Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Progress Box

Shortly after I quit my day job to write full time, several of us would-be authors started holding weekly get-togethers where we’d look over each other’s work and bemoan the state of our yet-to-be-discovered talent. These meetings usually involved plenty of wine along with our whine, but—amazingly—I almost always walked away with at least one piece of useful information. One night, in particular, the take-away was an invaluable hint for keeping track of my writing progress: Use the printer.

Such a simple idea, really. At the beginning of each book, I place an empty wire basket on one corner of my desk. And, at the end of every writing day, before I check my email one final time and start fixing dinner, I print out the pages I’ve written that day. I don’t read them, not necessarily. Instead, I pile them in the wire basket. And as I watch the pile grow, I remind myself that I’m moving forward.

By the end of the third chapter, the basket usually overflows, so I transfer the growing stack to an empty cardboard box. Which I leave in plain sight. On the days when my writing goes well, I rarely look at it. On the days when the writing feels more like slogging through quicksand (and believe me, we all have those days), the box serves as a reminder that I’m moving closer and closer to giving my characters the happily-ever-after moment they deserve.

I have to admit, as the writing progresses, the box gets messy. By the time the manuscript is finished, the carton is full. It overflows during revisions, and guests start questioning my housekeeping skills. Edits and polishing can require a second box. But at last the time comes when the final edits have been completed, the characters I love have fallen in love with each other, and it’s time to say good-bye.

Then, and only then, is it time to empty the box and prepare for the next story. And that’s what I did last week after turning in the final edits for my June release, The Daddy Catch. I emptied the box, bagged up the papers for recycling, and placed a new, empty basket on the corner of my desk. Soon, I'll start filling it with pages for my next Harlequin American Romance.


Winter said...

What a great idea! I think I'm going to do this. Seeing a page number/word count on a computer screen isn't as encouraging as looking at the stack of paper growing.

I'll just have to mark the box as, non-burnable, seeing as our fire place sits right next to the computer and my husband uses discarded print-outs as kindling to start a fire. <}:^)

Estella said...

Good idea!

Marcie said...

I make a list of word count and how many pages a day in a notebook. That lets me know how far I've gotten since I started.
Seeing the printed pages that would definitely be inspirational. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I print out the completed first draft and hold it.

Leigh Duncan said...

Winter, Estella, Marcie,

I'm so glad the idea appeals to you! It sure works for me. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you higher and higher piles of manuscript pages.


Barbara White Daille said...

Leigh - what a great idea! I'll have to try that myself.

At least it will keep me from having various versions of the story all over the house. LOL