Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Timelines

If I can continue writing at my current pace, I will have finished three books by the end of the calendar year.

It’s not going to happen – it’s already very clear how busy this summer is going to be (or how busy it better be). There’s no way I can continue to produce 3-4k words a day on a good day, or do serious re-writes. It’s just not going to happen.

This is okay. I tell myself that this will be okay, that a timeline is just a timeline. A plan is just a plan. Things can change.

Time is important for my books because everything works together. I’m only on the second one and I’m already jumping back to the first one to see what happened when. By the time I get to book four, my chronology is going to be pretty well locked into place. I spent five months in 2010 outlining so that I had a good sense of what happened in each book and how it impacted every other book. I started with calendar pages, then I shifted to colored notecards.

The vertical axis is time, the horizontal axis is character. I’ve got five main characters, but there are important secondary characters (as you can see by the number of rows visible) that I need to be able to visualize. It took me three days to write out these cards, and another week to finish my next set. Then I went back to outlining. Each card, for what it’s worth, identifies all of the things that a character does (or has done to him/her) over one week. The top row there – white, green, purple, blue – that’s the month of August for the character of Jill.

Not pictured: September through January.

I’m finding in myself a level of patience for this project that I have not had for ones in the past. When I did martial arts in grad school, I became comfortable with the timeline, maybe because it was so predictable (four years + lots of work = black belt; I didn’t make it). When I was teaching I’d hector my students about process, and tried to break up larger projects into smaller bits so that they could see how to develop their work (by and large, this too was a failure). More than anything, though, taking a furniture making class for the past two years really emphasized patience.

You don’t get to the end with no work in advance. I have to respect the process, and let it grow as much as it needs to. Good acting looks effortless. Good writing flows. It’s the problems that catch our eyes, not the successes.

Organizing now feels like writing, because by sorting my ideas I am writing. This is obvious, but it’s not something that I’ve particularly thought about before, or done to this degree as a writer.

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