I discovered something today about one of the writing blogs I follow, Keyboard Smash Writers!: the two ladies who run it write 4-6 books a year.
Now, I don’t know how long these books of theirs are, and I don’t know if they just mean a first draft or if they’re talking finalised versions for each, but that’s still 4-6 per year. It took me six months to write a first draft of ONE, or a year if we’re counting the painfully slow progress I was making up until I implemented the Schedule, during which time I got like 3 chapters written. My point is that while they’ve been doing that, I’ve taken about four months just to read over my manuscript and make notes on it, and now it’s halfway through the year. I have some catching up to do, is what I’m saying.
And yes, they’ve been doing this longer than I have – this very consistent project-based writing, I don’t know how long they’ve ‘been writers’ for, and it doesn’t really matter – so I can’t be too hard on myself, but seeing that it’s possible has lit a fire somewhere in close proximity to me, and the discomfort that this causes me is urging me to move very quickly in response.
But right now, I’ve gotta be honest: I feel quite pathetic in the light of this revelation. Like I’m not working hard enough, given how much I ‘want’ to get this thing done. And I mean if I just don’t care very much, that’s fine. I’ve written other first drafts before and then left them. If that’s what the situation is, then I can’t make myself care. I can just go and do something else. But I do care. It’s just that I’ve been out of the game for so long, and it took so freaking long to make notes of my own …
Let it go and keep going – I’m sticking to that. I am accustmed to comparing myself to other people, and it’s a toxic habit that I’m trying to quit, so I’m trying to look at this as motivation rather than humiliation. And obviously they weren’t boasting about it or anything; they run a really helpful blog and they would never do that to their readers, because they, as writers, understand how sensitive an issue progress is for us. Maybe I could have gotten through my manuscript faster while making notes, but I do think that this is just frustration talking. I went through it at the pace that I did at least partly because of the issues that I ran into while making notes – having to confront my own writing, the limits of my analytical skills and trying to avoid second-guessing the effects of my personal bias for – and against – my own work. And probably the biggest part of all that was that I’ve never done it before. Yes, I could have gotten through it faster, but only if certain parts of the context had been different – if I’d been in a different mindset, if I had not been trying to make notes at the same time, etc. For a first time – I mean hey, at least I finished. And that, I know, is something to be proud of. It may have taken longer than I’d like, but seriously, anything that isn’t ‘right now’ is longer than I’d like. It’s farther than I’ve ever been with a writing project. It’s all about context, and I have to bear that in mind. I have to acknowledge myself, and my limits, and see that I have, in fact, made progress, and bear it in mind. Otherwise it’s all pretty meaningless. And this means a lot to me.
So, having said that, I think that, actually, I am going to go back through and re-read the manuscript again. The notes that I have right now are too distorted by one kind of bias or another to actually be useful. I need it clear. I need it as objective as is subjectively possible. And because I’m not critiquing, just summarising events as they happen (and avoiding writing my own reactions into the summaries), I don’t think it’ll take as long as it did last time. And hey, a little more familiarity with my manuscript can’t hurt.
This may turn out to be a terrible mistake, but seriously, if those clean and clear notes that I need don’t exist – and they don’t – then I need to make them exist. There’s no two ways about it.
I am very aware that part of why I want to do this is so that I can measure it easier. I can keep tabs much easier if I’m doing a chapter-per-day quota, or, as is probably more balanced, a words-read-per-day quota. If I can do an average of 18k/day words read, I’ll be through this thing in less than a week. Plus I don’t have to do a close reading or anything; I’m just looking for key scenes and events that I want to shuffle around.
That’s the new plan – BUT. Just in case there is a way I can do without this heinous amount of work, I’m going to try something else first.
I’m going to try writing down a synopsis of what happens in the manuscript from memory, and perhaps with the help of the bias-coloured list of chapter-by-chapter breakdowns that I do have just to kind of use as cue cards. If that works, then I don’t need to worry about this huge massive thing.
And if it doesn’t work – no big deal. I mean given that I’m going to try and more or less skim-read through the manuscript anyway, it may actually only take a day or two. I can still get all the stuff that I want done in preparation for draft 2 before July.
I think. Again, there’s only one way to find out.
I am rather keenly aware that the last few posts I’ve made have all been ‘I’m going to do X’ posts, and that so far it’s just been a series of saying that I want to do something and then running into some kind of roadblock. And I don’t know how much of that is just my finely-honed procrastination skills coming into play. Probably at least somewhat. I am not happy about it. But I’m also doing this from scratch; I don’t know what to do anyway. I’m saying I’ll do one thing, finding that it isn’t working for whatever reason, and then deciding on something else, and then the cycle repeats. That is frustrating and not a little humiliating. And maybe I just need a longer break and I’m not giving it to myself, maybe that’s the real issue. Or maybe this is just habitual reluctance to commit to something that requires me to actual exert myself and move out of my comfort zone. I honestly don’t know. But I’m going to try this plan out and see how it goes. I want to make new habits, and keep them up – and I want to be done with this project by the end of the year. An arbitrary deadline, and perhaps the most over-used, but it’s better than nothing.
And in the end, one way or another, I will have learnt something. And I can’t really say no to that.