Getting Lost in the Details

Right now my manuscript is in a bit of a rut. I know where it’s going, and I know how I want to get there. But despite all that, every time I sit down to write I find myself reviewing what I just wrote, and getting bogged down in the details. My fingers will itch to edit, instead of write. At the end of an hour I’m left with a cleaner, but also shorter, WIP, and I wonder how I’ll ever get back to churning out 1,000 words a day.

A conversation with my 3-year-old the other day made me realize how ridiculous my obsessive editing is. I was trying to put a movie on for my kids, and asked my son what he’d like to watch. “Awesome,” he said, apparently making up the title (remember, he’s 3).

Me: Could you tell me a little about the movie?
Him: Yes. There’s a man wearing an orange shirt.
Me: Hmmm. Could you maybe tell me a little more about it?
Him: Well, later he changes into a black shirt.
My way of working on my WIP is a little like that right now. Every time I sit down with it, minutiae leaps out at me. Like the color of a character’s hair changing, or whether or not a woman was wearing gloves in the previous chapters. That’s when I get an overwhelming urge to fix it NOW. An hour later, anachronisms and continuity errors and questionable grammar are fixed, but I haven’t worked on the relationship between my hero and heroine. Conflict that was just beginning to reach a boiling point has now cooled. Just as my son couldn’t remember the plot of the movie, I start to lose track of how I was crafting my story. Yes, the copy is cleaner, but it isn’t always better. 
When I wrote my first novel, I chained myself to my laptop each day and wouldn’t get up until at least 1,000 words had been written. And it was exhilarating to reach the goal of writing a novel after just four months (yes, that’s a 120,000 word novel. I’ll get to that in a future post). In the end, my novel needed a LOT of editing, but at least it was done. I’ve now found that though I despise doing all that editing at the end,seeing the word count remain the same day after day is starting to discourage me.
So my resolution starting today is this: write 1,000 words each and every day until my novel is finished. I won’t stop myself from editing, but it must only be in addition to my 1,000 word goal. I’m going to post my progress here weekly to keep myself accountable. I’ve made this goal real once before. Here’s to hoping I’ve got the willpower a second time. 

There’s Never a Perfect Time

I picked a bad time in my life to pursue a career in fiction.

Several years ago I thought my plate was full. I worked a full time job, was the copy editor for two magazines and was getting one to two magazine articles published a month. Yet I still found time to run several miles a day, keep my house clean, and cook dinner every night. When I quit my full time job to stay home with my firstborn, I thought I’d be able to do all that I was doing before and more.

Cue laughter.

The reality: I am home almost every hour of the day, yet more often than not my house is a wreck. I am a wreck. I gave up the copy editing jobs a long time ago. I haven’t had an article published in almost three years. My treadmill is now where wrinkled clothing goes to die (I have not ironed in over two years). Did I mention that after having one child, I decided to have two more? So now I am at home with three children, ages three and under (you read that right) and have decided to pursue a career as a novelist.

Laugh track continues.

The whole idea sounds crazy. If only I had known how much precious free time I really had back then, I would have started writing far, far sooner. As it stands, I started my first novel on July 1, 2009. Most of it was written while pregnant with my second child, and I finished just before New Year’s of that same year. Using that timeline as a standard, I should be working on my fifth novel right about now. Instead, my second novel is still a bare bones outline with a mere one-third fleshed out. But it’s good. Or at least I think it’s good. And I think it has the potential to be great. So that’s why I’m plugging along.

My wonderful critique partner mentioned that I started writing early, compared to others in the field. She said she’d gone to the ACFW annual conference, and the majority of the writers there were in their 50s. This really put things into perspective for me. You see, I graduated with my degree in writing 11 years ago, and I’ve often wondered if too much time has passed. If I should just hang it up and pretend I never wanted to be a writer in the first place. Or sometimes I go the opposite route. Instead of believing that I should have started years ago, I tell myself I should delay things awhile. “Just until all the kids are in school,” I tell myself. Then things will be easier. Time will be your friend, not your enemy. Words will flow and characters and plots will materialize as naturally as dew in the morning.

That laugh track sure is getting a workout today.

The truth of the matter is, there is never a perfect time to start a career in writing. And it’s never too late. I don’t think anyone would argue that starting when you’re a stay-at-home-mom with one infant and two toddlers is ideal, yet here I a.m. So go for it. Put fingers to keys, or pen to paper, or smoke signals to sky and get started. Because there will never be a better time than right now