When I wrote my first completed manuscript, I used the hours my daughter was in pre-K to settle myself into a coffee shop across the street from her school, and with my pen in hand and a twenty-five-cents-on-clearance notebook, produce something like fifteen hundred words in an hour long stretch most weekdays. It was pantsing to the extreme--that book had a lot of characters in its earliest versions--and I never knew who or what I would be writing about until I sat down and had at least the first cup of java down my gullet.
With my second completed manuscript, I let my Thursday night critique group deadline propel me. Once a week, I had a new chapter to read, whether it was done the night after I got home from the last one, sometime during the week, or even up until the last minute before I headed out the door for the 7 p.m. rendezvous. I got a chapter done every week, and eventually that meant a finished product.
With my third-ish manuscript (there are others, sure, but really more snippets than "manuscripts"), which I did not finish (yet, the day may yet come, though it has been cast aside for now), I began with NaNoWriMo. Though I technically succeeded, finishing 50K words during that long exhausting month, it was not a good experience, and those words did not make a complete book. Over the next couple of years I added dribs and drabs without any real formal structure propelling me, and like I said, that never did get the thing done.
The first two methods worked reasonably well, but I've had trouble returning faithfully to either. The third method I'd have to be crazy to revisit; it was not a good experience, nor do I feel the stuff I wrote was of the same level of quality than words that weren't under such a gun.
So maybe it's time to try something new.
This weekend I got what is essentially a new computer. That just means the guts, I suppose. My husband, who went to the store and bought the parts and spent the better part of the weekend upgrading and installing or something, I don't know, would occasionally try to inform me exactly where he was on the thing, but me being me, it might as well have been Etruscan he was speaking. Computer language starts, my brain flips to off. But once he was done, I can definitely tell the thing is new and different, and not just because my msn.com looks different, but because though the keyboard and monitor are the same, the whole thing works faster, is more responsive, and just better.
For Christmas, said computer-savvy husband got me a new gadget intended to help me with my writing. Since my old computer was basically dying, we were both loathe to install the software in case it caused the whole teetering mess to finally crash over the cliff (that is totally my description, not computer-savvy-husband's, who would surely object to my analogy as illogical and incorrect). But now the new machine is ready and rocking, and all I need to do is read the instructions and get going.
Which will hopefully mean that the new system will join the coffee shop and preschool methods in helping me complete a manuscript. And better still, maybe become the method that helps me complete the fourth, fifth, and many more to follow.
If it works, I'll let you know. Until then, I'm keeping mum. I don't want to risk the magic.