I normally jump right into the numbers but this is an unusual month and, as such, requires a special introduction. (I really want to use a GIF of Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride intro here because it would be perfect but I can’t find one.) But July 2016 was special to me in a big way and I want to explain exactly why.
I know I can write. This may come as a surprise to those of you that follow me on Twitter where I’m saying the opposite just about every day but that’s just me being dramatic. I’ve got multiple traditionally published titles at this point, some not yet announced, and more self-published books and plays than I feel like counting at the moment which is to say… a bunch. That people are willing to pay for my words is an established fact.
But there has been this nagging worry behind everything I do for years now: Sure, I can write something good with all the time in the world but can I do it on a deadline? More importantly, can I write fiction on a deadline? Because I’ve pitched freelance non-fiction stuff for hire before with a quick turn-around and it’s a completely different world than something creative. Writers in traditional contracts frequently pitch a fiction idea, if not a whole series, and then have to complete those books in record time, often while working on something else simultaneously. I have seen MANY authors I love put out a wonderful first book that they wrote on their schedule and the completely fall apart when they had to write the second in the time crunch that is publishing.
This is not a diss on those authors with deadline panic. This is me looking at this happening, relating 100% and saying, oh crap, that’s going to be me. Because I see the turn-around some of my favorite authors have for their books and have been absolutely terrified I would not be able to cut it. Knowing how to write is one thing. Knowing how to write fiction of a predictable quality under pressure is a whole other thing.
But because I am a woman of action, instead of worrying about this in a vague way, I decided to put my feet to the fire and force myself to do this to see if I had what it takes. After all, wouldn’t do a lot of good to chase that big deal if I’m only going to blow it on the first tight deadline. I set a bunch of deadlines for myself this year for fiction projects to replicate this kind of working environment. I also took some regular freelance gigs just to ratchet up the pressure a bit more and force myself to juggle multiple balls and staggered deadlines.
Self-set deadlines are good, but there really isn’t any consequence to missing them. That’s why I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified when I looked at this summer. By mid-June, I was committed to finishing four freelance articles, two long one-act plays and two short plays all for other people. The scariest component of this mess of deadlines was the two shorts plays. They represented my own personal white whale, two fiction projects I’d pitched and now had to churn out on a super tight deadline while juggling a bunch of other stuff. It was truly time to see if I could product quality fiction in a time crunch.
At the same time, this summer represents my daughter’s last few weeks of raw unconstrained childhood before she starts school in the fall (part time, two days a week, but still), I figure making it completely legendary is the least I can do. So, on a personal level, I’ve been trying to maximize every single second of summer fun we’ve got while, on a professional level, I had more work due than I ever had to do in my life. This… was admittedly not a great combination. I’ve been fairly convinced this would be the month that pushed me over the edge and gave me a complete and total breakdown. I spent all of July and half of June stressed as heck and saying over and over that, if I could actually pull everything off by August 1st, it would be cause for a huge celebration because I would have leveled up in a major way.
It was a long hard month and a heck of a struggle. But, it turns out, I did pull it off.
And I expected to feel like a total writing badass when I did but it turns out… I’m just too freaking tired. But there is a very deep satisfaction behind it because I did it. I CAN write good fiction all the way from pitch to final draft under a crazy deadline while juggling a bunch of other projects which means… I got this yo. I’m not saying it was pleasant or fun or my preferred way to write or anything (cough) but just knowing that I can do it if I have to is a big freaking deal for me and my writing career going forward. It was my last big writing fear and knowing I can slay that beast really does feel like I just joined the next weight class.
The biggest challenge was that the only advice everyone has for writing burnout is to take a break from it… which is all fine and dandy when you’ve got the luxury of time enough for that. With as many deadlines as I had going and as little time a day as I have to work, the only “break” I could take was to work on another project for a while because I literally couldn’t stop writing or I wouldn’t get everything done. I’ll admit to getting super frustrated that there wasn’t more advice out there on how to keep working and produce quality writing when you’re completely brain fried but literally cannot afford to stop moving your fingers over the keys but there just wasn’t. I’d write my own but I was really struggling this month so I suspect my way, aka the brute force method, may not be the best way.
But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed with this art thing, it’s that knowing you can do it, that you’ve done it before, is sometimes all it takes to give you that push to do it the next time. And no matter how much this month sucked, now I know without a doubt that I CAN do it which means I’ll be able to do it again. That’s a big freaking deal for me.
Longest. Intro. Ever. OK, enough about levels and whales. Let’s get to the numbers…
Here’s what July 2016 looked like in writing…
509,149/600,000 words (85%)
I set a goal of 50,000 for Camp NaNoWriMo
Total Words Written
Ironically, as much work as I did this month, it was a lower word count month because of all the slow, brain dead editing.
Average Words Per Day
- Four freelance articles
- Finished The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Now New and Improved (similar title but completely new play from the Jane Austen play I said I finished last month, see story here)
- Finished Masks
- Won another Camp NaNoWriMo session (I wouldn’t normally list this here but I also did a ton of prep work for the November NaNoWriMo event this month among everything else so it feels like it fits)
Other Works Actively in Progress this Month:
- The standalone version of the The Myrtle adaptation for the Tale of Tales play
- The Tale of Tales full length play nicknamed 4th Orange
I covered this above but this was a long grueling month of some of the hardest writing of my life… but worth it because of what it means for the future. My one regret of this month is that I was supposed to release the two projects listed under Works in Progress by July 17th* but as this was the only deadline of the month that had some wiggle room and some unexpected personal issues arose that made this already difficult month even harder, I decided I could push their due date back a few weeks. While it was necessary for my sanity, especially after the debacle above of accidentally writing two additional plays I didn’t need that took time away from other things, it’s the only thing nagging at me.
*= The July 17th date was because it was the date I offered The Green Bird to my mailing list last year and the timing of that, from productions to publication, worked out great for me so I wanted to do the same for these new plays. But this play/plays/epic project of insanity is still evolving so much that I think it’s OK if I don’t try to rush it out until it’s right. Besides, Mama needs a little less full throttle for a few weeks!
I’m hard at work at those aforementioned two plays with the aim of getting them out as soon as humanly possible. (One is soooo close to done, ahhh!) Once those two standalones are out, my focus is on shortening the full length 4th Orange play as discussed here and getting that out. Then… we’ll see.
I really want to get back to my MG novel but there is that Tale of Tales play that I cut from the full length because it was stretching into a full length and I suspect I should get that done while I’m still in Italian fairy tale mode. But that play is really two plays, as they’ll be a full length and one-act version, so it’s a bigger commitment than just finishing up a single play. There are also two other plays I’m working on based on the Tale of Tales that I want to at least get a draft of done while all that research is fresh in my head. Also there are only so many hours in a day and we’re heading into the fall which is always the busiest time of the year for me anyway (though I have no idea how the whole preschool thing will effect my working hours for good or bad).
In short, there’s a lot of stuff I’d really like to get done before the end of the year but I’ve spent so much time focused on a handful of projects I HAD to finish this month, I’m also really looking forward to slowing down and working at my own pace again. I may work one something completely new and random just because I can and I think that’s fine too.
Whew! What a crazy month this was! I totally passed the heck out on the couch on Friday while the husband and 3 year old were running around me and screaming like lunatics, which is SO not like takes-two-hours-and-total-silence-to-fall-asleep-on-a-good-day me but I also sort of think I deserved it! 🙂