I have to drag myself to the keyboard to finish drafting my new teen novel, Across the Water (a sequel to All Good Children, forthcoming Fall 2011 from Orca Book Publishers). It’s not that I can’t figure out the ending. It’s that I know what horror awaits me in revising my rough draft into something readable, let alone publishable. The return to page one is a tough moment to face.
I would not inflict my first draft on anyone. (In this case, not even me.) My plot doesn’t make complete sense. A few characters have names like “KidwithBadHair” and “Teacher1.” Several scenes are summarized, e.g.,”Kids go to park, meet bad guy.” Pretty much anything I couldn’t think up fast enough for my fingers to draft (and I type at 80 wpm easy) is simply converted to asterisks to be filled in later. A good 20% of my first draft is composed of place-holders. It’s unreadable.
And now it’s almost time to fill in all those place-holders and come up with names and flesh out summaries and rearrange plot points and then, after I’m done all that, there’s rewriting and rephrasing and cutting and polishing. And even if I get it into decent shape and my editor actually likes it, I’ll still have to write it a couple more times in line with her comments.
Am I up for all that?
Nope. Not even slightly.
So I need some extrinsic motivation. Why should I do this godawful hard work instead of putzing in the yard on a gorgeous spring day?
(1) Joy. Pushing yourself to meet a challenge feels good, and a well-earned rest is so much sweeter than a procrastinating laze. I just worked a weekend round the clock polishing All Good Children for my editor. Monday evening I lazed on the couch, blissfully skimming my completed work. What a beautiful feeling. So yeah, there’s joy.
Bird-watching is also joyful.
(2) Inspiration. By this I mean the giving, not the getting. Last month I read my picture book, My Cat Isis, to my son’s grade three class. A few days later, a woman approached me to say that her son was so inspired by my reading that he’d decided to become a writer. His exact words were, “She can do it and she’s just someone’s mom, so I can do it, too.” So yeah, there’s inspiring young minds.
(3) Money. In January, I received a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec to write Across the Water and if I don’t finish the book (i.e.,a little more polished than “KidwithBadHair and Teacher1 go to park, meet bad guy.”) I will have to pay the money back. Which will be difficult since I’ve spent most of it.
Okay. Back to work.
When intrinsic motivation runs out, it really helps to get paid.