Get to the roof

I have one writing goal today, and it’s this: get to the roof.

My passion project, my baby, is this big fantasy novel that has emerged for another round of revisions.  It’s one of those projects best left to ferment in the depths for a while, like kimchi in pots, before it comes out for another fix. (Fingers crossed, it’ll be marketable after this.)  Digging up my “get to it later” notes from the last round of revisions, past-me left instructions that the first dozen or so chapters were so thoroughly broken that the opening needed to be rewritten entirely, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

The chapters are getting longer, new characters are finagling their way into bigger speaking roles, but I’m still on course, and parts of the old opening still echo here in the new one.  It can’t change too much, after all, else I’ll never make it back to the original plot.  In the current chapter, our protagonist is in a warehouse where she shouldn’t be, and is about to be chased out by some nasty folk, only to run into unexpected captors at the end of the chapter.  Originally, this chapter ended on a roof.  Now, it ends inside the warehouse.  At the end of my editing session I let out a breath and declared it done and new.

But after some thought and reading ahead to later events, it makes more sense for her to be on the roof.

It’s not that big a change; it means pushing the physical advancement a little farther, which will add a few more paragraphs and move the scene.  Elsewhere the chapter will have to slim down to make room for it, but it’s doable.  She can make it to the roof.

Without goals, nothing would ever get done here.  Goals are the one thing that can guilt me into action.  That, and the inexorable march of death, but that’s way too depressing and not as concrete as an attainable goal schedule.  After all, why have goals if you can’t make them?  You’d just be setting yourself up for failure, and you’re not a very good friend to yourself if that’s your aim.

I don’t work too well with time goals.  Some writers can aim for an hour, two hours, three hours per day and whatever productivity arises from that scheduling is what they’re left with at the end of the day.  This works for some people.  This is also a great way to see just how much time you can carve out of the day for your writing.  I.e., you claim you’re “too busy” but if you can find 20 minutes a day, 15 even, in which to pound the keys, you can still produce content.  Again, this is great for some writers, but not for me.  I’m too good at distracting myself from the task at hand with Internet, ah, “research” and I’m too good at convincing myself it counts.

Production goals, on the other hand, that’s where it’s at.  I shoot for 600 words most days, and 1000 when I’m feeling pretty good about the project.  The earlier in the day I’m able to start, the better my chances of making the goal.  I like the 1k days, because I find that I usually hit a wall around the 650-700 point, and if I can push through, I’ll go well past 1k.

But some days, there’s one specific thing I want to get done.  Something that story advancement hinges on.  It’s not a blanket production goal; it’s a plot goal.  Like making it to a game’s save point.  No matter how close or how far you are from a certain plot point, you make that plot point your finish line, no matter what.  Let’s say you are trying to get character from Point A to the castle.  You won’t rest for the day until you hit that save point in your story.  So you start typing, and instinctively realize that the road is too boring and quiet, so you have to interject a monster or some other obstacle.  Maybe the bridge gives out and your character gets stuck in the moat and discovers a brigade of toad people have taken over the castle whereas before they thought everything was fine.  You keep pushing them towards the castle until either A) they make it, or B) the story dictates a change in character goal (i.e., infiltrate the toad people).

The best thing about plot goals is the “no matter what.”  You’re committed to advancing the plot as far as that, no matter what.  You might end up writing an extra 2k more than you expected; you might discover that that plot goal wasn’t even the right plot goal, and veer accordingly.  Once you have scaled the day’s mountain, you can catch your breath at the summit and reevaluate your course.  And sometimes you might not make it.  But that’s okay! Because you tried, and wherever you get to is still further than from where you started.


About hildebabble
I write. I draw. I get way too invested in superheroes.

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