OK, I'm putting my hand down now because that makes it kinda hard to type. And typing is what I wanted to talk about today.
Well, not just typing, though sometimes writing a novel does feel like an exercise in typing random, disconnected words with only a dim hope you're forming coherent sentences.
One of the most common questions I field when I run out of things to discuss at cocktail parties and confess I'm a published author is, "how long does it take you to write a book?"
It's a question I hate for several reasons.
My cocky answer is "about three months," which is technically true. I wrote Making Waves in that amount of time, and Believe it or Not took just a week or two more than that. Factor in another couple weeks for revisions from critique partners and beta readers, and a few more for back-and-forth edits with my publisher once both novels sold as part of my three-book deal. Still, it's true I completed pretty solid drafts of two novels in 12-14 weeks apiece.
But the reason I say that's cocky is the same reason I hate the question – who the hell can live up to that?
Not most writers, and I'm sorry to say, not me.
Because while I can claim I did it in the past, I'm not so sure I can do it now. The last novel I completed took over a year, and it still has some issues. Admittedly, that year was filled with a lot of life drama like divorce and the chaotic publicity of an impending book release, but it's still clear to me I'm slower than I used to be.
That's hard to swallow (snicker).
A headline caught my eye the other day when I was
One part of the article jumped out at me:
That seems like sound advice whether you're discussing weight or writing. People change, lifestyles change, brain/body chemistry changes. You'll go nuts if you spend your life trying to live up to some impossible standard set by your younger self or by someone else.
And yet...part of me still wants to try.
Not the weight thing, since I was living in Venezuela with an intestinal parasite after college graduation, and my freakishly low weight and equally freakish boobs made me look like a toothpick spearing a pair of olives. I'm quite fine looking the way I look now with fifteen years and 20 extra pounds on my frame, thankyouverymuch.
But part of me wants to push it (and push it real good) on the writing front. Part of me wants to see if I still have it in me to write at my old pace.
I sat down a few weeks ago to map out my word count goals for a new novel. It's something I used to do back in my speedy heyday as a newer writer, so I thought I should revisit the habit. I determined the date I needed to complete the novel, and marked 85,000 words on that day to remind myself what my final goal will be.
Then I worked backward from there, marking each Monday (the day I consider the end of my writing week) with the word count I want to achieve by the time I switch off my computer that day.
At the end of the exercise, the pace I'd set for myself was 7,000 words a week. I stared at the numbers for awhile, trying to figure out if it was a realistic goal or an are-you-out-of-your-mind-idiot?! goal.
Then I decided to stop thinking about it and just give it a shot. That was two weeks ago. So far, I've managed to meet my goal both weeks. I may have done it by the skin of my teeth, and I can assure you many of the words I've written would make you cover your eyes in horror and rock back and forth humming Warrant's "She's My Cherry Pie" until the memory of those words disappears from your brain.
But I can't tell you how good it feels to switch off the computer at the end of the day and realize I've met my goal.
Can I keep it up? (snicker). Time will tell. I have my doubts, since the next few months of my life will include a fairly aggressive book tour schedule, some speaking engagements, my 20-year high school reunion, and a complete household move for myself, my gentleman friend, and our assorted pets and kids. Oh, and did I mention we still have no idea when or where we're moving?
But still, I want to try. There's a satisfying balance in learning to celebrate when you meet a seemingly unachievable goal, and learning to cut yourself some slack when you don't. I'm still figuring out that balance.
And there's something rewarding in making a conscious decision to replace, "I can't possibly," with "what the hell, I'll give it a shot."
For what it's worth though, pushing it real good feels damn nice sometimes. Just like the song says.
What's your take on this? Do you tend to set stretch goals and forgive yourself if you don't quite meet them, or do you prefer to keep goals more achievable to ensure the satisfaction of meeting them? Please share!
Oh, and I can promise you'll have that song stuck in your head all day. You're welcome.