According to that schedule, I should have ~10,000 words written by now. I don’t.

So. Do I beat myself up and feel guilty for not having met my writing goal? I could. And I did, for about 2 minutes. Then I got to work facing reality and figuring out what happened and how to fix it.

I like facing reality. I can’t do anything about it until I honestly assess what is going on. Same with managing my finances or getting things done in my day job. The same principles apply.

Part of the delay is the reality of life. My day job got a lot busier in recent months – some added responsibilities I wasn’t anticipating that took some of my time. A very busy family life is always a challenge to balance, too. But nothing earth shattering there. Another factor is that the research is taking more time than I thought. People are out of town, or they don’t have the expertise I needed for the chapter I’m writing. Lots of referrals and delays. Understandable-you can’t give up, you just need to keep plugging along. Eventually you have enough information to understand that character or plot line and then you can start writing that scene, or decide what the conflict will be or how it might be resolved.

Then I looked at the larger goal, which for me is to have Logan Book 3 out by the summer of 2017. I not only want the book to be completed by then, but I want it to be a good book, not just get one out there to meet my publisher’s deadline. So, I sat there and thought for a minute.

What came to mind was something a few people had mentioned about FOREST PARK: Logan Book 2. They loved the book as a whole, but also commented that the last half flows really well and feels cohesive and tight-more so than the first part. As I sat there thinking, I realized that’s because I wrote that part in one chunk – during the summer when I’m not teaching. The first part of the book was written as I could find time – weekends, Spring Break – a bit here and a bit there. No wonder the first parts felt choppy.

I like Book 2, but I need to realize that for me, I need a chunk of uninterrupted time to write. That way I don’t spend an hour up front trying to remember where I left off and who had done what so far. Even with my Excel spreadsheet keeping track of all character’s actions on each day of major events, it takes a while to get my head back into the story emotionally. I have to put myself in the place of the character I’m writing about, so their reaction to events feels natural.

I also am learning that for some books, I need to do a lot of research up front.  When writing SHATTERED, I wrote largely from personal experience. I live near a town like Jasper. Teaching is my day job. I’d been to powwows and was an Anthropologist by training. The only part I needed to learn more about was glassblowing.  FOREST PARK also pulled from personal experience collecting life histories from Vietnamese refugees, my familiarity with Portland, OR, etc. I did need to understand a lot more about fire, ME, and police procedures, so that required many interviews.

For Book 3, before I can write about sea otters and land title fights, I need to understand much more about them. I’m in the process now, and it’s taking longer than I anticipated to gather the information I need to make the story lines clear and true to those professions, organizations, and scientific realities.

So. I am cutting myself some slack. I am going to create a writing schedule that will help me reach my goal, but may not look impressive up front. I reorganized my writing schedule to put the research, outlining and preliminary writing up front, and wait to do the bulk of the writing during the summer. To others it may look like slacking off, or being lazy. But for me, I know it’s right. And luckily, other than well-meaning relatives and friends asking me ‘how’s that book coming along?” I don’t have a lot of outside pressure. Luckily, my publisher trusts me. So far…:)

It’s one of those counterintuitive things, like the fact that in America, we insist on teaching Algebra and Geometry to 1st graders, instead of designing curriculum that spends a child’s years from K-3rd grade really mastering basic arithmetic skills first, then moving on to more abstract concepts in higher grades. This is what countries do whose children excel at Math, but we are afraid to change, for fear of appearing to lower our math standards. Doing less early on actually helps us achieve the rigorous goal on schedule.

So – make a schedule – it’s fun to set and achieve goals, and of course, push yourself, but make goals only after considering all factors and be willing adjust to conditions on the ground.