I Have A Plan

It’s time to make resolutions for the new year. Yes, I know it’s not January first, but I don’t like making resolutions in January. It feels wrong. As somebody who was a student and a teacher interchangeably for forty-five years, I start my new year in September. There are limitless possibilities in September, so much change is in the air, whereas January is just cold and bleak and depressing, heading into February, the Month of the Dead. So this is my new year. And today is my New Year’s Day because it’s my birthday. I’m 56. I know, I don’t look a day over 55. It’s the plastic surgery.

Where was I?

Right, new year’s resolutions. Well, I’ve had a very interesting year, so my big resolution is to continue that and not screw it up. And part of that is getting my writing process together. Basically, I don’t have a writing process, I just flail around, a fact that became abundantly clear when I did Don’t Look Down with Bob. At one point he accused me of deliberately sabotaging myself because I kept ripping up what we’d done and starting over, but it’s actually just what I do. (My parents just called to wish me a happy birthday. Such nice people. I should get up there to visit them more often. Such a lousy daughter. They sent me a birthday card and asked about it and I realized that it’s somewhere in the stack of mail that piled up while I was in Maui. REALLY lousy daughter. I will do better in the new year.)

Where was I?

Right, I should get more organized. Or at least give organization a shot. And as it happens, I just signed to do a novella for a Christmas anthology for 2006. Twenty thousand words about a woman named Trudy who’s mad as hell (that’s not the assignment, that’s who turned up when I was thinking about the novella). Twenty thousand words is short. And a craft loop I’m on is talking about making a plan and sticking to it, X number of pages for X number of days. Well, twenty thousand words is eighty pages, so in theory ten pages a day for eight days is a novella. Key word here is “theory.” Because after that, I’ll have to rewrite it for two years, but still, a first draft in eight days . . .

Of course, this is a cousin to my, “I’ll lose two pounds a week until Christmas and be down to a healthy weight” plan. That never works either. But still, I am intrigued. And it’s a novella. (Just got an e-mail from Bob that said, in its entirety, “Timeline?” On WHAT, Bob? Agnes? Trudy? Charlotte? The writer’s workshop we’re planning? Getting the house cleaned before Val comes to spend the night and drink wine tomorrow?)

Where was I?

Right, the writing plan for the novella. I’m thinking a scene is usually around 2000 words long, give or take a thousand words, so maybe ten days, breaking the novella down into scenes. I don’t write in chronological order, but I can break it down into narrative chunks. The heroine is going to get three phone calls from her sister, so I could do those, set up the backstory and motivation there. The heroine is going to have three increasingly intimate arguments with the hero. (Just got an answer back from Bob: “Agnes.” Great, Bob. What kind of timeline on Agnes? On the proposal? The entire book? Writing timeline or plot timeline? There’s such a thing as taking laconic too far.)

Where was I?

Right, I could do the conversations with her sister, the arguments with the hero, the set-up and resolution scenes . . . this could work. Plus I love this novella idea. And I think I can do two thousand words a day. For those of you saying, “Two thousand words a day? Anybody can do two thousand words a day,” I’d like to point out that I’m not just typing this stuff, I’M MAKING IT UP. That takes thought. And we all know that when it comes to focused thinking, I’m not even in the also-rans. (This just in from Bob: “Outline and first scenes. Then we put it aside while you do Trudy and I finish Lost Girls and Avon. Also Charlotte is in there somewhere.” Trudy is the novella, Lost Girls is his sequel to Bodyguard of Lies [which is great, you should read it, and is Lost Girls a terrific title or what?], and Charlotte is my next solo book, about a home ec teacher who just wants to get married but ends up learning to belly dance and getting a tattoo. Why? I don’t know, I just write the damn things. But first I have to get my half of the Agnes outline to Bob. I told him he had an early Agnes scene he could use to get her right in his Shane scenes, so I’m off the hook there, but I have to get that outline to him today. I’ve had it for a couple of days, so he’s been very patient.)

Where was I?

Right, the novella plan. So if I make a plan on Monday, and then follow it for the next ten days, I should have a complete first draft of Trudy by Thursday the 29th. Factor in a day to take care of whatever disaster intrudes, and that’s Friday the 30th and the end of the month. I like that. Yes, I realize this is not going to work, but it’s a good experiment and besides– (E-mail from Bob: “Resend so I can get a feel.” I’m pretty sure he means resent the old Agnes scene so he can get a feel for her character, but if you think I’m going to let that one go by without a snarky comment, you don’t know me.)

Where was I?

Right, done by Sept. 30. And since Val is coming to stay tomorrow night, I can pour her a lot of wine and make her talk the whole thing through with me. (Val Taylor has been my critique partner since 1993. You wouldn’t believe the lousy drafts she’s waded through.) Val loves organizing stuff. This could be good. I’m going to try this. And to keep myself honest, I’m going to–(Bob just wrote back and said, “Whatever.” Not in a good mood this morning. That’s okay, I am. We have this deal, only one of us can get depressed at a time. Works great. Give me a minute here while I find that old Agnes scene and send it to him.)

(Okay, went back and read that scene and it was terrible, so I e-mailed Bob and told him I’d write him one from scratch. Which I should probably do today, except I have to get the laundry done so Val has clean sheets and get all my office stuff out of the kitchen which is where it ended up when I painted my office two days ago. And get the boxes off the dining room table so we can eat dinner there. In fact, I just have to get all the junk that doesn’t have a place out of the house entirely. And then maybe I can find another surge protector so I can plug in my printer so I can do these Trudy notes so I can–)

(Just got an e-mail from Bob: “ok.” Not chatty, that Bob. Gotta get that outline off to him fast. Which means I eat lunch at the computer again.)

Where was I?

Right, the plan. So on Monday, I’ll lay out the plan, and then I’ll do two thousand words a day every day until Friday the 30th. And to keep myself honest, I’ll do a blog entry every day about how it went. These entries will be short and boring, but they’re not for you, they’re for me, so feel free to skip them. And then a week from Friday, I’ll admit defeat and return to my regularly scheduled flailing.

So here are my new year’s resolutions:

  1. Get a writing process, starting with the Trudy Plan.
  2. Lose two pounds a week until Christmas.
  3. Be a better daughter.
  4. Get rid of all the junk in this house.
  5. Maybe lose one pound a week until Christmas.
  6. At least give up sugar.

Okay, the resolutions need work, too. The important thing is, I have a plan. And I’m sticking to it.