Keeping Track

See that link to your left? The one that says “Writing Stats”? It’s a page I updated regularly for about six months last year, when I was finishing The Secret War, which I thought I’d finish in October, and actually finished in December. (It used to be at the top of my blog, but this month it’s on the side because it’s DECEMBER! Time for the holiday template.)

When I read over this writing record, what struck me the most is how things don’t always go the way you plan, and often that’s because your plan asks for too much, too soon. Still, it is very encouraging that even though things don’t go according to plan, they do get done.

Part of my plan involves writing regularly. A month ago, I went to see Richard Russo give a lecture in San Francisco. One thing he said was that he doesn’t try to write more than two pages a day. Before he said that he warned the audience that he was going to sound very, very lazy. And maybe it is — but it’s do-able, and after a year you have what is basically a novel. So maybe I’ll try for two pages a day. They don’t even have to be decent pages — at least, that’s what Richard Russo claimed and I like him, so am going with that.

And now, planners of the blog world, I want to see how you plan — how you sketch out your path to a destination. Mine’ll be up tomorrow, with any luck.

Debbie, who perservered through years of raising children, moving a couple of times, designing and remodelling a house and still found a publisher for her book, Scribble, which is the most wonderful picture book and a fabulous holiday gift for children and is available here. Debbie is also one of my oldest friends, knows what I looked like when I was eighteen (god!), knows where my skeletons are buried, and still lets me come visit her in Connecticut. She has bee-you-tea-ful handwriting, is an architect by training and I’m just guessing her plans are works of art.

Gail, who manages huge projects in her job, and looks like she is completely untroubled by all that responsibility and who, besides, has been a kind, quiet, and very effective reader of pretty much everything I have ever written.

Mike, the writer of the first blog I ever read, and a man I admire hugely

Nova, whose blog about writing always, always makes me glad I stumbled across her one day when I was clicking on that “next blog” button on wordpress.

unrelaxed dad, who is actually pretty relaxed and is about to have a baby! YAY! babies rule.

Pauline, who is so elegant a writer and thinker

HMH, who cracks me up and is sensible, canny, and encouraging. It must be because she goes out there and gets her hands dirty.

Susan, who writes so beautifully and lives in my neck of the woods!

Sandi, who has written and published some of the funniest books I know and who has been encouraging and so kind because she knows how to write emails that sound exactly like I think she must talk

aerophant, who blogs every single day and sometimes twice a day — things that are so suggestive and funny that you know the rest of her writing must be wonderful too.

The litkit, who’s got a plan to get her writing done soon! (yay LK) And my neighbor too.

Bikeprof who suddenly produced an entire novel in a thrilling six month or so period and is now sending it out and enduring the slings and arrows of rejection

Dorothy who reads and writes about her reading and teaches and rides a bike and is so kind

Ben, who works in my building and has the richest life — full of beer, and dogs and writing and funny, true observations

Jeff, one of my favorite Canadian guys. He’s very funny, and loves hockey and is passionate about his life.


20 thoughts on “Keeping Track

  1. Hey, Lily,

    Nice of you to say… the admiration is definitely going in your direction too. And you were the first person in the blogging world I was fortunate enough to really converse with.

    Congratulations on finishing your novel… hope there is publishing in its future, so I can read it.

    I’m still “thinking” about a sci-fi novel. And it’s still developing on its own internally, slowly. I’ve got to buckle down, though… and follow your inspiring lead.

    I like that two pages a day plan. That’s about my speed, before the frustration builds too much. It certainly seems doable…


  2. Oh, thank you so much for including me in such elite company! This is very inspiring. Now that I’m in a better job situation, I have been planning my “comeback” with writing. This is going to give me a jump start.

    P.S. Darn, I missed Russo! It sounds like a very inspirational talk he gave. Two pages a day is doable! ONWARD.

  3. That two pages a day is a lot harder than it sounds. I have the tendency to barrel through something in a very concentrated period of time, then have long lapses. I don’t think it’s productive to work that way. I’m going to try for those two pages… starting… tomorrow.

  4. So you think you can flatter me into coming up with a PLAN? I’m not nearly as productive as you are, BL. Two NEW pages a day?

