A Critique from My Tech Geek
At ten years old, I put my Easy Bake oven to rest when I discovered my mother’s Kenmore sewing machine. By the time I was in junior high I spent most of my days pouring over McCall’s pattern books. I wish I had a picture of the denim skirt I made in ninth grade. Four ladybug buttons set off the western yoke and even though no one would see it, the lining boasted red checked gingham. But the most amazing feature was the already faded denim. Instead of purchasing fabric at Hancock’s I cut up a few pairs of my brother’s worn-out Levi’s headed for Goodwill. Fabric that trendy wouldn’t be invented for another couple of decades!
I’ll never forget the first day I wore my couture creation to school. I was out at recess at Western Oaks Junior High when the oohs and aahs began.
“Where did you get your skirt?” my envious girlfriends wanted to know.
A twinkle sparked in my eye. “I made it!”
Having others delight over something I’d created elated me. Although years later I went on to get a degree in Finance, from that day forward the accolades never ceased. Over and over I heard, “Christy, you should be a designer!”
And maybe I am. When I started my blog years ago, writing felt like designing—designing with words. Instead of using a pattern and fabric, I sewed truth and inspiration together. Then I embellished it with anecdotes and humor and voila!
Blog posts were easy. I’m the type that likes to finish what I start in one sitting and writing short pieces gave me that instant gratification. When I started writing my first book, however, the voila took a lot longer to achieve.
A whole lot longer.
Overwhelming feelings set like concrete. Inspiration vanished. A skirt or a blog post could be finished in a day, but not a book. My discipline faded until my husband intervened.
John is always the first to hear anything I write. Having his ear is an addendum I’ve added to our marriage contract. Reading out loud helps me hear my mistakes. Plus his reactions provide excellent feedback.
“There you go again,” he winked. “Off on another rabbit trail.”
“But this is a great topic!” I insisted.
“Safe it for another book. That’s scope creep.”
“Scope? Creep? What’s that?”
“It you keep adding content, you’ll creep off of your scope and you’ll never get done. You have a table of contents, right?”
“Then stick to that. And as a rule of thumb, in the project management world, when you’re 80% done, you’re finished. If you keep adding content, you’ll drive yourself crazy and cause delays. I know it may be hard for someone who is as creative as you are, but sticking to your outline will produce a much better book.”
Critique from my tech geek.
And what great advice it was! John taught me to begin with the end in mind. Now I start out by creating an outline and setting a word count goal. Then I break the prodigious project into little pieces so I can still feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a task. I can’t write a book in a day. Even writing a chapter a day is difficult. So breaking down the manuscript into bite-sized pieces can still give me the satisfaction of reaching a goal.
Publishers expect a typical non-fiction book to be between 50,000-75,000 words. For my next book I’ve set a word count goal of 60,000 words and want to give myself six months to finish my manuscript. Dividing my word count by six months gives me a writing goal of 10,000 words per month. That’s easy math. Even I can do that in my head without a calculator. Breaking it down even further, I set smaller goals for myself: 2500 words per week. 500 words per day. That’s only about two pages a day.
Writing a 60,000 word book can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down like this to only 500 words a day seems easy. Too easy you say? Give yourself three months and write 1,000 words per day. The point is to set realistic goals for you keeping in mind your commitments and schedule.
Maintaining discipline is easier with a plan and clear cut focus. Without focus, we lose restraint. We give in. And sometimes give up. So don’t let those overwhelming feelings set in. Stay motivated by reading your chapters out loud to others. Their ooh and awes can give you the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you need to press on and finish your project.
There’s nothing better than completing a book when you know you’ve met all the goals you’ve outlined in your plan. Does that mean you have to squelch all the extra ideas that came along when you’re writing? Absolutely not! You can put them in the parking lot for a future book. And that’s another project management term for another day!