Today is a very happy day, as anyone who is a list maker will understand. I was able to cross off an item that has shown up on every list I’ve written for a distressingly long time. I finally finished the first draft of my second novel, Dangerous Mistakes.
I’m very partial to lists, not because I’m super organized, but because I’m not. A visual reminder helps keep me on track, and I get a thrill out of all proportion to the action when I’m able to draw a line through an accomplished task.
I keep a list when I’m writing a book that usually spans a week or so (in book time) of all the things my characters need to do: who to see, where to go, what clues they discover, what revelations they have. I usually stay pretty small scale and specific with my tasks. Otherwise, instead of inspiring me to write on with dedication and a sense of purpose, my list has the opposite effect. If the goals are too broad, I get overwhelmed with how far I have to go before I finish even the first draft. Then, I’m inclined to dither the day away, checking online to see what Etsy has to offer, or looking up different versions of my horoscope until I find one I like, or reading other people’s already completed books. The latter is the way to dusty death for my writing plans, because I invariably find other authors’ work infinitely superior to mine, and wonder why I’m even trying to write at all. From there, it’s just a short step to a comforting pint of mint chip ice cream and a Law&Order marathon.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been edging close to the conclusion of the first draft of Dangerous Mistakes. This is the hardest point in writing for me, because it’s the place where all the vague ideas I’ve envisioned leading to the ending must come into focus. No longer can I say, “Well, Leah goes there and blah, blah, blah, somehow she finds the final clue and then yada, yada, yada, whatever, I’ll figure it out. And then the ending happens.” It’s the time when the “blah, blah, blah” and “yada, yada, yada” have to be replaced with coherent, logical actions that lead to a satisfying and hopefully surprising ending.
At last, this is how my list looks today:
Last 20 Pages Change time frame Drop grandma Ross and Leah scene Rework last page Finish first draft
Of course, there are miles to go before I sleep in terms of editing, rewriting, proofing and then on to formatting for ebook and print and then publishing, and advertising and — Oh-oh, I’m feeling an urge for mint chip ice cream coming on. But for a few days, I only have one thing on my new list: