My primary goal for my fiction-writing this semester is to either have a rough draft or most of a rough draft of a novel manuscript by the end of the semester, reaching roughly between 250 and 300 pages. In order to reach this goal, I realize I must write between 70-80 pages per month, or 15-20 pages per week (totaling between 3500 and 5000 words per week). This first week I reached my goal, but just barely, by writing 15 pages, for just over 3500 words. As per the syllabus, I want to revise 30-40 pages of this draft by the end of the semester and have it be more polished. I want to choose segments for workshopping and polishing more based on how important they are to get feedback for rather than merely what I have done. And so I want to work hard so I have choices about what to share and not share. That said, I know I’ll want my instructor and my classmates to give me feedback on the first 10-15 pages, and blessedly that’s already drafted after this past week.
I don’t want to accept meaningless procrastinatory excuses from myself for not doing the work. I know I’ll have to change stuff after the semester—the primary goal is to get something down on paper so I can work with it further this summer. But while this draft is largely a “s***ty first draft” (cf. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird) I also don’t want to push myself so hard to produce pages that the work has holes the size of Texas, especially at the expense of a logical and complex plot or characterization that goes along with that. Nor, since I’m writing a piece set in a different time and place, do I want to sacrifice key research that I must do and then have to rewrite large sections because of a major anachronism or something that wouldn’t happen in that place.
So while I fully expect to make changes (and likely large changes) after the semester ends, I also want to think deeply enough about what’s going on in my opening acts that pulling it all together in the end will be relatively easy. That means I will have to be okay with going a little slower in the beginning when I’m laying the groundwork (probably in the 15 pages per week phase, with a lot of thinking and outlining time to go with it), but will hopefully have a little easier time once my characters have been established. At that point, I hope to legitimately expect more pages from myself to “make up time.”
I’ll also have slower going in the beginning is because I’m still doing some of my background research. For instance, I just got a few more books through interlibrary loan that will provide me with useful background info for my era and setting. I know this specific set of research tasks will bear a lot of fruit in furnishing me with vivid and apt material for characterization and setting details, but I’ll have to work extra-hard both to get through this material fast and to not get too distracted by all the other research I could be doing. Thankfully I have a lot of experience in researching quickly. (God bless grad school.) Hopefully, if I can do this and still get 15 pages per week written in the next few weeks, I can get up to 20 or even 25 later on.
Current word total, after one week: 3531 words. 15 pages.
15 down, 235-285 to go. This may seem daunting, but through baby steps is totally possible. Go team NaNoWriSpr!