It’s not DONE done, or even Done done, but it’s done: I finished my draft of MALCOLM. Whew! It’s only been….um…a little over two years. Granted, I did have 13 other books under contract that I had to write during the first year and a half. But, yeah, I’m a slow writer. Both my boys will not hesitate to tell you this.

In celebration of finishing, I will indulge in a list. Behold. Here are some things that kept me writing even when the story made no sense at all:

  • The Coffee Grounds. Especially their back corner table and their tendancy to not bother you and let you stay for hours. And their scones. I only make it about once a week, but it’s my best, most productive writing time.
  • Giving up on writing every day. It was a perpetual guilt trip. Instead, I’ve declared an hour before work on Mondays and Thursdays and Saturday mornings as my protected, not-to-be-interrupted-unless-there’s-blood-or-fire-or-someone’s-unconscious writing time. This works for me.
  • Pandora. Especially my Nick Lowe channel.
  • The document map feature on Word. I was introduced to this on the Blueboards. How did I live without this?
  • Writing scenes out of order. I’ve never tried this before, but when I got stuck near the end of MALCOLM, I jotted down all the scene that I knew were going to happen sometime in the story on Post-it notes. Then I turned them over and picked one at random. It was so wonderfully freeing–I felt silly for not trying this earlier. But I guess I’m just a linear person.
  • Post-it notes. See above. Also used for notes to myself of things to do, people to call, and anything else that pops up in my brain as an attempt to draw me away from writing. I Post-it and keep writing.
  • malcolm2The SCBWI WIP grant. And a wonderful critique from Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Both of these came just at the right time. This past year I’ve turned down some other book offers–a professional library one and more school/library nonfiction books–as well as some articles. It felt really wrong and scary to say no to some sure things. But one thing I learned from writing the Follow the Food Chain series is that I only have time for one writing project at a time. And if I want to write middle grade fiction, then I have to say no to the rest. So getting a little encouragement with the fiction really helped quell my panic attacks.
  • echigh.jpgVisuals. I picked up a stuffed rat at IKEA this summer. It’s Malcolm. It just is. And I also have a picture of  “McKenna School” as the desktop of my computer. I would like to think these things don’t matter, but the truth is, they both get me ready to write.

So, what helps you to keep going?

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