Monday, December 3, 2018

The best tool to help you finish a big writing project

Here's my other buddy, Virgo the cat - trying to tell me to take a pause I think.

I've been busy with two different projects connected with writing for the last few weeks. The first is my ongoing agent search for Dervish Dust - researching each prospective agent and sending out tailored query letters. I call this process "collecting no's" and I feel good about the number I have so far. Many have been a bit more personal than a form letter, and feel genuinely encouraging.

The other writing I've been doing is the first book in my Middle Grade fantasy novel series - or maybe it will become YA in time. I've been managing to get out close to 2000 words a day, because the plot is very thoroughly written out already. My challenge is actually prioritizing doing it - especially as the Holidays loom. I'm keeping track of my word count at the end of each writing session - a scribbled post-it note with yesterday's tally crossed out, and today's written down. It helps to feel productive.

But one thing that I learned about writing a big project - in my case a fully researched biography - is that it helps to have an accountability buddy. I honestly think I would have added a year to the process without mine.

My new friend Julie, a super-duper marketing maven, set the terms. I was to write without fail from 10AM until 12PM every weekday. I was to text her at the start, and text my word count at the end. 10AM suited me and my schedule at the time. But only two hours? I thought it was an insufficient commitment. But then again, it also felt doable, even when I had other stuff going on.

It felt odd at first, being beholden in a way to someone so entirely outside of my usual life. We had met at a talk about leadership and management for musicians and film composers. Such an odd fortuitous circumstance. When Julie heard that I was finding it tough to get into a rhythm of writing, she suggested being my accountability buddy. It was so kind of her, with her own busy life and schedule, to take that time to hit a thumbs up each day.

Sometimes I would text that it was going to be a research day - and then I got a lecture about actually writing for two hours first. If I needed to miss a day for something nonsensical like a doctor's appointment, I got a pep talk about not sliding out of the writing habit. It was wonderful.

And of course, two hours usually stretched to four or six or even eight when I was on a roll. But the text was always at noon. Sometimes I would text again after the next two hour interval. And the book got done. I'm so grateful for that daily nudge.

So that is my big advice to anyone trying to get the thing done and having trouble starting or focusing or just believing that it's OK to make your writing a priority - have an accountability buddy outside your family, someone with no stake in it - objective enough to see clearly through the likely moments of making excuses. Just two hours - two hours every day.

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