten or fifteen thousand words. Again, there are thousands of words—and pages of rewrites—but no finished drafts. There is Emily, Ashley, Katie…and two where the heroines don’t have names. (I hadn’t gotten to the point where I knew their names.) They’re all in the bottom drawer of my desk. That’s where I hide my shame, my unfinished manuscripts.

So what is different about Randi? Why did I finish the first draft, and why do I believe I’ll finish my rewrites?

Two things: I finally believe I can do this, and I’m approaching this more like I did my non-fiction. In some ways approaching this project like my non-fiction has given me the confidence to believe I can do this.

Now, when I say that I’m approaching this project like I did my non-fiction writing, I don’t mean voice or even organization. As I’ve said before, in my non-fiction I outline and I know exactly where I’m going, and in my fiction I’m a total “panster.” I let the characte’s tell the story. No, what I did this time—differently from previous fiction projects and more like my non-fiction work—is give myself deadlines, and I didn’t begin my rewrites until I’d finished my draft.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was to make my pen move forward without going back. Oh, I allowed myself a little post it pad that I made notes on and could stick to previous pages, but I didn’t allow myself to do any rewriting. I kept that deadline in front of me (even though self-imposed) and as many of you know, I actually beat my own deadline…twice.

As I work on my second draft, I’m doing much the same. I’ve given myself deadlines and I’m forcing myself to finish rewrites for each chapter on time. I know my writing still isn’t perfect, but I know I’ll finish the project. Randi will not end up in my drawer of shame.

One more thing that has gotten me further this time, and I can’t say this enough…I’m taking this seriously. Because I believe I can do this I no longer feel guilty about spending my time writing and not dropping my work when someone else wants me to do something. Other people are beginning to take my writing seriously as well.

So I know I’ve asked before, but how do you keep yourself moving forward? And do you have a “drawer of shame”? More importantly are you taking your writing seriously and expecting those around you to do the same?

I’m doing a happy dance! It’s been a great week and a half here at the Jewett house. My husband finally got his score on a very important professional test that he took back in April. He scored the highest score out of an estimated 200+ people who took the test. My teenage son got a job at Cold Stone Creamery….yum, and I finished the first draft of my manuscript…ahead of schedule…Yay!

It may seem a little over the top, but I’ve been in a daze since I finished my manuscript on Tuesday afternoon. So much of my time has been spent in the world in my head that it feels a little strange to come out of it. I’ve fluctuated between feelings of intense elation and accomplishment and feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Now that it’s done, I’ll have to put my work out there and risk rejection. Now people are asking me to read it.

I’ve been a published non-fiction writer since I was twenty-one. I’ve said it before—I love writing and will write anything. Any opportunity to write is an opportunity to build my skills, so I’ve written articles, columns, press releases, ad copy, hundreds of resumes, even some local radio and television commercials and a small local cable show. But, of course, I’ve always dreamed of writing fiction…and now I have.

I’m not kidding myself, there’s still a lot of work to do. I’ve started my synopsis, which I hope to finish this weekend, and then there are the re-writes. Unlike some writers, I love re-writes. For me, this is where the real writing begins. The first draft is the place to get all of your ideas organized and on paper, but the re-writes are where you begin to craft your work into something special. The re-writes are where you ruthlessly cut passages that are unnecessary fluff and tighten up your writing, where you find places to add energy and emotion. The re-writes are where you make magic.

My original goal was to finish this manuscript by the end of the summer. Then after attending the Romantic Times Convention I was so motivated that I decided to move the date up and finish by July 9, the day before my 50th birthday. A couple of weeks ago something happened to make me move up that date again, so I’m done ahead of schedule!

Now I plan on finishing this synopsis, beginning re-writes on Monday and as a birthday gift to myself, taking the week of July 10 to take some of the books that have been piling up on my nightstand to the beach and read. Unless I decide I just HAVE to keep working on edits…

So, what are your goals or self-imposed deadlines? What motivates you to reach those goals? What builds your confidence? While I’m sitting here anxiously working on my synopsis—in between spontaneous outbreaks of the happy dance—I wouldn’t mind hearing your motivational stories!