Unrealistic Goals: The Fallout

I feel like I should write some kind of update following my last post. So here are the goals I set last weekend, and how they panned out:

  1. Finish novel draft. Didn’t finish by Sunday night. Did finish a few hours into Monday morning. This was before my self-imposed deadline, so I call it a win. Also I’m an owl, so it felt like part of the same day.
  2. Write blog post. Obviously check.
  3. Tumblr post. Totally did not do this. The perfectionist part of my brain hates that, but I’ll live.
  4. Actually leave the house. Yes!

Predictably, the biggest time drain was #3 #1. (Though it does sometimes seem that the thing you don’t finish takes the longest. In this case, I chose my battles and jettisoned the Tumblr post pretty early.) If you’re curious about what I learned, here are some things that worked for me (or didn’t):

  1. No: I lost a lot of sleep, pushing past the point where I would usually have been happy to turn in, because I was determined to write as much as I could before my brain turned to oatmeal. This probably influenced my productivity on subsequent days.
  2. Yes: I had an outline. I’m not always an outliner, but the outline was tremendously useful for this draft; being able to see where I was going helped me avoid getting stuck.
  3. Yes: I revised my outline as I worked, to reflect changes/surprises. That meant my outline was a pretty accurate summary of what I had as well as what came next.
  4. Yes: I took breaks when I needed them. I wasn’t about to kill myself for this. On a similar note, I didn’t set a lot of rules for myself. As I said in my other post, I had some material to pull in from previous (incomplete) drafts; I sometimes read through that and edited it, sometimes not so much. I didn’t bother tallying up how many new words I typed each day, though I know it was a lot. Basically I did what I could to keep my stress levels low.

I can’t guarantee that any of this will work for you. Patricia C. Wrede has a great post about different kinds of writers; we all thrive on different methods. All I can say is that this got me what I wanted: my first complete draft, over 50,000 words, with no scenes to fill in later. (Scenes to flesh out: definitely. But no blanks.)

Despite my love of ripping through drafts at high speeds, I didn’t find this the most enjoyable way to write a novel. Typing until you fall asleep at the keyboard is fun when you’re doing it on pure inspiration. It’s less fun when you refuse to let yourself sleep because dang it, you’re determined. But on the plus side, at the end of three days, you have a novel. If you’re lucky, you’re pleased with the draft, proud of yourself, and for once in your life, actually ready to rest for a while before jumping into revisions. Which brings us to a last note.

5. Yes: I knew I had a low-key week coming up. Was thus able to spend it recovering.

Note to self: As much as you may think otherwise, sleep is not optional. If you’re going to demand a truckload of work from yourself, your body is going to demand rest. Grant this demand. Just do.

I'd like to do some fancy hand lettering with this, but it makes me sleepy.

I’d like to do some fancy hand lettering with this, but it makes me sleepy.