Staying The Course

by Ottilia Scherschel

I read a statistic recently that said people finish reading ten per cent of the books they start. A friend of mine calls bookmarks his white flags of surrender since he leaves them in books he doesn’t finish. As a writer, I often ask myself when starting a project if I can stay the course.

The things that make me start a story will not help me finish. Stories carry a certain Ottilia Scherschelexcitement at the beginning—a sort of high. I have the opportunity to discover new ideas, create new characters and settings, and build a plot. The newness of every story sustains me for a while, but the novelty wears off when I start digging deeper and deeper into my creation. At some point, the end seems far away and the road to get there endless. I feel like I want to chuck everything I’ve put together.

I’ve been writing long enough now to know my sustenance to carry on can only come through perspiration. It’s that old concept of put your butt in the chair and write. This is easier said than done. I tell myself that my strength as a writer will come from writing. I encourage myself with sayings I learned as a kid like to be good at something you have to practice. Relying on the misery loves company angle, I seek encouragement from my critique group whose members are dealing with the same feelings.

I struggle, but I continue sitting at my computer and working. I slog through my doubts, my fears, and my insecurities. I ask myself what is important about my writing. The same answer always echoes in my brain. What’s important is staying the course—finishing well. I don’t want to be a writer who only completes ten per cent of the books she starts.

How do you feel about staying the course with your projects?

 

 

Goals -In Writing and in Life

By Barb DeLong

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. C.S. Lewis

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a woman of a certain age. And at my age, I’ve occasionally wondered if I’m too old to handle the traditional publishing rat race, or to learn all the ins and outs of the self-publishing business, what with formatting, uploading, downloading, covers, editing, sales and marketing. It all seems so—complicated. Sigh.

But then I take inspiration from other authors who published later in life, or continued to write and publish into their senior years. Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her sixties when she first published. Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down, was in his forties and continued to write until he died at ninety. Romance author Charlotte Lobb w/a Charlotte Carter, wrote until she passed away at seventy-eight. There’s a prolific Texas author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt, who published her first romance in her seventies. Yee-haw! So, I will continue to set writing goals to achieve my dream of multi-publication.

A goal is a dream with a deadline. Napoleon Hill

But (why is there always a big but?), a goal means there’s a deadline somewhere in the equation. Whether it’s a contest deadline, critique group deadline, personal or editor deadline, there’s a date that must be met. Therein lies the stress, the fear of disappointment, the fear of failure. I thrive on deadlines. I need deadlines so I can at least attempt to order my life in hopes of meeting my goal. I entered a contest this year at 11:59 p.m. The deadline was midnight. Gulp! Just made it.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I mentioned ordering my life to meet a goal. I always create a detailed plan for my stories and a schedule for writing time. There are pantsers and plotters and those who are a bit of both. I’m definitely a plotter. I can’t write by the seat of my pants. In other words, I can’t just jump in and start typing away on a half-formed story to nowhere. I create character charts complete with goals, motivations and conflicts along with quirks and eccentricities. I use plotting processes such as the hero’s journey and three-act structure. I need to know what’s going to happen in each scene before I write it. Doesn’t mean I keep everything I write, but at least I have a PLAN.

All of this planning and writing takes time. Just because I’m retired, doesn’t mean every minute of the day is mine to do with as I please. Au contraire. I have a retired husband and nearby grandkids. ‘nuf said. I look at my deadlines and backtrack on the calendar to calculate how many words/pages I need to write and when in order to meet that deadline. Oh, life has a way of fouling the best-laid plans, but getting back on track and forging ahead is key to meeting goals.

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. John Dewey

Life is a series of goals, and so are writing goals. Yay! Finished the first draft of a short story. Next goal—edits. Next goal—submit to formatter. Next goal—choose a cover. Yay! I won a local contest. Next—submit to a national contest. Next—send out query letters to publishers. Next—write that next book.

The message here is to keep going. Don’t stagnate. Build on past achievements, or perceived failures. Go ahead, set another goal, set a deadline and create a plan. Dreams can come true.