Every January I promise to lose weight, work out more, and at least try to read adult fiction. In a good year, I can make it to the neighborhood Super Bowl party, followed by a string of out-of-town school visits. The next thing I know, I'm on a plane, reading a children's book and eating overpriced airport M & M's.
Each May for the last five years I have told myself that this was the summer I would finish The Novel. I have worked on this book, for so long, that when I do return school visits, students ask if The Novel is coming out this year. I have to admit that no, I haven't finished, still writing. I'd leave feeling like A Big Fat Failure who was never going to finish The Novel (or lose weight).
However, this year was going to be different.
From the summit of the third week of May, the summer and all of its possibilities shimmered at my feet. For the first time, our family vacation would begin the minute the last school bell rang. For once, my daughter's schedule wasn't studded with out-of-town skating competitions. For the first time in years I wouldn't be running a Young Writers workshop during what always turned out to be the hottest week in summer.
In short, a free summer. Three empty sparkling months. This would be the summer that. . .
I stopped short. I was about to make a Summer Goal. Did I want to do this?
Like most of you, I have to fit writing around my other obligations, which even pared to the minimum, are still a lot. Circadian rhythms dictate that I am useless until about 9 am, walking into walls and such. Left to my natural inclinations I would write all night. I have to get my daughter up at 6 am. (Schools don't care about my Circadian rhythm.) So writing is shoehorned into the odd bits of time. It's like the old joke, "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time."
When I took stock at the beginning of this summer, I could see my "bites" had added up. I write out of sequence, and this particular book is divided into three "acts." There were a few scenes missing from Acts Two and Three, but Act One, was a mere skeleton. However, in writing backwards, I now knew the characters and setting better than I did when I first began this journey. Could I finish The Novel THIS summer? I have all this time and...
Then I sat down with my manuscript and realized that not only did Act One need a lot of "fleshing out," but that there were a few bald spots in Acts Two and Three as well. Then I would have to go over the "finished" book to "fine tune" it . . .and discover more holes that needed filling and. . .
No. I couldn't do it. I couldn't finish The Novel in three months, and more than I could lose ten pounds over a weekend. I thought some more. My writer's group was having a retreat at the end of July (which was this past weekend). Could I finish Act One by the third week of July? That seemed a do-able goal.
Guess what? I didn't finish Act One. I almost finished it. This a verse novel, and I know that Act One still needs two more poems, but I know exactly what they are. My critique group agreed, and saved me the trouble of having to revise Act One by showing me where and how to tighten the whole thing up.
So, revised goal...finished Act One by the end of this month. Another doable goal. That's all I will focus on right now...not future plot holes and revisions to come. I am working on this goal. You will know when I have accomplished it, because you will hear a big old "yee-haw!" coming from Atlanta.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman