#ROW80 Final Check-in

ROW80 for 2011 officially ends tomorrow. I joined halfway through the fourth round, but despite the limited time I spent within the writer’s challenge I learnt a lot about myself as a writer, and setting goals for my own writing.

At the ROW80 blog, Kait Nolan has this to say –

More and more writers join us with each round, retreating from universal goals and embracing the idea that goals are personal and that it’s better to tailor to suit your own life and celebrate those successes, than to strive for the unrealistic and wallow in failure.  Because being a writer is not about “winning” some arbitrary challenge.  It’s about fitting writing into your life each and every day throughout the year, project after project.  That’s what being a professional is all about.

I haven’t learnt the project-by-project bit yet. I want to, but first I really need to do one thing (a hint at my goals for next time) –

  • Learn how to sit down and accomplish a minimal amount of hours, bum on seat, writing. As a professional. As a writer.

I think some of this is to do with the juggling that happens in our everyday life.

Most writers I know are forced to do it around a fulltime job, however I know that when I was a fulltime worker, mother and hobbyist, I found it easier to schedule in time for my own pursuits – even if it had to be weekends or late evenings. Now that I have – apparently – a lot more spare time during the day, and my daughter has grown older with her own activities, it’s more difficult to stick to any kind of schedule.

Update from Last Time

Last ROW80 check-in a week ago, I said I wouldn’t be providing interim checkins. So this is my own final checkin for the last week of the challenge.

Excuses Alert

  • Wednesday last week I started a double dose of antibiotics to get rid of a cyst I have in my jaw. I haven’t taken much medication for a decade, and antibiotics play havoc on my system, so I’ve spent hours either asleep or unable to breathe properly suffering from colds and chronic hay-fever.
  • On Friday, after pushing out 1000+ words on my WIP, my laptop died. It’s suffering from health problems concerning a faulty power cord connection. I left it off all weekend, and so far, budged up with an eraser, a wad of paper and me not moving much on the keyboard – it’s only lost connection a dozen or so times. Santa won’t be bringing me a new PC this year, he’s on a budget – so I continue writing in jeopardy, backing up onto a dongle.
  • My daughter is now permanently home, and despite being easily entertained by television, I refuse to have it on all day, so I have to provide some ideas and overseeing of her entertainment.

Despite The Above

  • I’ve managed a good 4000 words on the WIP, another 5000 on blog posts.
  • I have also read another book in my genre, and thoroughly got into it.
  • My daughter and I have caught up with the Christmas shopping, tackling car parking chaos, and shockingly noisy mall shoppers.
  • My daughter and I have worked on creative writing and goal setting activities for her.
  • I’ve not done much with social media, but caught up with some blog reading, and writing craft reading.

I’ve got a couple of new voodoo dolls on my desk as mascots. One looks like Einstein – he apparently brings out my inner genius, although I’m not sure if I’m meant to stick pins in him or not. I’ll tell you how he’s working out for me later.

What I’ve Learnt from ROW80 (So Far)

I intend continuing on with ROW80 next year – it begins 2nd of January with Round 1. I find the community there really helpful, and love to spend some time going around the blogs and reading of other’s progress – or not sometimes – against their own goals.

Regarding my own goals – my initial goals were realistic but I couldn’t live up to them through these weeks in December, for various reasons.

  • I hadn’t contemplated just how much impact the end of school year and school holidays would have on my writing time, and honestly – my writing ambitions. It was difficult to motivate myself into spending time alone at my computer when somebody else was home and needing my attention sporadically. Whereas during school days, you can see a schedule you can work around within writing, school holidays and holiday events throw those schedules out the door. Some of my writing went with it.
  • Because I entered not having a blog site, I also had some design and graphical work to do as part of one of my goals – that stuff is sexy to me, unfortunately. So I spent too much time on it.
  • I had rushed into writing my WIP 1st November, thinking I have previously won NaNoWriMo, and perhaps – despite moving house over October – I could just do it this time. This meant that I only had a rough outline of the first few chapters / scenes, mucked out quickly just before November. I thought I knew where I was going, and certainly understand all the twists and the ending. But once I got through drafting those first few scenes – I got stuck. Although I often leave away from my outlines, letting events or characters take over, I now know from this experience that I need to have completed a full outline before starting that first draft.
  • Previously for my trunk novels, I’ve written them in a rush – one month, 140,000 words, hours and hours of writing per day. This was supported by my family because they knew it was for a limited time period, then I’d be “back”. My movement into a dedicated daily writing regime – forever – has been difficult because it’s a whole new discipline for me to learn, and requires a new acceptance from my family also. Before – the reward for writing was to see a novel finished in a month, then we could all get on with life. Now, I don’t have the same payoff and it’s taking much longer to get there.

