The Beauty of Calendars

Whether you’re a reader interested in the writing process, or someone exploring NaNoWriMo for the first time, or a seasoned writer looking to speed up your process, you’ll find something to love about Becky Clark’s “Eight Weeks to a Complete Novel.” This short blog series will get you started.

I was eating my lunch with the gang from NPR and I caught part of a story about Hans Fallada, a bestselling German novelist arrested by the Gestapo back in the day because he wouldn’t join the Nazi Party.

I found out two astonishing things about this inspiring man.

First, Goebbels ordered Fallada to write an anti-Semitic novel. “He pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing three encrypted books—including his tour de force novel “The Drinker”—in such dense code that they weren’t deciphered until long after his death.”

Knowing how hard it is to write a novel, can you imagine writing encrypted novels? Three of them? While imprisoned by Nazis?

Fallada survived the ordeal and was freed after the war. His publisher wanted to help him recover and get him back to writing so he gave Fallada the Gestapo file of a couple who worked in the Resistance. Their story inspired him and he wrote “Every Man Dies Alone” in twenty-four days.

Read that sentence again. Twenty-four days.

Fallada’s son said that Hans Fallada had an iron-clad rule: “No day will you write less than yesterday.”

That is a high bar to reach.

I’ve always written my first drafts fast. Not twenty-four days fast, but pretty fast. I’ve also always outlined, which speeds up the process tremendously. Outlining is the only way I know how to be reliably and consistently organized enough to write at least two pretty solid manuscripts per year. And now I’m embarking on a project where I’ll try writing three—maybe four—books per year.

Here’s a bit about my story and why my process is so important to me.

I got lucky and landed a three-book deal for a cozy mystery series, one book per year for three years. Right after that, I signed with a fabulous agent who told me she wanted me to solidify my brand by publishing two books per year so I had something coming out every six months.

“Sure, of course!” I said, even though up until then I had never reliably published one novel per year and didn’t even have ideas for another series to pitch to her. So, I needed a plan. And fast. For years I had been creating and honing my process here and there, but now I had to get very serious about it.

The first thing I did was grab a year-at-a-glance calendar. I marked red for the anticipated publication date of contracted book #1. Orange for when I thought I’d have to get it to my editor. Blue for outlining, pink for writing, purple for editing. Then I marked the next project. Then the next.

I made up the deadlines because I didn’t know what they were yet. But that gave me a visual picture of my next three years. And I saw I had plenty of time.

That’s the beauty of calendars. They’re very predictable.

Of course, having time and completing projects are two very different beasts, just like writing books and getting books published don’t always go hand-in-hand.

(Unless you want to see me ugly-cry, don’t ask me how many manuscripts are sitting, twiddling their thumbs until I get around to doing something about them.)

Before any project is completed, there must be a corresponding amount of self-discipline, BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), and time management skills.

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell says he believes for anyone to get great at anything, it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. The more words a writer gets under their belt and the faster they learn from their edits, the faster their writing gets.

The more pie crusts you attempt, the flakier they get.

The more steaks you grill, the more you can tell when they’re done to perfection.

The more sushi you roll, the better it sticks together.

Hm, I guess I’m getting hungry. Let’s pick this up later, shall we?

Next article … I Hate Revision with the White-Hot Intensity of Ten Thousand Suns

The Writer’s Iceberg
The Beauty of Calendars
• I Hate Revision with the White-Hot Intensity of Ten Thousand Suns

The Writer’s Mobius Strip
Perfect Your System
Find the Fun

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