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.


25 thoughts on “I Have A Plan

  1. Jenny, so nice to know I’m not the only one!
    I met you in Reno briefly and read Fast Women as soon as I got home. It’s the first book that I’ve read of yours and I have to say I LOVED it.
    Can’t wait to read more.

  2. I’ve been putting my current page count at the end of my blog entries, just to keep myself honest. It’s working so far. And it’s surprising how many people like that addition, and ask me about my writing process, instead of finding them boring.

  3. Yeah, sure, that will work…. If you are like me (and your post sounded eerily like the way MY mind works) you will find several other things that will need your immediate attention and then you will get farther and farther behind on your writing and you will figure “Oh, it’s ok, I can do it tomorrow” and finally you will realize that your deadline is tomorrow and you have to write most of it tonight and you really can’t because you just finished that bottle of wine and you’re feeling a little woozy but what the hell—yeah, I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks!!! Keep us posted–because blogging is just another excuse not to write anything serious!! LOL!

    Cherry Torte

  4. Happy Birthday.

    You make that stuff up? No! That’s not the part that makes 2000 words a day hard work. Making it up and making it sound real is what makes the 2000 words a day hard work.

  5. I FINALLY got my husband out town so I could write. But before I could start, I had to pick up all the dogs toys (we have a new puppy who pulls everything out into the floor.) Now that I have the toys up, I can see that the rug has to be vaccummed. I can’t sit and look at a dirty rug, can I? And while I have the vaccum out, I might as well vaccum the rest of house. No sense getting it out for one room. I start vaccuming the kitchen (yes, I vaccum the ceramic tile in my kitchen), I realize that I need to finish painting the new drawer for my cabinets (has to match, you know). While I am waiting for the paint to dry between coats, I throw some hamburger in the microwave to defost (A writer has to keep her strength up!). While I am waiting on the paint to dry and the meat to melt, I decide to go ahead and empty the dishwasher and reload it. It’s so hard to cook in a messy kitchen. Then I remember that I spilled some spices in the bottom pull-out of my cabinet, so I drag the vaccum over and remove everything from the drawer to I can vaccum. (So what if those spilled spices have been there since January. I must have a neat kitchen.) The paint dried, so I have to put another coat on so I can clean up the brushes. While that layer dries, I start a pot of beet & vegetable soup (Which I forget about and let burn.) By this time, I have spent hours just getting my house prepared so I can write. Is it any wonder my novel is going so slow?
    It reminds me the time I was supposed to be studying for my written master comprehensive exams and I KNEW I had to take everything out of my hall linen closet, refold it, and straighten it up bcause I had a date that weekend. But that’t another story.
    Good Luck with that timeline Ms. Jenny (BHAHAHAHA) Like that’ll work!
    Happy Birthday. Now get back in that chair and write me something funny to read.

  6. Oh, babe … {hug} … oh babe … {hug}… oh babe. I do this to myself too. Sure, my students’ papers need their final review and grading, as they need to be passed back tomorrow, and I haven’t even begun the class memo that’s to accompany them all, and I promised the group I’m doing the website for that I’d put up the info and photos about their fundraiser tonight, and I told my son I’d go over his Japanese flash cards before bed … so why am I repainting my bedroom door?
    And the funny thing is, I know when I get into those things I’m putting off, when I’m in the flow, it feels great, so
    … why am I repainting the damn bedroom door?

  7. I love that you’re blogging now – we get the little squirts of funny instead of waiting for a book every year. Happiest Happy Day, m’dear, and it’s a damn good plan.

  8. Happy Birthday to yoooou!
    Happy Birthday to yoooou!
    Happy Birthday, dear Jenny,
    And lots more good books, too.

    You see, most people have to choose their own wish on their birthdays, but I’m always ready to help. ;+)


  9. Happy birthday, you runny-nosed kid, from a sexagenarian (not as much fun as it sounds) fan.

    As for the blog–for the story of MY life, just add cats….

  10. Jenny my sweet,

    I’ve always loved the idea of September as New Year’s, and I didn’t have to teach for years to do it. (Now, I was the geeky kid who always *liked* school starting, but never mind that). Unlike January, we get a nice season’s change (even here in SoCal) so even Mother Nature is telling us it’s a new year.

