Back in July I posted about the difficulty of setting goals during the revision process. I proposed a possible solution and promised to check back in with my progress. So today I’m back for a check-in.
My possible solution was a sort of qualitative spreadsheet where I asked myself three questions at the end of every writing session:
1. Did I work on my manuscript today?
2. What did I do?
3. What is my goal for tomorrow?
My new spreadsheet was great in theory, but the reality of my writing schedule doesn’t allow for the three minutes of reflection required to fill it out. I don’t check the clock, see that my allotted writing time is coming to an end, and then wrap up my session with a few minutes of reflection and planning. No, I write frantically until I hear my daughter banging on the door and crying about how she doesn’t want to do quiet time any more. Then I hit save, leap up from my desk, and that’s it until tomorrow.
I decided that the end of my writing time might not be the best time for reflection, so I decided to try a before-bed routine. I don’t like to keep my computer in my bedroom, so that meant turning to a hand-written journal instead. Under each day’s date, I recorded what I’d written that day—fiction and nonfiction alike—and then listed some goals for my next session.
This tool proved much more effective, especially when I took some unexpected writing breaks. Even when I spent several weeks away from my writing, having a goal written out gave me a reference point for where I was going with my story and where I should dive back in. And keeping a record of all my writing gave me a sense of accomplishment.
I won’t claim that the revision process is sailing along without a hitch—after all, the rest of life factors in, too—but I’ve noticed a double benefit to keeping a journal. First, it’s really helpful to have a stated goal at the beginning of each session. It keeps me from procrastinating with email or Amazon while I try to figure out what to do. Second, it makes me think about my writing during a time of day when I normally wouldn’t. That moment of reflection before bed focuses my mind on my story when I’m free to let my thoughts wander and come up with unexpected solutions—which I then write in my journal, ready to use the next day.
What tools are most helpful for you during the revision process? What doesn’t work at all? My writing process is still a work in progress, so I’m eager for any and all advice.