There's something about writing the first draft of a book that is exciting for me. The idea is simply that - an idea, a figment of my imagination, a hazy thought. And then slowly, minute by minute, day by day, pages appear. Putting weight and substance to the shadowy thought.
It's one of the my favorite times in the process. Not that it comes easy, or that it goes as planned. But because the accomplishment is clear. I am creating where there was nothing before. As I mark off the words - 1,000... 10,000... 50,000 - it's as though I am passing mile markers in a months-long marathon.
Writing 2,000 words is an achievable goal, and when I fall asleep at the end of a long day, I know for certain whether I have met my goal.
Then, once the first draft is out, messy and convoluted and unclear as it is, the next bit of work begins. Revision.
I know revision is hugely important. I know it's where the magic happens, where the book really gets written. And yet, for my Type-A achievement-focused personality, it can be a challenging phase to muddle through.
I move around entire sections, cut out paragraphs and pages of hardwork, add in sentences, changes words. Little by little. The word count might go up slightly, and then back down. And day in, day out, it's hard to see whether I'm accomplishing anything.
Recently, I got halfway through a big revision only to feel stalled out. The mountain of words still ahead of me seemed insurmountable. And I was not ready to put my hiking boots back on and pick my way through the rubble.
So I did what any self-respecting adult should do in a time like this: I created a sticker chart.
I actually got the idea for another author friend, who shared recently how she bought fancy stickers and rewarded herself with them for a work well done. The idea immediately appealed to me. I've always loved stickers - I remember a large folder of stickers I collected as a child, and how I would slip through the glossy (and sometimes fuzzy or glittery) sheets and look over my finds. So I searched through Amazon and ordered up a few interesting stickers, then divided a small square of paper in two - half to hold stickers for every 10 pages that was revised, and another half to hold stickers for every 2,000 words that had to be newly written.
The sticker chart, simplistic though it was, gave me a newfound devotion to the work of revising. Who cared if it didn't seem that I had accomplished much, just pushing my way around another 2,000 words? At the end of the day, I had a sticker to show for it!
And slowly, as the stickers lined themselves up on the sheet, I got closer and closer to the end of the first revision. Finally, I hit those peace-evoking words - THE END - and set the newly revised book and the sticker chart aside.
After a bit of a break, I'm beginning to think about the next round of revisions. I have to admit, I'm not looking forward to it. Thank goodness some new stickers are coming in the mail.