Donna Everhart

Tick Tock

It’s getting done, slower than I’d like, but each day,  new words are added and the story moves forward, paragraph, by paragraph, page by page.  My latest WIP has been a real time sucker, a drain of minutes and hours, causing me to feel almost panicky when I have to stop because I have to eat or sleep, or whatever.

There were several false starts, like when I reached ten thousand words, twice, then read what I’d written, and twice, I deleted about three to four thousand words.   There have been plot dilemma’s, character development snags, feasibility/plausibility angst, and constant assessment and reassessment of the overall story.  Is it suspenseful, do I have something happening all the time?  Am I getting lost in lengthy narrative, waxing poetic just because I’m more geared towards literary fiction?

Two months ago, to the day, I began this story and I did that typical goal setting that I work best by, one thousand words per day.  I discovered pretty early on however, that if I was going to wipe out words by the thousands, that might not be the best way to work.   At this point, if I get a thousand, great, if not, as long as I move it forward, and as long as I like what’s there, I’m happy.

I have almost twenty-two thousand words.   And since, I like doing math, I did a bit of analysis.  If I take twenty two thousand words and divide by sixty (days) that’s approximately three hundred and sixty six words per day.  Slacker!  I thought.  Then I realized, if I added up all the words I’d deleted, tweaked, revised, I’d be well above one thousand per day.  Huh.  Well, okay.  Maybe not a total slacker.

Yet, I feel like I’m only creepin’  along when I want to run.  I want to hurry up and get the story done.  I want to know with absolute certainty what is going to happen to my characters.   At the same time, I want to do justice to the subject matter I’ve chosen, I want to live up to  expectations of my agent and editor.  And the thing is, they don’t care how long it takes, they only want something of quality that will sell.   And they’ve even said, “take your time, have fun with it, don’t rush.”

Even so, I sometimes feel like someone just clicked on a stop watch, and the subtle tick tock sound of a clock gets in my head.  And, I feel like I should be further along, like somehow, somewhere I’ve wasted time, and I don’t know where or how.

It’s self inflicted, but I’m driven by time…, are you?


10 thoughts on “Tick Tock”

    1. Funny you use that word determination. Another blog I follow just asked a question about what keeps us writers motivated to keep writing…and my answer was stubbornness, and the absolute refusal to quit. Determination fits…perfectly. Thank you!

  1. I’m not driven by time so much. For me, a story often reveals subtle turnings as I go along, so rushing (or at least pushing) can sometimes be counterproductive to me. I’ve found that we each have to work at our own pace, by our own methods, to realize our own visions. I think you’re doing great!

    1. I hear you. For example, I need to let a trusted beta reader see some of what I have, before I move ahead. And I was “rushing” this afternoon, and found I stalled out. I saw issues galore, so what you say does hit me like that sometimes too. And thank you, too! Encouraging to have someone see progress!

  2. I’m not sure whether I’m motivated by time. By deadlines, yes, and maybe that’s the same thing. But I don’t have a daily quota. I only want to answer myself honestly at the end of the day and be able to say I’ve made progress. As long as I’ve done some work, even if I haven’t added a chunk of words, I feel satisfied that my time was well-spent.

    1. I get that, for sure.

      I think I sort of came to the same conclusion about word amounts – but when it comes to a first draft, I’ve found a daily quota helps me get there. And then, I can go back, and spend time under no certain need to add words, only to fix them, if possible.

      The whole thing with the clock eludes back to my other post (“Revving The Engine) where I sometimes feel like I never came out of park and next thing I know, I look at the time and it’s the end of the day and I haven’t met the goals.

  3. Donna…two pieces of advice.

    First piece…do you play a musical instrument?
    If you don’t, does your husband, your kids or someone you know well enough to ask this question? When learning a new tune what does the music teacher or band leader tell you to do when you come to a part that sucks, that makes your fingers fumble or your lips numb? Go ahead ask, I dare ya.
    Answer, keep going, don’t stop. No matter how lousy the song sounds, just keep on, keepin’ on, until you come to the end. Then and only then go all the way back to the beginning, start over and work on the fuck-ups. Okay, so no music teacher I know would say fuck-up but you get my point.

    For me, if I went back and fixed everything along the way I’d never get to the end and as we all know THE END is what this business all about. When my synapses are cooking my fingers race so fast across the keyboard they barely keep up with my thoughts. After a few paragraphs, I let the snapping firecrackers smolder for a few minutes, go back and ‘light edit’ the little red lines and longer green ones, only; nothing major at all. Then I am off again spitting sparks for another few paragraphs.

    The key to finishing is starting, one time and one time only. Not starting and starting and starting all over again, just once until it’s done. Then it’s vacation time and once you return from Pago Pago it’s back to page one, refreshed and with a hell of a sunburn.

    I wrote my first novel, 82,500 words in six weeks and my second 78,300 words a little under eight weeks. It has taken me seven and a half years to finish both because during that seven and a half years I’ve written thirty short stories, hundreds of essays, synopsizes, proposals, query letters and a 30,000 word short-form memoir. Add blog posts on three blogs, now down to one and comments (like what I’m doing right now) to the mix. In the last year and a half I’ve been turning out my weekly column, on time per deadline, and am in the midst of my book about my first year as a columnist. And I am aching to complete a third novel which I am 25,000 words into and can’t wait to finish but cannot because I actually have to sleep. Oh, I have a full time job too.

    So, with hundred bylines but no title page, WTF do I know?

    Second piece of advice, don’t take advice from anybody, do what’s right for you.

  4. Hey there, great advice. I’ve played musical instruments and that’s a great analogy. (I say “played” because I didn’t stick with either – guitar in my teens, and about ten years ago I wanted to learn to play violin. I bought one, and right now it’s sitting on a shelf in my office, and the strings have all come loose. Maybe one day…)

    I think my seemingly frequent stall outs and obsessive worrying comes from the fact that I’m writing something different and the discussions with my agent and editor on the topic have me on edge. With the second book, they didn’t know I was even writing it until it was done, and I actually wrote it like you mention above – sort of fast and furious. I finished it, with editing good enough to hand over to my agent, in five months.

    I have doubts about what I have so far and I can’t say why. I had doubt about the other one too. It may be time to take this one and get some feedback. That way I’ll know…, move forward as is, or re-do. I think I’d like to know if it’s a do over before I get to THE END.

    By the way, Pago Pago – where in the hell is that? 🙂

    1. Pago Pago ? My parents always used to expound on Pago Pago it as if it’s an exotic place to get away. It has something to do with the island of Samoa I think.

      It’s pretty presumptuous of me to give advice to you, or to anybody. You have an agent and an editor, I have an editor and the belief that all my effort for will actually be worth it someday.

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