What I’ve Learnt Elsewhere

Some of my favourite writing craft books – ones that I return to again and again, are by Donald Mass. His Breakout Novelist series are some of my bibles. I got a delivery from Amazon this last week, arriving with other Christmas deliveries. Amazon deliveries over here are like a big surprise – it takes weeks to arrive from America, and I’ve often forgotten I’d even ordered some books by the time the package arrives.

I’m currently reading ‘The Fire in Fiction’, and also Jame Scott Bell’s ‘The Art of War for Writers’ (having long been a fan of ‘The Art of War’ as a creative).

Both books, I delve into during quiet spells, and takeaway thoughts as I need them.

In my reading from The Art of War for Writers, it has suddenly become obvious to me, that if you interview 1000 successful writers, they will all give you different advice on writing. There are no rules, and no one routine which works for everybody.

Even James had problems pinning down such things as writing routines – some write every morning, others include social media and reading time within it. One doesn’t start until 11am and finishes at 7pm. Another writes six days a week, and many work part-time or fultime. Some spend months on outlining, others are pantsers, some regret not outlining, others regret having to.

A lot of writers really espouse reading Stephen King‘s ‘On Writing‘ as a reference to writing craft. I have that one, too. In it, he simply states – like many – that to be a writer, you should sit down and write. I’ve just finished reading an old 2008 interview of Stephen King in a writing magazine. He suggests in that interview that he won’t be bringing out another writing craft book, he hasn’t learnt that much new about his own writing since.(Emphasis is mine).

That’s the point – as a new writer, others were always anxious to tell me to read his book – or another, or another. Others have told me that they don’t actually explore writing craft books in the middle of writing – too many new ideas, and they might never finish their first draft. Others I know, have started a work in progress, only to realise part way through that it’s just not working out. Or they’ve re-read ‘Writing the Breakout Novel‘ and realise that the pace or characters aren’t just good enough.

But getting down to the nitty gritty, it’s all about what works for me. And it probally won’t work in a few year’s time – or even next year, maybe. It’s about learning, taking away changes to try out, and holding onto what does work for as long as I can. It’s about small steps, little routines, and a big challenging goal set at the end (a book!).

Writing is a fluid process. It changes overtime. And so will my goals and routines to accommodate – and nourish it. Which is what, honestly, ROW80 is all about anyway.

A Couple of New Goal Takeaways

  • I will continue writing on my WIP.
  • I will spend several weeks nutting out the rest of the outline for the WIP (and prequel).
  • I will set a minimum period of time where I simply sit down to write on the WIP, distraction free. Each day. (Okay, 5-6 days a week).
  • I need to form a set of small rewards. Obviously being a long-term process, I am now in need of both incentives and milestone rewards to push me on.

I will be joining in with ROW80 again in January next year (always makes me smile when you get to say next year like that, and it’s only a few days away). I’ll have some new goals, too.

If WordPress allows javascript, I would insert the Mr Linky widget here, for the ROW80 challenge-takers. Instead, you can catch up with all of them by going to the ROW80 blog.

Happy Christmas Writing to all my fellow ROW80ers.

One thought on “#ROW80 Final Check-in

  1. Sounds like you accomplished a lot, even though it wasn’t as much as you’d set up for yourself. I know when I was laid off from work several years ago, I thought I’d get a lot more writing done. Not! Instead, since I wasn’t bringing in an income, I felt compelled to do everything I could to help my husband with his business, plus all the mom-duties, housework, grocery shopping, etc. I got a book written a little more quickly, but not by much! Great work on your goals – love the site design, too! – and I’ll see you in ROW80 2012 Round 1.

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