Category Archives: Megan’s Posts

How Do I Know If I’m Making Any Progress?

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

Write by Midnight is designed to help us all establish a daily writing routine, and I’ve really appreciated the structure and accountability it’s given me so far. Last week I bragged about my perfect track record for getting up and writing every morning. This week I have to confess that I missed a couple of days. But I’m back at my desk again, hammering out words.

It’s easy to track my progress when I’m drafting a story, but now that I’m revising, it’s more difficult to know if I’ve made any headway or not. How can I measure? I’m still working at the macro level where I’m fixing my plot and character arc. I haven’t made it down to the scene-by-scene sharpening the words level, so I don’t think number of scenes revised is a good measurement. Maybe I should count the number of minutes spent staring at the screen? The number of epiphanies about what my problem actually is and how I should fix it? And does it still count if today’s epiphany turns out to be a stupid idea tomorrow?

During the past two weeks, I probably made the most significant progress in the book not while grimly staring at my computer screen but while mulling over a plot problem as I dried my hair. Maybe it was the white noise. Maybe the absence of pressure. Or maybe I had just been thinking about this one problem long enough and in enough different settings that an answer finally emerged. Now it’s time to sit back down at my desk and try out this solution I’ve discovered. I’m praying it stays firmly in the realm of epiphany.

How do you know if you’re making any progress during revision?

4 Tips for Waking Up Early to Write

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

My goal for our Write by Midnight challenge has been to wake up early and get an extra thirty minutes of writing time a day. I am not naturally a morning person, so this has really been a challenge, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to write every morning for the past week. I feel like I need some sort of early bird pin to proudly display my achievement.

If you’re hoping to work in some early morning writing time, too, here are a few of the techniques that have made it work for me.

1. Tell people.
There’s no motivation like the shame of having to admit that you were a lazy slug who burrowed under the covers instead of getting up to accomplish the writing goal you have announced is so important to you. I told you on this blog, announced it to Twitter, and told the friends and family members I see every day. So I basically have to get up.

2. Remind yourself.
In the wee hours, when it’s still dark outside and my bed is so cozy, I often have no idea why I set my alarm so early. So I hit snooze without waking properly and then kick myself when I’m finally awake enough to remember, “Oh, yeah, I really want to finish my novel.” My solution? I simply title the alarm on my cell phone “Finish this draft by X date” or “It’s time to Write by Midnight.” That last one has been especially effective this month because it reintroduces the shame motivator of #1 (see above).

3. Go to bed on time.
Sleep deprivation is bad for you. If you’re going to get up earlier, you have to go to sleep earlier. You can get by on coffee and determination for a while, but eventually, you will burn out. We’re trying to establish a sustainable habit. So sustain yourself with adequate sleep. And write.

4. Use a gradual wakeup pre-alarm.
Five minutes before I actually want to get up, I set an alarm that plays soothing music. It’s fairly loud, so it wakes me up, but it’s soothing, so I don’t feel the need to turn it off, and I get to experience the lovely feeling of snuggling down under the covers and knowing it’s not time to get up yet. By the time my real alarm goes off, I’m awake enough to remember why I wanted to get up at this terrible hour to begin with, so I actually get up. There are also various apps that monitor your sleep and wake you at the best time, but this approach works for me.

In case you’re wondering, my musical selection is “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. It’s starts soft but builds to a climax just as I’m needing to get up. It was also part of the soundtrack at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11, when they’ve successfully stolen millions and are basking in their accomplishment while gazing at the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s nice to bask.

What are your tricks for waking up early to write?

Success in the Face of Sabotage

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

It’s Day Two of the Write by Midnight challenge, and so far I’m off to a good start. My goal for the month is to incorporate thirty minutes of writing time into my mornings before the hectic day gets started. As a result, my challenge actually started on January 31 when I needed to get in bed thirty minutes earlier in order to avoid sleep deprivation. Remember, we’re creating sustainable habits here, not running a month-long marathon only to collapse at the end of it. As an habitual night owl, going to bed earlier is hard for me, but I made it in bed by 10:30. Success!

I was all geared up for a good night’s sleep followed by a productive writing session until midnight when the thumping of little feet running from a nightmare sounded down the hall. Wake up, offer comfort, go back to sleep. Until 4 a.m. when the thumping of little feet running from a nightmare sounded down the hall. Again. Sabotage!

I did not get a long and restful night’s sleep, but the peer pressure of knowing I’d have to confess how I did with my goals to all of you forced me out of bed anyway. Overall, I’m calling it a win. Now to do the same thing every day for the next month. Fingers crossed that tonight’s sleep will at least be uninterrupted.

A Season of Celebration

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

Back in September, I won an award at our regional SCBWI conference. It was a huge encouragement to know that a professional editor enjoyed my writing enough to want more of it. The problem? I wasn’t finished with the manuscript. I’d written an extremely rough first draft wherein a number of my story elements changed from beginning to end of my manuscript. As a result, you started by reading one novel and ended by reading another. My goal had been to just get from beginning to end, and I managed that, but it needed a serious rewrite to even be coherent, never mind good. So, I have been slogging away at that rewrite for . . . well, let’s just say it’s been a while. Continue reading

Writing the Scene that Won’t Be Written

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

There’s a reason you can’t write that scene. You know, the one that keeps winking maliciously on a blank screen with its little cursor whenever you open your manuscript. The one that makes cleaning the house sound appealing. That one.

It might be laziness or a penchant for superfluous online research that gets in your way. It might be because your kid keeps interrupting or because you can’t force yourself out of bed early enough to write it before the rest of the day begins. These are the usual culprits. Look for them first. But the reason for your stalled-out scene might be something else, something totally unrelated to your everyday life and directly rooted in your writing. Continue reading