This image is entitled Putting on Her Coat and is by Caleb Sconosciuto. It is used in compliance of his Creative Commons license.
Deadlines are possibly the greatest motivator in terms of actually finishing what you start writing. It’s how I launched into The Unwritten Girl, back when it was Rosemary and Time. At the time, I was going for the Delacort Press Contest for Young Adult Writers. This contest, operated by Random House in the United States, was open only to individuals who hadn’t been published before, who had an entire manuscript to submit.
This was the only way an unpublished author could hope to be published in Random House’s young adult range — outside of landing a really good agent, that is. The contest closed at the end of December; I started writing Rosemary and Time in August 2001, and what followed was a mad dash, the result of which may not have been publishable, but was still something that I could revise and edit until it was publishable.
Anne Lamott calls this “the shitty first draft”, and for those who can’t really get a handle of outlines, or whose outlines are flimsy little things (raIses hand guiltily), this is a pretty effective way to write. Sure, you can spend years revising and editing, but for me the fact remains that the hardest work, the creation of something to revise and edit, was at the beginning.
Another excellent motivator is the friendly rivalry, and this appears to have come to the aid of both The Night Girl and Erin’s Plain Kate. After languishing for over a year, I restarted work on The Night Girl back in August, making slow progress, and passing the 20,000 word mark at the beginning of this year. I told Erin about my progress, and she half-jokingly warned me to slow down, as her Slavic-inspired folk-fantasy novel Plain Kate was stuck in the mid 30,000 range. If I passed her, it would not look good.
Well, I wasn’t looking to pass Plain Kate… originally. But my pace did pick up, to roughly 5,000 words per month, passing Erin’s novel about a month ago. Since then, though, work on Plain Kate picked up, and Erin caught up. A week ago, our score was what was listed above. We were tied.
I’ve pulled ahead since then, but Plain Kate seems destined to be a longer novel. My goal at the beginning of this month of having the first draft of The Night Girl finished by the end of it now seems optimistic, but it looks like I’ll have written 6000 words this month, and that first draft seems just days away. Meanwhile, Plain Kate looks headed towards a very respectable 60,000 word length.
And we’re still happily speaking to each other. :-)
Click here to see the latest Night Girl snippit I posted to the web.
Mad Cow in the Whitehouse
I’m tempted, really tempted, to let my mouth go on this one. Oh, what the heck: I guess this shows that the Bush Administration is protecting its own (mad cows, that is).
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.
Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.
I can’t really say it better than this:
First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they’re even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.
There’s your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.