The light is changing, do you see it? The temperatures are still warm, but it’s getting cooler little by little. The first of the yellow mums have started to bloom in my yard. It’s that “back to school” feeling that has sent many of us back to some kind of work routine that signals the end of lazy summer days.
Monday night I started an eight week novel writing workshop and the timing is perfect. The week long retreat got me started on the right foot and lately when I sit down the write, I’ve managed that magical balance where I can turn off my editor and let it flow, knowing that every few chapters I can go back and make edits, and tweak and fiddle. There are ten of us in the workshop and over the course of the eight, two hour sessions we’ll alternate discussions on craft, books and shaping the novel with critiquing. We’ll have the opportunity to get two 10-12 page excerpts critiqued by our instructor and we’ll submit one excerpt to the group for critique.
I’m a pretty disciplined person anyway, but there are few things that get me to buckle down, focus and produce like a deadline, and now I have one every week for a while.
Scott was mildly amused when he walked into the kitchen yesterday and found me with my laptop, chunks of manuscript with my red inked edits all over them, a dictionary, thesaurus, E.B. White’s Elements of Style and the Chicago Manual of Style spread out all over the island counter. It’s an odd feeling to try to ready pieces of a partial first draft for review and critique. I wonder what the expectation will be as to the state of completeness of this stuff. I’m 11,536 words and 53 double spaced, 12 pt., Courier New pages into a first draft – to be exact -- so I vacillate around about how much I should tinker and add, how much I should clean up, how much I should focus on these three submissions alone and how much, if anything, I should be doing to add to the story over these next eight weeks. Some of the students are farther along in their stories than I am, but just as many are not as far along. I guess what we submit for critique and those nine submissions I get to critique will be in a variety of states.
It will be interesting and I’m looking forward to it. This will be the very first time I have the chance to be involved in a critique group and I’m incredibly grateful that it is structured and the instructor will be providing her critiques too.
This very specific incentive made me wonder about how other writers motivate themselves and set goals. The processes people follow seem to be as varied as each person. Do you make yourself sit down for a set period of time? Set a word count goal for the day, or the week? Set goals for revising a number of pages? If you have a full time job, other than writing, when do you manage to get most of your writing done? Is writing easier/harder in the fall and winter, than in the spring and summer? How about goals for your work? Do you have a goal set for when you want to finish your project and look for an agent (if you don’t already have one)? Is it a very specific “by the end of 2007” or is it something vague, like before my 40th, 50th, 60th birthday? What keeps you going?