    BTW, not to worry, my middle-aged brain has forgotten where our skeletons are buried. But it remembers that you were bee-you-tea-ful at 18, as you are now!

  5. Bloglily, thank you for asking, for the gift of the question. I am so thrilled that I am going to do something I rarely do of late: map out a plan. Planning scares me. A plan requires faith, a belief in the future, a willingness to state one’s intentions. The hardest part of making a plan is assuming responsibility for one’s wishes, desires, and dreams, which often burn so painfully that sometimes it is easier to have no plan, to refuse to plan. But then we live in the wind, like a fugitive seedpod or a fallen feather. So, I will plan. I’ll post it on my blog, soon. I promise.

  6. Thank you so much for your compliment! I have a personal nice 9-months-plan ahead of me (or rather 6 1/2 now)… watching my belly grow and try to adjust one week at a time until the big event! It’s not easy to plan these days. For the rest (writing, reading), my plan consists mainly in trying to keep on with it, but I wouldn’t commit to any quantity 🙂

  7. Oh Pauline, I didn’t know! That’s so wonderful. Congratulations to you. What a lovely plan you have.

    Dear Tai, I think you’re exactly right — our desires are sometimes so strong that we almost can’t declare our intentions to have them made real. And I love what you say about how continuing on that path makes you a feather in the wind, which is lovely, but doesn’t always end up where it wants to go.

    Debbie — That is a lot, isn’t it, when a picture book is not that many pages! I suppose if you’re a poet, or a picture book writer, the idea would be two stanzas, or two lines.

    Susan, I work very much like you, although I have tried for a long time to be consistent about daily writing activity. When you work on a novel, it’s much better to do it daily so you can live in your characters’ world, and not have to keep coming back into it and remembering where they put the coffee and tea, and anyway, who IS that man with the red hair in the back of the kitchen with that grim look on his face.

    Oh good Dorothy. I like the sound of you thinking.

    LK, It’s fun hearing novelists talk about how they do what they do, isn’t it? I liked his two pages, that’s for sure. I also liked something else he said, about how humor arms us to enter scary places.

    Hi Mike, Thank you! And I look forward to reading your scifi story. Percolation is good, and then at some point, out it will come, two pages at a time! xo, BL

  8. Pingback: I Love It When a Plan Comes Together « The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

  9. I’m always looking for other writers’ sites and blogs, so I’m eager to find some time and really read through your list. And how on earth did you know it was me in the shadows? I’m glad I stepped out. And thanks for buying the bag; it went in the mail today! xo, mari

  10. Oh, Bloglily! You tagged me for this plan question. LIke Tai, I am very flattered to be included in such elite company. I will get right to this. Things have been a little crazy this week, I’m afraid. But I am not ignoring you, I promise.

  11. Well, bloglily, it looks like you’ve inspired all of us to get to work on planning–which is such a good thing. I’m going to work on mine and get back to you. Like healingmagichands, I, too, have had a crazy week but didn’t want you to think I’m ignoring you (or the necessity for planning.) And I so much agree with you that it’s best to work on a novel for a little bit every day. Did you ever read that wonderful essay Annie Dillard wrote about that? I can’t go look it up right now because the book is way over there, but it’s something to the effect of how, if you don’t look in on your novel every single day, it turns feral…and when you next go to check on it, you need to bring along a whip and a chair. I’ve had quite a few pieces of writing go feral on me, and believe me, it’s not worth letting it happen. You have to keep showing it who’s boss!

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  14. At “normal” times, I try for three pages a day. Hearing Russo writes such long wonderful novels on an even less rigorous schedule is very encouraging. Since my illness, I’ve committed to writing just ten words a day in my novel. It sounds almost silly, but it keeps my sub-conscious involved in the story.

  15. Pingback: Planning? What planning? « OmbudsBen

  16. I like plans. I like the fact that, even as we make them and say to ourselves “I plan to finish this piece of writing by October” we know somewhere – slightly to the left of that part of the mind which controls guilty niggles – that really we mean December.

    But that’s okay.

    Because I suspect if we had actually said “I plan to finish this piece of writing by December” then it wouldn’t get done til February.

    That’s how plans work.

  17. Pingback: Of Left and Write « OmbudsBen

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