Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rules of Engagement

In December 2011 I started something called Writers' Rules of Engagement, aka WRoE. I set up a personal challenge to write according to a series of rules I created and posted them on a Facebook group page. I invited any writer friend who wanted to try it to tag along. 

A few joined but soon, folks were wanting to change the rules to suit themselves. It wasn't designed for that. I did pretty good at sticking with it for the first six months in 2012. But the challenge to the group fell apart and I  lost sight of my own goals. The group continued meeting online and while I found I was talking about writing a lot, I wasn't writing a lot. 

In November 2012 my NaNo novel took a nose dive because I simply had no interest in the story but I recognized that some of my inertia was because I had stopped writing and the desire to write had waned. That scared me.

I got very sick in February 2013. It took me six months to recover enough to think straight. During that time I realized I was wasting time talking about writing. This was not acceptable. 

Lesson 1. Talking about writing isn't writing. Reading about writing isn't writing.

With that thought in mind I virtually smacked my head and went looking for my guidelines. Yes, I'd actually written guidelines. I couldn't find them anywhere. The Facebook site was long gone and they'd been posted there. The new group site, well, I hadn't bothered because no one was actually interested.  So, I'd abandoned them. 

Lesson 2. Never abandon your ideas just because others don't share you vision.

A couple of times in the following year I searched for a copy of the guidelines. As November approached, I forgot about them in the hectic time that is NaNoWriMo. After NaNo was over, my friend, Doug and I were chatting.  We both won NaNo this year and amid our congratulations, we commiserated over our inability to be more productive at other times of the year. Doug is a talented guy but his writing life is filled with challenges: a job and a family with four teenagers. I think he has some hobbies in there, too. We discussed ways we could improve our writing the rest of the year. We decided to start a plan to hold each other accountable. 

As we talked I knew it was going to be hard for both of us. We decided to set a goal and then meet online once a month to check in and we'd give an account of how the past month had gone. We would discuss problems and how to resolve them. We'd try and limit the discussion to one hour.

When I I finished NaNo four days early I'd begun to revise an old novel. It was amazing how writing actually made me want to write. It was far more effective than talking about writing. It energized me. A month of NaNo had pumped up my desire to actually write.

Tonight WRoE came to mind again. As I looked again for my guidelines, I had this light go off. I Googled my email and there it was, attached to an email I'd sent to someone. Probably someone else who didn't like them. 

I pulled down the guidelines and reread them. I was surprised to find that I still liked them. However, over the course of the last two years I've learned somethings about myself and my writing. I recognized the need to revise. So, I set to it. 

Lesson 3. Always review your writing and revise as needed.

I realized what the biggest problem is with WRoE. It is hard to do because it requires real commitment. That wasn't going to change. Still I revised. While the core of the plan remains the same, the excessive wordiness has been trimmed down. I reordered the rules to flow better. I suspect I'll cut some more of the chaff eventually but for now, I'm satisfied with my restructured plan. It is still hard and not for the faint of heart.

Still, I'm ready. I'm going to start over. I've got my guidelines in hand and I'm doing it. I'm setting goals and scheduling time to write. I'm going to work on a single project and make every attempt to finish it in 2014. 

Lesson 4: Challenges are by nature hard. If they weren't, they wouldn't be a challenge.

Oh... you want to read them?

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