Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Deadlines Big and Small

I mentioned on Facebook today that my writing group is valuable because it makes me accountable. We meet every two weeks, and I'm expected to bring three pages of my middle-grade novel-in-progress for critiquing. We've been meeting for several months now, and so far I've shown up with the required pages in hand. Sometimes these pages are written the day of the meeting. Did I say "sometimes"? Most of the time these pages are written a few hours before the meeting starts.

The group is great. There are four of us, all writing in the same genre and each writing quite differently. One of us has a great deal of experience with children's literature and is well published. I hope she's getting something out of these meetings, because she certainly gives a lot. The others have less experience, but are good writers and insightful readers.

However, I realized today (and I'm surprised it took me so long) that if I write this book at the rate of three double-spaced pages every two weeks, it'll take me years. And that's just for the first draft! I must speed up the process.

The other thing I mentioned on Facebook is a handy little download called Freedom (available from macfreedom.com). Costing $10, this little program sits on your monitor waiting for you to summon it. You do this when you need to accomplish something requiring your undivided attention--undivided, that is, by Words With Friends games, forum postings, commenting on someone's Facebook photo, research on ticks (or whatever), or the irresistible desire to check your email. Freedom cuts off your access to the Internet.

Once you set it for a certain amount of time (one writer recommends three hours, but my usual is 45 minutes), you are truly cut off from anything happening online. Freedom is a tough little program; you can't get around it, so don't bother trying.

So . . . now that I know the secret of productivity, I'll have to put it to use more often. Just how often is something I've yet to figure out.

8 comments:

Indigo Bunting said...

Fascinating. I may need it. It also scares me.

Susan said...

Freedom scares you? Why is that? I have another computer upstairs, but I would feel pretty stupid to pay for this program and then circumvent it.

Mali said...

I think I need both a writing group, and macfreedom. (Does it work on PCs?)
I mean, I'm here precisely when I should be writing.

Susan said...

Mali, I have a PC. Works on both.

Finding a good writing group is harder. I've been in many over the years, with widely ranging degrees of satisfaction. Trust is essential, and some confidence in the value of the members' critiques. If you have to start your own group, you can't very well advertise for "people who write at least as well as I do," tempted though you might be to do exactly that. ;-)

crystal said...

Do you like the real-people writing group more than the Writers BBS? I used to really like those challenges they had there.

It took me about a year to write the one novel length story I tried. It does take a long time!

Susan said...

Apples and oranges, Crystal. At least that's the way it feels to me. I loved the BBS. The challenges were fabulous, and I wrote some of my best poems in response to them. I also learned a lot about fiction writing just by reading discussions and comments. It was both an entertainment and an education.

My present real-life writing group is also entertaining and educational, but the focus is very narrow: four people, each sharing excerpts from their current project. I'm still learning, but mostly about how to plot. Plotting has always been a weak area for me.

This group is exactly what I need right now, but if the BBS could reappear in its former incarnation I would sign up again in a heartbeat (and participate in both groups).

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

You are so lucky to have a writing group. This one sounds tailor-made for you. They should make a program for writers that would emit an unpleasant beep until a certain number of words were written.

Susan said...

I don't know, Lali . . . I'm trying to imagine writing while being forced to listen to an unpleasant beep (is there such a thing as a pleasant beep?), and I'm beginning to see why no one has invented this. ;-)