The end of my long service leave is coming closer, rather like approaching the end of the toilet roll. You know it’s coming to the end, but you really don’t want it to occur in the middle of your ablutions.
To put it another way, it’s like coming home from school with your report card and having to show your parents.
Or going to the doctor to have some spots checked out. The doctor asks you to undress and you realise you’re wearing your old undies, the ones with the loose elastic waist and developing holes in the crotch.
Away with the analogies, time to ‘fess up.
I had my first novel to write. I planned for my long service leave; three glorious months stretching to the horizon. By the time I went back to work in the middle of July I would have the first draft of a 90,000-word manuscript finished.
Having 14 weeks of leave (2 weeks of school holidays, the entire 10 week term and 2 weeks of holidays) I set aside a month for outlining, followed by weeks of writing where I could commit a few hours a day and write (hopefully) a couple of thousand words.
This would also allow for more family time and for a few other bits and pieces.
I used the two weeks of the school holidays to rest and recuperate before I began writing. All the while, the idea was composting in the back of my head. Yet, tragedy struck.
My wife’s grandmother had a serious stroke in the first week of the term and died ten days later. My wife spent a lot of time at the hospital with family while I took up the domestic duties of getting children to school and other sundry activities.
The funeral was postponed until a relative, who was on an overseas trip, returned. The wake held at our house, meant a whole lot of cleaning and tidying.
The best laid plans of mice and men become the equivalent of sitting in a wad of chewing gum in your best trousers. Sometimes stuff just happens and even if you feel right royally shafted, you have to rethink and plan again.
Looking at the time remaining, I decided I could outline and plan for the remainder of May, then use June to write. It would mean about 3,000 words a day, but I thought I could do it.
By the end of May, I had an eleven page, 6,500 word outline of my novel. Roll on June 1 and let the wordsmithery of novelling begin!
While MacGyver can utilise a roll of gaff tape, a box of matches and a Swiss Army knife to fashion a crude, but functional, getaway vehicle, I sadly, am no MacGyver.
I have one third of my novel written. The best daily word count I managed was 2,652. The worst was 437. I wrote better when I didn’t put pressure on myself to reach a word count.
To say the least, I am a little disappointed. It has forced some thinking and introspection and here is my solution.
Identify the Problems
Problems can be external (things you cannot control) and internal (things you can control).
External – illness, family commitments, domestic duties, unexpected visitors. Things just happen and there’s not a thing you can do about it. You work around it.
Internal – these are the things you have control over and I identified a number of reasons why I wasn’t successful in achieving my goal.
- I’m easily distracted – discipline is a key characteristic I’m developing. Oh, something shiny.
- Preparation – I had done the planning, but spent time thinking about the scene rather than writing what I had in mind. Thinking time is not wasted time, but it is if it detracts from writing. I tried to think through the next scene the day before I sat down to write.
- It’s a harder than I thought – I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe it will become easier, more of a habit, in the course of time.
- I doubted my writing, but learned to ignore the critical voice and simply write.
Make New Plans
I will not be finished by the time I return to work, but I have a new plan to complete the novel by the end of the year.
It’s taking a little longer than I wanted, and that disappoints me, but I am not defeated.
I have learned I could conceivably plan and write a novel in a year to 18 months, allowing for the busyness of my job and allowing for life’s little distractions to get in the way. I understand my processes better now and know what I need to do to make it work for me.
In some ways I feel like I have failed, but in other ways, I am proud of what I have done. I know I will eventually reach “The End.”