Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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I know, it’s been a few days —

But I’ve been busy!

The semester ended six days ago, so busy busy busy trying to get things done before the summer session starts on June 7th. Not just writing, though that, too! It’s always great if I’m motivated and ready to go right at the beginning of a break like this, because who wants a project to drag on and on when you can just do it and get it done?

I have two dog shows before the 7th (and one or two more in June, and then there’s the big specialty in July . . .), so around the edges of other stuff, it would be kind of nice to re-teach Dara that it doesn’t hurt to let the judge check her bite. But it’s not crucial, she’s not terrible about it, she doesn’t flail around in panic when the judge goes to touch her head, she just flinches and draws back. No, she’s never been hurt nor, as far as I know, frightened. She just doesn’t like strangers touching her mouth (would you?). All it’ll take is a pocket full of treats and some cooperative strangers. If I get to it. Sigh. I’ve been here before with Dara, but dogs are not robots and you can’t program them once and expect your job to be done.

I prefer the judge to ask me to show the dog’s bite, btw. It’s the judge’s option whether he or she does it or whether you do it, and that’s fine in principle, but besides a possible flinch, it’s really not sanitary to have the same judge touch one dog’s mouth after another all day. My girls are vaccinated against bordatella and the canine flu and everything, but especially when you have a pregnant girl or young puppies at home, the last thing you want to risk is bringing home some nasty show-dog crud because a judge insisted on checking bites personally.

Also, busy gardening! Weeding, weeding, weeding, plus trying to get plants set out between cloudbursts and thunderstorms. More rain all day today, then more expected on Saturday and from then on as far as they can see. Too bad, though very good for writing! I’ll be putting more baby shrubs (my much-cherished Korean evodia seedlings) up in gallon pots tomorrow, since heaven knows when they’ll be able to go in the ground. What a pain!

And, yes, of course, I’ve been writing! Mornings and evenings, every day! My goal was to finish my current WIP by bringing the complete draft in at about 300 pages.

I know, right? Not likely! “Short” is not my natural length, though I keep striving for it.

My REAL goal is to finish my current WIP without letting it go over 400 pages, which is looking possible. It’s at 275 pp as of this afternoon. (The most I ever overshot was for the third Griffin Mage book, which reached a draft length of 499 pages before I started cutting. I cut exactly 100 pages before I sent it to my agent, but my hope is that I will never overshoot that far EVER AGAIN. Especially not while writing under a deadline, like I was for that one!)

Anyway, I spent the morning shuffling the order of the chapters around and studying the effect. I wound up putting the girl protagonist first (chapters 3 and 4 just became chapters 1 and 2) to reflect her increasing tendency to take over the story plus (imho) her out-and-out charm is hard to beat. Added bonus: the story now starts with a fun scene that gets things moving faster. I think it works much better this way, but now that the girl is kind of the primary main character, I can see I’ll be cutting some of the boy’s storyline, especially in chapters 3, 4, and 5. Not worried about cutting just yet, though! We are MOVING FORWARD because this sucker is GOING TO BE FINISHED BY JUNE 7th and I am not kidding.

Which brings us to motivation!

I don’t know how other writers do it, but the single most important thing I do to start working on a new ms, or speed myself up when hit the doldrums, or get myself through a painfully slow scene that I know I will cut later but have to write first, or force a difficult scene that isn’t cooperating — to move ahead rather than bog down, in other words — is simply to keep a daily log of progress. Just the date and the number of pages written and the total page count as of that date.

That’s it.

The first time you note down 2 or 6 or 10 pp written, you sneer at it: Wow, 10 pages. Ooh, impressive.

But you write 10 (or even 2) pages every day and by golly it adds up. Gives you this sense of conquest, rather than mere accomplishment! Looky there, sixty pages in six days, whoa, I am SO COOL, I am a REAL WRITER, look at it go! Whoosh! (It helps if you can sincerely believe that a good part of what you’re writing is really pretty good.)

Plus, I decided I would write an average of 8 pp every day for the 22 days of this break, which (as I trust you instantly realize) would amount to a total of 176 pp. Since I already had 226 pp when the break started, that would bring me to 402 pp, or in other words I expected to be typing THE END in there someplace, which was the whole point, right? And knowing that the finish line is in sight is a big motivator, too.

I actually have written 10 pp every day so far, even though THREE WHOLE DAYS so far have actually been pleasant and sunny and I have also done gardening and stuff. So the page count is adding up faster than I expected, and again, I get this great feeling that I’m getting somewhere, which of course I am. Plus I am avoiding revision, mostly, except for shuffling the chapters around like I said, because revision is a great and good thing, but it is not your friend when you are trying to reach the finish line!

Now, for me, the OTHER great motivator when I have a break like this and can spend a good bit of time with my laptop, is that I can start to live in the story. This is why I try to arrange to write the last part of a book during a break, because for me this is the part that goes fast if it gets a chance. I have actually met writers who say the end is the slow, hard slog for them, but I think that’s pretty rare. Sometimes the beginning is fast, too, but almost always the end.

For me, this is where the plot finishes working itself out — I think of new cool plot twists and bits of dialogue and it suddenly occurs to me that I can swap chapters around or combine two characters or HEY GUESS WHAT, that minor character who has no real role except to be eye candy? He’s not just a good-looking idiot, he’s actually a traitor, and no he’s not working for this one guy like you’d expect, either, but that one, and look, THERE goes the plot, THAT way!

But getting to this point? And keeping it going when I hit a tedious bit that I have to get through before I can write the next cool scene? Just a straight-up day-by-day page count where I can admire the accummulation of pages.

Now, gotta go. I’ve just dropped the good guys into the frying pan and they’re just about to climb out and realize they’re in the fire! Don’t quite know how they’re going to dig their way out of the coals, but it’ll come to me — and way before June 7th.

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