Just after the winter holidays last year, I ordered myself a belated gift, a planner. A planner? Just for myself? How terribly provocative Bettina. And yet, it was just what I needed. Starting in Highschool, I’ve kept a calendar of assignments due, but that’s been the extent of it. Historically, I kept track of everything else from memory, but let me tell you, nowadays that’s an absolute impossibility. As life becomes more complex, I’d rather focus my energy on things I’m trying to accomplish, rather than remembering which articles I need to read this week, or when to buy contact lenses.
As a result, I needed something amazing, and previously unknown: the Passion Planner. It’s worth a whole separate post, but I’ll give you the run down. There is someone out there who thinks and organizes the exact same way I do. I need yearly and monthly calendars, along with daily planning space by the half hour. I need space for a running list of everything that must must be completed each day and week, as well as a little spot to write down short term goals, things like ‘finish all readings for next week by Friday’ and ‘invite Margret for coffee, she’s had a bad day”.
However, my epic planner takes things a step further, and provides a large matrix for stating, evaluating, prioritizing and planning long term goals. Let me tell you, I’ve got plenty of those. I would love to graduate and become a real, live, employed person with disposable income. I really aught to spend more time organizing an exercise routine, instead of my current formulas:
[sun/not pouring rain + no homework] = hiking
[empty fridge + bus costs 400 isk] = walk to the store
Lastly, and currently the most important to me, (shhh, don’t tell Grad school!) I want to finish writing a book. I’ve been writing small things for a long time, a storybook about time travelers who went back to the Titanic, age 7, a five act script for a sock puppet play that my parents then had to sit through, age 9, horrible limericks and haiku poems I compose and illustrate when feeling persnickety, age 11 to present, and much more. I tried to write my first real book at age 16; a first person narrative about a 16 year old girl who found herself in the midst of the age old fight between vampires and werewolves.
As you might imagine, it was absolutely wretched. I’m recalling a couple of the particularly angsty paragraphs and plot points, and it makes me feel slightly queazy. It was honestly the worst. Characters were one dimensional and stereotypical, the plot made little sense and had no continuity, and Our Heroine, a short, innately special but tragically misunderstood girl with brown hair and eyes (wait, why does that sound so familiar?), was whiny, pathetic, and useless. But, my 16 year old self persevered! I worked almost every day, for 3 months on that wretched, idiotic book, well past the point that I knew it was unsalvageable because I wanted to finish.
I didn’t manage it.
The book stands at some 22,000 words, and represents the best of what my 16 year old self had to offer. I haven’t re-read it in years, and when I eventually do, I’m prepared to butcher/edit it into oblivion. In all likelihood, 95% of it will be wholly unsalvageable, but someday I want to be able to look at the first draft of that HORRIBLENESS, and compare it to something I’m truly happy with. There is one silver lining to that experience. I didn’t finish the book, the plot and characters were the worst, and it makes my adult self feel a little bit ill, but I wrote 22,000 words. Twenty-two thousand words on a single project.
That brings us right around to the beginning. Last February, I ordered myself that new planner, and spent a week thinking about my long term goals. In a year, I want to be graduated from Grad school. When I’m old and grey, I want to live a tiny house by the ocean, and putter around in my vegetable garden. In three years, I want to have a book ready for publishing.
I’ll amend that. In three years, which will be February 2018, I want to have a finished product that I am happy with.
It’s been a good year of writing. I’ve started a few more stories, but more importantly, I’ve changed the way I work. My planner keeps me organized, and I write down tiny, flexible goals, and keep track of things I’ve done. I used to have a huge pile of notecards detailing charters, settings, and plot points, but last February, I changed over to a lime green edged notebook that’s just for this project. I’ve been adding floor plans, details about characters that won’t ever make it into the book, and some incredibly poor sketches. It also contains my very first complete plot. Every important character and event is there; I have a beginning, middle, and end. It is whole, and for the first time, I’m writing something and know exactly where it’s going.
It’s been a good month for writing. I started this blog a little over a month ago, and write in bursts. Some days I have a lot to say, and others are better for watching and listening. I’ve spent this month dividing my focus between what I need to do for school, and what I want to do to meet my writing goals. I’ve become one of those people who carry highlighters, pencils, pens, markers, and colored pencils around with me everywhere, so I’m fully prepared to work on anything. By contrast, I haven’t grocery shopped in weeks, and had a single clean shirt this morning, but my gosh have I had a fine time writing.
It’s been a good week for writing. I did a little editing, drafted several floor plans, and have decided I need to go to the fabric store. Sometimes you just don’t have words until you can see it. I altered a couple of minor characters as I wrote about them, changing them from props into people. I wrote 5,000 words, and realized my main character’s eventual ally, cannot be the person I thought they would be. The power dynamic between them is wrong, making the two of them oh so close to complimentary, but no cigar. I found another character that will suit the role much better, creating a slow build that makes far more sense than my original idea.
My tiny book is still a fledgeling, and I want to see it grow into something that isn’t just an idea. I’m very protective of it, and can’t quite bring myself to let anyone give me feedback until I have about 10 complete chapters, but I’m chugging along with enthusiasm. I can’t even tell you about it, because I’m afraid my love of the project is clouding my ability to judge it’s quality, but I already have my silver lining. This may not be the story that becomes a book (although I’m betting it will). I may give it up as a lost cause on some distant day if it becomes unsalvageable, but that won’t be the end of the world, because no matter how inconsistent I am, be it a glaring plot hole, or if I simply don’t finish, this book is already unfathomable, exponential magnitudes better than that first piece of crap I wrote at 16.