I used to be the biggest procrastinator known to humankind. Worst case in point? When I wrote a 20 page paper the night before the assignment was due. Actually, I started at 10 a.m. on the Day Before, wrote through the night, and then turned it in at 8 a.m. the Day Of. Twenty pages. That I had to write from scratch. And research.
The moral? I got an A on it. Okay, okay. An A-. That adventure taught me there were rewards to be had with procrastinating.
That was then. This is 14 years, one baby, and a no-caffeine diet later. And three completed manuscripts, might I add.
How have I managed to churn out three manuscripts in three years? Herein lies my confessions:
1) I allowed myself to be a mom first, a writer second, and everything else dead last. Oh, you feel guilt, sure. But the fear of never getting the darn novel done superseded almost everything else.
2) I write the first draft in a two-week marathon in which I’m up till 5 a.m. This is not for the faint of heart or the weak-minded, as this practice wears away at your sanity, especially when you have a baby to take care of from 7 a.m. on. This practice also causes you to have a messed up sleeping schedule for the third week, where you’re going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 2 a.m. and watching infomercials and Nick at Nite until the baby wakes up.
3) During those two weeks, my husband had clean underwear, but the toilets looked like they belonged in a 7-Eleven. Luckily, the toilets were only used by me and one grumpy hubby. And dinner? That’s when I depended on my husband’s pre-marriage diet to guide him: PB&J and cereal. In other words, those who are old enough to fend for themselves must do so during these marathon days. As I said, I was not winning any wife-of-the-year awards during these two weeks.
4) I’ve promised my husband to never, ever do one of these marathons again while we have dependent children in the house–or as long as we want toilets that we don’t have to squat over. So for the next book I’m working on, I’ve been using a checklist, and every day I steadily work on this checklist rather than saving the 2,345 steps for these two weeks. On this checklist? Everything from “Character Profile for Callie” to “Chapter Five, Scene Two: The Cemetary.” It’s been working. And it’s been strangely relaxing working on a book in such an organized fashion.
5) Why faux deadlines and insane goals were invented: to get our lazy butts in the chair to finish that manuscript so it can land on an agent’s or editor’s desk before the sun explodes and life and book deals cease to exist. Seriously, I give myself faux deadlines for my real deadlines. If something’s due February 1, I tell myself it’s due January 15. I tell everyone in my family it’s due January 15.
When I was pre-published, I gave myself insane goals by sending out synopses to agents saying I had a full (and didn’t). I was such a good synopsis writer (see my awesomely motivating post on synopses), I always had an agent asking for a full (a completed manuscript). This made me get off my duff and write the 200 pages that were still needed–in about two weeks.
If you can survive with sleep deprivation and dirty toilets, my way’s terrific. If you fear hallucinations and going postal, you may want to try writing one page every day, which leads to a book in a year. I hear that’s very good advice. Not as heart-pumping as my way, but good just the same.