Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Two Years, WIP!

My manuscript turned two on Saturday.  I remember starting this project with no expectations.  I never expected to finish a book - it was something I did to pass time; to avoid looking for jobs that didn't exist and fool myself into thinking I was busy.

I remember when my W.I.P. turned one.  I realized, whether I wanted to admit it or not, the project consumed me, just as everything I'm passionate about manages to do.  It's not a pastime; it's not a hobby.  It's a project I'm committed to taking as far as I can on my own, and then, investing the time and energy it will take to reach the next level.  True, the next level is not something I control, but if you treat a writing project as though it will land exactly where you want, you have reached the mindset needed to produce quality work.  If you sit down to try something, you're likely to come up short.  Mentally, you have convinced yourself it's a simple experiment.  If you sit down to do something, you fight and push and persevere until your goal is accomplished.  And then, you fight and push and persevere to make it better and better and better.  Most importantly, you never quit.

I laugh when people think writing a book involves just that: writing the book.  People baffle me when they are unable to realize taking the craft seriously puts more on your plate than composing sentences intended to tell a story.  My eyes roll when people ask why we rewrite.  Or when people think editing involves running spell check and doing a quick once over to make sure everything makes sense.  Because although my family and friends are not writers, I would expect them to have more common sense regarding how books come to be.

My first year was centered around my story, though I can't say I worked on it every day.  Time management was a challenge; I failed to follow a consistent routine that blocked time for my daily activities.  Something was always neglected - writing, the gym, reading, socialization.  And a lot of time was wasted (though a large part of this was due to an inconvenient part-time job that, due to travel time and scheduling gaps, was not in my best interest given my other goals).  But with one year down, I learned there was more to the job than the physical act of writing.  I knew I wasn't doing enough; if I was committed to crossing the finish line, it was time to step up my training.

A year ago, the following was true:
  • I had yet to create a Twitter account.
  • My blog had two followers.
  • My first draft was 46% complete.
  • I had never met another writer in person.
  • I had never attended a workshop, conference, or class on writing or the publishing industry.

Over the past year, I have:
  • Created a Twitter account (that, for the record, is not used to announce when I'm eating a sandwich or brushing my teeth, as a friend once mocked me for).
  • Built up this blog and connected with writers all over the globe - some published, some represented, and some beginning.
  • Completed the first draft of a YA Contemporary.
  • Met a number of writers in my area, as well as a handful who stopped in from other parts of the country.
  • Attended events online and otherwise to study the craft.
  • Invested personal time to research and learn on my own.
  • Made time to read and write every day; days off are now planned in advance and no longer when I "don't feel like doing it."
  • Made it a priority to get out a bit more - both for inspiration and stamina.  It's amazing how seeing a good movie or meeting up with buddies refreshes the brain.
As teachers, we are taught to assess progress with benchmarks.  Meeting standards is a process involving multiple steps; lessons are intended to move students closer to mastering a concept, but no concept is fully grasped overnight.  Writing a book is much like going through school.  Our success is not defined by one final product - we achieve it through each individual milestone in a lengthy, time consuming process.  Just as students balance multiple subjects at once, we juggle more than outsiders realize.  We become our own teacher.  We write.  We read.  We research.  Study.  Network.  Revise.  Critique.  Analyze.  Blog.  Build a readership.  Promote.

We evolve, learn, and grow.  And by juggling each component at once, we move closer to achieving our goals.

How have you evolved since your journey began?  Any major realizations that helped redirect your path?  What did you wish you knew when you first sat down to write?

9 comments:

  1. Congratulations my friend... Can't wait to read your work. By the way is the title of your book a secret?

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  2. What a great post, Paul. It's amazing how much you have to put into what you write. I've realized how hard it is and how determined I am to do it. It really surprises me how determined I've become.
    Good luck Paul and congrats.

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  3. Paul, happy birthday to your MS! I love how you've recorded all of its milestones, too. You're such a great daddy. ;)

    Wow, I've come a LONG way. I started my blog about 3 years ago wanting to get myself out there because that is what every serious writer needs to do. I joined FB a year later and Twitter about 3 months ago, lol. I started writing in 4th grade, finished my first full novel at 25 after starting it at 17. I've since written 7 more books and am starting another--the sequel to the book that was picked up by TreasureLine Books in April! So much has happened, and it all starts with one step!

    One major realization I had was about 2 years ago when I was at a writers conference. Every published author there was so amiable I felt that my writerly dream attainable. I feel that the first step to becoming published is believing in yourself!

    What did I wish I knew when I first sat to write? That there were other crazy people who are just as obsessed about writing as I am. Having a network of writerly palz makes all the difference in my career! <3

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

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  4. What a great journey you've had! We all have to start with a blank page and go from there. And as we start networking, we have 0 blog/twitter followers and may not know other writers. It's a building process. My biggest step was entering my ms into a contest for a writing fellowship. I won, and through that met some wonderful people. That made me want to try conferences, classes, etc. It made me unafraid to tell people I was a writer. To speak it. To own it. Then I got the courage to query. Now I have an agent to cheer me on. I don't wish I'd known anything. I had to learn it a step at a time. I wish you so much success, Paul. I can't wait to see where you are a year from now:)

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  5. Congratulations - you've come a long way!

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  6. Congrats! Writing and revising is definitely hard work, and you've come far in all aspects of the writing life. So congrats to that too. Also, kudos for writing more contemporary!

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  7. I have trouble even remembering when I started, or all the things I've learned sinced then. If I was to pass on all the important advice to that beginning me, well, that just might be a book in itself.

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  8. Congratulations on two years, Paul! You're definitely an awesome writer! Hmm. Now where else has that phrase, awesome writer, cropped up at? I'll go to my blog and see if I can't spot some clues there...

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  9. Thanks you everyone for the encouraging comments. I'm sorry I did not have a chance to respond to each of you individually; this week got away from me, though I'm not sure exactly where it went.

    Nia, contemporary has always been my favorite branch of YA and I couldn't imagine writing anything else. I'm always searching for new books to explore and I hope to see more explosive stories in this area. It's sad to see them dwindling.

    Bryan, when you write that book, I want an advanced copy! ;)

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