Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward (or Just Call Me Michael Finnegan)

It's been so much fun around here this past week, just relaxing... making cookies, seeing family, opening presents, playing in the snow, celebrating our anniversary, going to the movies.  (Out!  To the movies!  Without kids!).  Christmastime is my favorite time of year, time to unplug and forget about work and just revel in love and life.  It's also given me time to read (I finally finished a book I was trudging through and now I'm in the middle of three different books - yep, three! - that I'm really enjoying) and to contemplate my year in writing.

I started this blog last January, when I finally got serious about the idea of actually. writing. a book.  For years, I've written many, many (x a whole lot of manys) book beginnings and plotted out some storylines, but never really got down to the serious work of writing an entire book (and everything after).  Of course, a year ago, I really had no idea what "everything after" meant.  I knew there would be a lot of editing.  I didn't know how important crit partners would be, or how to research agents, or what on earth a query was.

This year, I started writing for real.  And then I stopped.  I had a lot of good intentions, I blogged a bunch, I discovered this wonderful web of writer bloggers, and I learned.  And I learned how much I have still to learn.  Which sounds scary, but is actually a good thing because it means I am starting to understand a few things about writing and I have a whole lot more direction than I ever had before.

Looking back, I can see when and where in the year I stopped writing, and the points where I stopped correlated very closely with times when the Real Job gets incredibly busy or the kids got sick.  I also stopped when research for my book overwhelmed me and when I got distracted by a shiny new idea and started writing that instead.  And I stopped when school ended and I needed a break and time with my kids.

I'm not beating myself up for not getting a lot of WiP writing done.  I'm chalking this year up as a learning year and realizing that the best of intentions don't get the job done.  I don't regret spending time with my kids and recharging my batteries over summer vacation, and I have a much better sense of what is realistic for me and my life at different times of the year. 

This year, I discovered flash fiction and I wrote a good amount of that and fared pretty well in some contests.  It was fun and exhilirating and confidence-boosting and wing-stretching.  Definitely a wonderful outlet and a way to hone skills and practice some new things.

This year, I watched as a lot of fellow bloggers with more experience and understanding got agents and sold books, and my excitement for them and appreciation for their willingness to share their stories and their rejections and their rewrites and their marketing strategies and everything else so willingly with the rest of us has only made the whole dream seem more possible, if I can put the blood, sweat, and tears into it.

So in looking forward, I am setting only one goal, and that goal is to write 100 words a day.  I know, you probably had to read that twice, and now you are wondering what on earth kind of goal is that and she will be lucky if she finishes a first draft in a couple of years at that rate.  This is true, and if it takes that long, so be it, but I'm setting this goal for myself as a minimum.  So that on those nights when I come home exhausted from a day of first grade, and handsome hubby is working, and I have to pick up both girls and get them dinner and drive them to dance class and entertain the little one while the big one is dancing and then get home and do baths and multitask playing with the little one while helping the big one with homework and then bedtimes and then finally just get started the school work that I brought home around 8 or 9... yeah.  On those nights, when I finish my Real Job work around 10 and then finally get to say hello to my hubby... I will write 100 words.  Hopefully on nights when I can carve out an hour or so, I'll write a decent amount more. :)

I guess really my goal this year is just not to stop working on my book for chunks of time like I did this year.  Not get distracted by shiny new ideas, and keep plowing forward, even if it is in tiny bits.  I have a much better sense going into this year about myself as a writer (I need silence), where my strengths lie (plotting), where I have some serious work to do (backstory).  I am working on voice and whether my book will work better in first or third person.  I have a stack of books about writing to read (I call them my own personal "self-help" books).  And I am still learning, learning, learning about writing and the entire business.

I thought I was ready to take the plunge this past year, and instead I waded in a lot of different pools, which turned out to probably be exactly the learning experience I needed.  So, 2011... let's try this again.  Remember that old kids' song Michael Finnegan that keeps saying "begin again"?  Yeah.  That's me. :)

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He had whiskers on his chinnegan,
Along came the wind and blew them in again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He kicked up an awful dinnegan,
Because they said he must not sing again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He went fishing with a pinnegan,
Caught a fish and dropped it in again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!
And with that, I am setting about restarting last January's WiP.  Hopefully this time next year, I'll feel like I've taken the plunge.  Wish me luck!
I will also be making some bloggy changes.... stay tuned!


Life 101 said...

The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know squat.
You have to trudge on as if you had not choice.
Good post.

Charmaine Clancy said...

It's smart to set realistic word counts, otherwise it just becomes another chore. There's many days 100 will turn into 1000, but for the others, at least you'll keep momentum.
Happy New Year.

aspiring_x said...

i think your goal is wonderful!
i love the idea of just getting something down, maintaining momentum!
Happy New Year!!!
*wishing you all the best!*

Old Kitty said...

I think you have every reason to look back on this year with pride and satisfaction!!! I think you are on an amazing writerly journey where you are gaining confidence and knowledge and experience and are just growing ever more fabulous as a writer! I think you are gonna have an amazing 2011 and I think your goal of 100 words is just the best - because only you know your own balance and what you are happy with! Good for you!!!

I can't wait to see what bloggy changes you're gonna surprise us all with!!! Good luck!! Happy New Year!! Take care

Laura Marcella said...

Happy New Year, Lindsey!!! May 2011 be your best year yet!

Catherine Denton said...

I think 100 words a day is an awesome goal! Especially from the sound of your busy life. Happy New Year!!

P.S. My anniversary was the 29th! Which is also why I love winter. :D

Carol Riggs said...

YEAH! You go, girl, 100 words a day is better than none, and I bet there will be a few days you'll go over that, once you get caught up in a scene or whatever (of course, time restrictions may limit you). But kudos to you for trying to do all this despite working at a Real Job and having children at the same time. Keep up the hard work! and enjoy yourself too.

Happy New Year 2011!

Jemi Fraser said...

I've learned so much in the past year as well. It's been fun!

I like your goal - it will make you sit and write - and I bet you'll surpass that goal on most of your days.

Thanks for the extra verses of Michael Finnegan - I only knew the first one - and I love that song!

I wish you all the best in the new year - enjoy :)

Rebecca T. said...

I like that idea of setting a small goal. I think I should do the same! Thanks for being my bloggy buddy and for entering our contest and for all the encouragement and laughs and random e-mails and everything over the year! Happy New Year!

Tracy said...

Ahhh, teaching can destroy a writing career...and while I say that in jest, it is true. I had a co-teacher who quit teaching becuase she needed to focus onher writing and couldn't do it whole-heartedly while teaching. I'm the same way...I have such great intentions but can't be a good mom, wife, teacher and a half way decent person to live with if I write and lack sleep so basically, it is a balancing act...but one I keep at, like you!