I hit a major milestone in my grant year earlier this week: I submitted the manuscript in process to writing mentor Alison McGhee. That took a lot of work and effort on my part. It's not a complete manuscript; Alison will read a manuscript up to 60,000 words, and I think when all is said and done, mine will end up at around 75,000-85,000 words. But still, what I submitted to her is a sizable chunk of words. The photo above is a scene from my desk a week or so ago, as I worked frantically to take critiques from my writing group and implement them into the manuscript in time to turn it over to Alison. And yes, there is always, always a cup of coffee involved. Thank you, Just Coffee Half Caff.
I still have new work to generate, so I'll be busy in the 3-4 weeks it will take Alison to respond. But. I found myself thinking about strategy. Back in May, I talked a bit about my strategies for the earlier part of this year. I'm not wild about the word "strategy." It feels very corporate. It's something I find myself engulfed in while keeping my freelance career alive.
But the fact is, when I look back on that May post, it's clear that setting a strategy really helped me get where I am now. It doesn't feel romantic and creative, but damn, it worked.
So now that I'm in the last quarter of my grant year, I'm thinking ahead. This is my most unstructured quarter, other than my event this weekend. I've realized a few things: I need time away from the stories Alison is reading, so it's good they're on her desk and not mine. I need to generate some new stories. I have some started, but I need to now look at the book as a whole and see what's missing, whose story is missing. And I have to get ready for serious revision once the stories come back from Alison.
I've got a pretty good writing habit developed, not perfect--it'll never be perfect--and to let it lapse would be a terrible crime, and certainly a dishonor of the grant that spurred me to develop it. This week, I've been a bit lax, just noodling around in my journal rather than doing any serious writing. I think that's OK. But starting next week, I need to figure out what the next stories could be, which characters need a chance to speak yet. I'm thinking that will occupy me all of October. Once I have the critique back from Alison, I can work on a plan to continue developing the new work, so as to have a complete first draft by the end of the year, while allowing time to begin implementing her ideas.
I've also just finished reading Living Revision, and I marked several exercises that I think will be beneficial to my revisions. So that's part of my strategy too. (Good book, if you're a writer needing guidance for revision.)
It feels grownup. Which can be boring. But also useful.