I love writing. Really. I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. So why don’t I do it more often?
As much as I love writing, it does take work. Lots, and lots, and lots of work. Sort of like laying a patio. We’ve talked many times about laying a patio along the side of our house, but for several years our patio just didn’t materialize because we didn’t have a vision for the final product. Where would we put it? How big did we want to make it? What type of patio pavers did we want to use? A few weeks ago, we solidified our vision. We identified the location, as well as the dimensions. And…we took the plunge and purchased the expensive supplies. Our goal was finally clear.
Writing tasks are something like this. For instance, I knew that I wanted to create a duck detective story, but I didn’t have a specific age group in mind. I just thought I would create a picture book. Turns out, the story was too long, and the prose was a bit complex for a picture book. For a year, I sat on the story, not knowing what to do. Thankfully, I joined a critique group that helped me to identify it as a potential chapter book. The encouraged me to add a little backstory and subplot, and voila: I developed a chapter book with a specific age range in mind: 5-7. I just needed some help clarifying my writing goals.
But some writing projects are more complex than a 5,000-word picture book. When we purchased those patio pavers, my husband realized that it would take us multiple steps to complete the process. As much as I wanted to wave my magic wand and poof our completed patio into existence, I knew he was right. So he jotted the steps on a white board by his desk. Each time we complete a step, we erase it. Enter, feeling of satisfaction…and some growing excitement at the thought of sipping tea and reading a good book while soaking in the scent of the hyacinth tree that peeks over the top of our fence.
If we needed to map out goals and steps for our patio, I would certainly need to do something along these lines for my historical YA novel. What exactly is my vision for this book? Well, I know that I want to share two coming of age stories situated in 1940s Europe, and that these stories will reveal two very different perspectives on the unfolding events. I know that I want my young adult readers to feel immersed in the time period, but also invested in the lives of the two teens at the center of these stories.
I also know that I will need a sense of plot structure, even if it evolves as I continue to write. While NaNoWriMo is a great starting point, we often write more effectively if we have some sense of where our story is going. Some of us prefer to draft and then go back and plot, while others prefer to plot in great detail. For my chapter book, I was able to start with a simple plot triangle.
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I developed this further as I expanded the book into chapters. In order to write a historical novel, I had to begin with a timeline of the broader historical events and then layer the personal events of both characters in their respective settings. I am still working to identify the climax and ending.
It is also helpful to create smaller, more incremental goals. I utilize two face-to-face critique groups—one for each book project—and an online critique group. The face-to-face groups help me to establish monthly writing goals. However, I have to create my own goals for the online group, which allows me to submit up to two 2,500 documents a week if I so choose.
The challenge of any critique group, however, is that we could find ourselves revising endlessly…and never querying! Once I realized that my detective story needed to become a chapter book, I mentally established a deadline for obtaining one last round of feedback on the entire text, drafting and revising a query letter, and querying an agent. I see the weeks slipping by, and it occurs to be that I’d better write my goals down, just as my husband wrote out our patio goals. Otherwise, it will be awfully tempting to continue to procrastinate! It’s a little harder for me to project a timeline for completing my novel, but I know that I need to do it.
How about you?
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