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Meghan Ward

I'm a freelance writer and book editor represented by Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency. You can read an excerpt of my memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day, and visit my website for more info about me.

Over the wall

Last week, I was feeling really discouraged about revising my book. I’ve been working on this same book for SO long now (more than five years), and I’m dying to put it behind me on and start something new. I don’t feel excited about it. In fact, I mysteriously find very important things that I must do each time I sit down to work on it—like book flights for my summer vacation, make camping reservations, order potty training charts, and run to the vet to get another IV bag for our cat. I think my discouragement stems from a number of factors: 1) Sick of this book. 2) I’m at a loss for where to begin on the revision 3) The market sucks, which makes me feel like there’s no point in revising it because it’s not going to sell anyway 4) Fatigue—taking care of two little kids is crazy exhausting and sometimes I just want a break. Things are better now, but what changed? And what can you do the next time you hit a wall?

The first thing that helped me was my goals group. Together with several other writers, I meet every two weeks for an hour to set and discuss goals. We start by checking in on how we did with our goals—whether we achieved them or not, and if not, why not. Sometimes we have a homework assignment that we discuss (like what behaviors/beliefs are preventing us from making our goals and how we can change those); other times one person discusses what’s going on for him/her and that conversation helps the whole group. We usually end by setting goals for the following two weeks. I find that if I don’t set goals (for example, I missed my goals group meeting on my birthday and never bothered to e-mail goals to the group), I don’t achieve them. The goals group is extremely effective for me. We also have buddies, a partner within the group with whom we can check in with between meetings. My goal buddy and I usually check in for ten minutes during the week we don’t meet as a group. So at my last goals meeting I talked about my slump and set a goal to get eight hours of work done between Friday and Sunday, with the hope that getting my butt back in the chair would remotivate me. And it did.

As for the publishing industry and how bad things are, I just can’t think about it. I have to get the book revised to the point that I can’t improve it anymore. Then back out into the world (ie querying agents). I’ve invested too much time and money at this point to give up on it.

The revision process isn’t any less daunting. I still don’t feel like I know exactly what I need to do. But I have a big long list of suggestions, and I’m just taking them one at a time. I’m reading through the entire manuscript and marking where my character is weak and could be stronger. Once I get through that and make those changes, I’ll move on to the next step. It’s hard making such small progress, but, like running, there is no bad writing day. Every run is a good run, no matter how short or slow. Like I wrote at the beginning of the year , baby steps are the key to getting things done.

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7 comments to Over the wall

  • HA! Your goals group sort of reminds me of an AA meeting! But really, it's a model that works, right? Your sponsor sort of holds you accountable when you feel like giving up. Helps you get some perspective on things. That's what we all need when we're in a funk.

    The days when you keep at it, even when you think you're getting nowhere? Those are the days when you earn your stripes. So keep on crackin'! That's how you get promoted from writer to author. :)

    PS: I think you are an absolute hero for writing while taking care of 2 kids. I had to take 5 years off completely when my girls were little. I absolutely couldn't even think straight, I was just so tired all the time!

  • Travener

    It is tough to slog on while the book market is so suckish (as my kids would put it). On the other hand, this lousy economy can't last forever (or god help us all). So tell yourself this — by the time you have revised, edited, revised, edited and polished and polished some more and are ready to start querying…things will be better. Either that or move on to something new for awhile…then return to your manuscript when you're refreshed about it.

  • I need to make a goals list — wish I had such a goals group! I'm working on my thesis for my MFA but have hit a wall. Fortunately, my advisor understands (lots of life events directly impacting the content of said thesis). So baby steps, indeed. Thanks for reminding me to look at the project this way. I keep scaring myself away from the manuscript by thinking about the big picture too much.

  • It's great to have friends/"goal buddies" to keep you motivated and, frankly, accountable. That's part of the reason I started blogging about my daily quotas and WIP progress — knowing that people watching makes it harder to slack off.

    As for the market, you just can't worry about that. You write a good book, and it will sell. That's all you can do/focus on.

    (But yeah, we all kind of look at the market and cringe.)

  • Kristen – I think I'm more insane than a hero :)

    Travener – I so hope you're right that the publishing industry will take a turn for the better by the time my book is revised.

    Kristan – It's great that you're blogging about your WIP progress. I need to do the same!

  • taking care of even one kid is exhausting! I think your a trooper.

  • Thanks, Anastasia! I've been in the middle of posting the blog award you gave me for about three weeks now, and still haven't finished it!

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