As a former teacher, I tell time in school years. Last year, I had a lot of time to write. I was unemployed and waiting on a baby. I wrote every day for hours and hours. With coffee in hand and my dog at my feet, four hours was a minimum on a weekday.

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I finished a draft of the middle grade novel I’ve been writing for five years. After the celebration, I sat down to read my complete draft. I didn’t like it, and for good reason. It’s not any good.

So this year, the name of the game is revision. That first full draft wanders through characters and happenings, that in the end, don’t matter to the core of my character’s story. They’re boring and blah, which is a pretty bad review coming from the author.

Now, when I sit down to work, I have my first draft on one screen and a new document on another. My focus is precision. For each new scene, I take my idea and ask myself a few hard questions.

  • Does this scene provide my character with a choice to make? (Is she active?)
  • Does the choice at hand make life harder for my character?
  • Does the scene propel the story forward? Or can the story go on without it?

Little by little, my blank document is filling up. Sometimes I reach over to the other screen, grab an entire scene and drop it in. Those are good moments. Easy moments. Other times, I find myself recreating so that I can answer the above questions with a resounding, yes.

Some of the original scenes play in my head like a movie. Those are the scenes that make it over. I know where they are in the first draft. They have clarity and purpose. The scenes that get left behind are so forgettable, that even I can’t remember what’s in them. And that’s okay. They helped me along the way the first time I made it to THE END.

This year, I don’t have so much time to write. This happens when I get out my computer:

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There’s a generous woman from my church who watches my son three hours a week. That’s my dedicated writing time. Other than that, I take the few moments I can find here and there. I made a goal for the month of November to wake up at 5:30 and write before my son gets up, usually around 7:30. The first few nights, he woke up ten times each. I was not able to make coherent thoughts at 5:30. After that, the time change got him. Now he wakes up at 6:00. I find it kind of humorous, actually. That’ll teach Momma to make goals.

But in all seriousness, the few moments that I do find are productive. Rather than writing with abandon as I did last year, I now write with precision as the goal, both in my use of time and words on the page. My writing is better for it, and so am I.

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