A Different Kind of Writing Time

Megan Norris Jones

I work best with a clearly defined goal. Write 500 words a day. Change the location of this scene. Send out five more queries.

I finished a first draft of a new manuscript at the end of December, so I spent the month of January going through the list of tweaks and revisions I had kept for myself while completing that draft. My original Write by Midnight goal was to work my way through that list by the end of February. But either the list wasn’t as daunting as I’d thought or I had a phenomenal January because I finished the list before February even got started.

Great news! Goal accomplished. Check that one off the list. Except…

The manuscript isn’t finished. It’s still just a slightly tweaked first draft. But, it’s Write by Midnight, and I need a goal, people.

The problem is that this next stage of revision is a bit squishy. For starters, I needed to sit down and read the entire manuscript. It was my first read-through of the complete draft, and it took me the first week of Write by Midnight to get through the whole thing. I was quite pleased with some parts but couldn’t resist making another list of things that need to be fixed even as I was reading it. But before I jump in to work, I need to take some time to slow down and really consider what I want to do with this manuscript, what I’ve done so far, and the best ways to bridge the gap between the two. This part of writing doesn’t lend itself to word count goals. A walk around the neighborhood while I consider my story’s theme is a legitimate writing session at this stage.

But what do I put on my writing log? How do I check off the bingo squares?

Fortunately for me, Write by Midnight isn’t like other writing challenges. This one meets me wherever I am. Last year was a huge success for me as I finished a total rewrite of my manuscript, setting myself up for a final polishing revision before submitting it to agents. This year, I’m in a totally different place in my writing, and my goals for the month reflect that.

Instead of executing a plan in the month of February, my goal for Write by Midnight 2020 is to develop a plan. I want to establish a clear vision for my current project and a to-do list for accomplishing that vision.

But even though my Write by Midnight goals are radically different from last year’s, I’m still digging in to the challenge and making real progress in my manuscript and in prioritizing my writing time. And come March 1, I’ll be able to look back on this month and be proud of all I accomplished alongside my WriteOwls friends.

Do specific goals motivate you? How do you handle the time between accomplishing a goal and figuring out what comes next?

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