    But you are wrong about January.

    Says the January Birthday Girl.

    Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, and Happy Plan!

  11. It’s nice to know that my thought process isn’t the only one that looks like a madcap chase scene in a comedy. That explains why I enjoy your books so much!

    Happy birthday, and good luck with the resolutions!

  12. Happy Birthday!!

    And you really don’t look a day over 45. Seriously. I thought you were in your early forties until you mentioned Mollie’s age, then I wondered exactly how young you were when she was born.

    I hope you had a fantabulous day! Did Bob at least wish you a happy birthday?

  13. Oh my word, get outta my head!

    Only I have a Con instead of a Bob who disrupts writing by phone or in person (crazy work schedule), nine-year-old and seven-year-old daughters who inherited their Dad’s high energy and reading disabilities (gotta love genetics), two cats (one’s on a diet and constantly b*tches about it), house-keeping (ha!) and ramapnt disorganization in my office (a corner in our bedroom). I have that 2 pounds a week weight-loss goal, too, but I’ve got a 20 year reunion next year. I’ve been working to lose weight since January–I’ve gotten healthier but not any thinner.

    I’ve been struggling with conforming to self-imposed deadlines. It was much easier when I had a real boss in the next room haranguing me for a grant application (anywhere between 50 and 200 pages of narrative for the federal govt).

    Happy Birthday, and know you’re not alone in the manic craziness of it all!!! BTW: I may adopt your New Year’s in Sept–my bday’s on Thursday.

  14. Happy Birthday for yesterday!!! A Virgo–explains a lot! I have a 3 year old Virgo (God help me).

    Good luck with the plan. I LOVE plans 😀

  15. Happy Birthday!! It was fun to find someone who thinks and acts like me, but is OLDER tham me!!!! (I’m 54 1/2) Love your blog-never thought I’d be saying that. I usually HATE blogs. I also love your new website. I’m new to your blog-like I said, I hate them, so, which books were written just by you; and which as a team??

  16. Happy b-day, chica. Hope it’s happy one.

    I was reading though your last entry and I saw your New Year’s resolutions. I thought you might feel more confident about having your goals realized if you broke them up into more maneagable chunks. Like maybe:

    1. Get a writing process, starting with the Trudy Plan.

    2. Be a better daughter.

    3. Get rid of house hold junk.

    4. Eat healthier.

    And don’t sabotage yourself before you’ve even started! Don’t say “probably.” Try not to even think it. It’s the kiss of death for self-improvement. Not that you need much improvement from my standpoint.

    Good luck!

  17. Now I know we have at least two things in common. (I knew there was a reason I love your books!)

    I’m going to be 56 in November, and until I read your blog, I thought I was the only one who made New Year’s resolutions in September.

    I love your blog. It’s the next best thing to reaing one of your books. Happy birthday and my very best wishes for a Happy New Year.

    P.S. About the diet thing, I gave up refined sugar and lost 40 pounds in 7 months, and without too much pain once I lost the urge to kill and rediscovered the joy of fresh fruit. 😉

  18. Happy Birthday a day late.
    Thanks for the blog, it gives me a reason to get out of bed. And believe me, nothing interferes with a good nap. Well, except the cat and you can’t really murder your own cat.

    Resolutions in September are a must. Clean notebooks, new pencils and new school clothes- all lead up to a new year, fresh with possibilities.

    Don’t let Bob get you down….it is so much more fun when you are torturing him!

    The diet thing and a novella at the same time…..I thought you got wiser as you got older……

  19. It’s Monday morning.
    I’ve already written a thousand words on Lost Girls. Getting ready to kill some people. In the book. Not literally, although I do have a list.
    And you, Ms. Crusie?

  20. Do you mean to tell me that I could get published, build my career, become a bestselling author/household name/book Queen etc etc, and I’d STILL be going, I must get my writing process together…


    And I hate September. It’s the time of year The Spiders Come Inside.

    Happy Birthday. *g* Loved the entry.

  21. You sooooo make me laugh!!!! And Inkgrrl was right, how awesome is it that we get “little squirts of funny” through your blogs? Keep em comin’, Crusie!

    Happy Birthday!!!!I’m donning the paper umbrella’s in your honor!

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