Reverse Engineered Writing Goals

So, it’s summer. I’m sitting here at my desk, ice water at hand, and absolutely no idea of what to write for today’s entry. These are my least favorite entries. I like to be prepared.  I like to know, in advance, what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it, and even about how long it’s going to take. That last one can be fuzzy, from “get it done in time for lunch” to “okay, it’s Monday, let’s cram a week’s worth of writing into one marathon session that ends at 3AM and involves me snapping at family members who get too near my lair,” but I like structure. I like goals. Okay, theme there. I can go with that.

This Monday, I was fully prepared for one of my marathon sessions (which I do not exactly like, as a rule, but, sometimes, a writer does what a writer does, and my thirst for an unbroken record of always having pages to bring to critique session knows no bounds) but that’s not exactly what happened. I have no idea how this whole thing worked, but, by the time 3AM rolled around, I was sound asleep, because A) I had finished at midnight, and B) not only had I gone over my targeted page count, but eh, I’d finished “early,” so why not poke at the next chapter? Which was when I told myself that was a good time to save, print, pack it in and get some sleep.

Critique session went great, and I headed back home, even more pumped to get this second draft done and introduce Ruby and her Hero to the world at large. I also had another goal in mind: how can I do that again, next week? Hence, the reverse engineering.  Instead of looking at the goal (in this case, chapter twelve revised/expanded, and me getting a good night’s sleep) and figuring out how to get there (which, from a certain point of view -which would be crabby, often, when one is still figuring out this whole getting back on the horse thing) maybe try a different tactic. Take a look at a goal already met, and figure out how that happened.

First thing I looked at was, what did I do differently this Monday, that I did not do on all those collapse like a zombie at 3AM Mondays? This wasn’t plopping myself in the chair the second I got up and consistently pounding keys until my brain refused to go any farther. I took a lunch break, as in away from the desk, read for pleasure (another goal that might benefit from reverse engineering) and even took an (extremely brief) nap.

Hm. Breaks, you say? Interesting. When it was time to Skype with an online friend, who does know Mondays are my marathon days, I didn’t try to work while she wanted to share about her current playthrough of her favorite computer game, but the enthusiasm (and seriously pretty screenshots) was a boost that allowed me to go back to the work afterward, with an extra spring in my metaphorical step.

Granted, this is a second draft, but there were still scenes to expand and revise, and I am not going to put a time stamp on how long it took me to research guild signs, or figure out how much Hero could see, hanging out of a carriage window, with a tricorne hat pulled low over his eyes (spoiler: it is hard for a tall ginger dude in a bespoke suit to remain inconspicuous in public, especially when he’s trying to be sneaky) and the scene is one I especially like, because it’s when Hero’s world shifts, which forces him to make a leap, even if he doesn’t realize he’s making that leap until he’s already airborne. Metaphorically airborne, that is.

The chapter that comes next, I’m even more looking forward to, maybe because it means that I am now officially into the middle of the second draft. This past chapter was where Hero hit his point of no return. He can’t squiggle around in midair like a cat and land on his feet, back in his comfortable world, like it’s no big deal, and pick up life where it was before he made the choice he can’t take back. Maybe he and I have something in common on that one. Time will tell.

In the best of all possible worlds, I won’t have to have Monday marathons at all, but domestic tornadoes come through, and the book still needs to get done. Today, my focus is on Chasing Prints Charming, and I know that Ruby and her Hero are going to be doing their thing on the back burner, so they’ll be ready for our next round.

So, what have I learned for that next round?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. sprints, not marathons
  3. take breaks that are actually breaks
  4. know what I’m going to write before I write it, or what the goal of that particular revision will be (i.e. always take a road map)

That’s the hypothesis, anyway. We’ll test that theory next week, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Writer friends, what have you learned about the way you work, by reverse engineering a successful session/chapter/insert own goal here?



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