Here’s how it typically goes:
SELF: I’m gonna finish five chapters a day for six days in a row and then I’ll have all thirty chapters of my WIP done by Friday! That’ll feel soooooo nice!
HUSBAND: Or you could just write whatever you can each day without expectation and see where you get.
SELF, squinting at husband as if he’s spoken Latin: ….. .. ….. . . .. .. ….. …. .. … . … . . …… … …. .. . …. …What are you saying?
HUSBAND: I’m saying, maybe you shouldn’t set such high expectations that leave you feeling anxious. Maybe you just keep showing up and see where you get naturally.
Snarky-ass SELF: Maybe you should just sit down and watch me do me!
HUSBAND: Phrasing. Also, fair enough. See ya’ on the other side!
THREE DAYS LATER…
HUSBAND: So how’s the first draft going? You on schedule?
SELF: I’m on my period, it’s late, I’ve got a meeting in the morning, my back hurts, I’ve got big things going on, I’ve got to finish a DIY project first, I have a migraine, my laptop’s dead, my tummy hurts, I got in a fight with my MC…so…no? So-so?
One of these days, I’ll take heed of my husband’s sage advice when he warns me against biting off more than I can chew, but until then, BRING ON THE PEANUTS, I CAN FIT THEM ALL, I SWEARS IT!
Lesson #374 from the Trenches: You can set hard deadlines all you want, but unless you’ve got lazar focus, absolute, unwavering conviction in what you’re creating, and a guilt-trip pill the size of a dry biscuit to force you into work-mode when you’re too drained to think clearly, you’ll most likely miss it by a long shot.
Here’s the thing: for the my first WIP, I was able to bust it out in, more or less, two months flat.
It wasn’t finished, mind you. What I had by the end of that two months was a solid first draft that I mistakenly called a final. Regardless, I was pleased with the fact that I had something tangible by the end of those two months. A beginning, a middle, an end, character arcs, plot twists, a fully landscaped world, et al.
Naturally, with my second WIP, I’m trying to emulate that same timeline.
But there are some crucial differences I misunderstood as I sprinted amateurishly into this 2nd novel with the same expectations as the last.
1. REAL HISTORY IS HARDER TO MANIPULATE THAN A MULTI-FACETED FICTIONAL PLANET WHOSE HISTORY I MADE UP AS I WENT
My first WIP took place in a fictitious world where I had the leeway to create whatever I needed to appease my storyline. Real Earth-realm history, on the other hand, cannot be adjusted for my needs without conducting serious research to make sure my version isn’t a problematic alternative to reality.
2. JUST BECAUSE I CAN, DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN I SHOULD WHEN IT COMES TO FORCING MYSELF TO DO ANYTHING
This has been true for me with every goal I’ve set in life, from diet, exercise, work, and now fiction writing: if I force my will, I inevitably crack under the intensity of my own expectations, typically because those expectations are out of whack with what’s reasonable for me to accomplish. It seems I work best when I set a deadline in the future that doesn’t include minor, milestone deadlines along the way, but, instead, allows me the leniency to determine my own output, day by day, as I see fit.
3. LACK OF CONFIDENCE IS REAL, FOLKS AND IF YOU IGNORE IT, IT ONLY GETS MORE SO
I have a bad habit of loving my concept from first sight, diving into the Writer’s Trench to create it with gusto, and then feeling like a fool for exploring something as frivolous as a fiction story in the first place. However, the problem is not that I have these thoughts; the problem, me thinks, is that I don’t ALSO have other thoughts. Thoughts like, “I love this story!” or “I’m having so much fun with this chapter!” or “I can’t wait to read this when it’s done!” I typically get so caught up in producing the thing that I don’t stop to enjoy the flowers of it as they tickle my nose whilst I fly right past them.
Can I learn to properly recalibrate my deadlines? Will I ever keep my expectations in check? Am I doomed to live a life full of missed heights and deadlines?!
Stay tuned for my DAY 32 post (dropping June 1st) where I’ll detail exactly how far I got in month one of my second draft and what my new expectations are for the month of June!