There’s something overwhelming about tackling 350 pages from start to finish, about perfecting Chapter 1 before moving on to Chapter 2, about trying to revise all the problems at once, about scrolling through such a massive document on the screen.
On the other hand, there’s something solidifying about making a list, about forcing yourself to round it out to ten, about reorganizing it so the priorities are in order, about giving yourself tasks to check off.
I’m posting this from Lake Powell with my husband’s family this week, where I’m hoping I can find even a few hours to write while we’re here. And instead of my laptop, I brought a printed copy of my manuscript in a three-ring binder and the following list of goals. By flipping through and using post-it notes on the pages, I’m hoping I can tackle each goal throughout the novel instead of hitting burn-out after each chapter like I have been so far.
- I want Wendy’s character to come alive, deep and true and flawed and passionate and real-as-your-best-friend.
- I want the magic to be tangible, a character of its own, seen and felt leaping up off the page.
- I want Caprice’s motivations to be so clear that we’re bracing ourselves for her next blunder.
- I want Peter to make our skin tingle with excitement and steal every scene.
- I want the climax to be full of pulse-racing, breath-catching, mind-scrambling tension and each character to be so crucial that the whole plot would fail without every contribution.
- I want the selkie to be beautifully, heart-breakingly seductive, so much so that we hang on every detail and can’t look away.
- I want the blog posts to be laugh-out-loud, dying-to-read-the-next, have-to-tell-all-your-friends awesome and cleverly significant to the story.
- I want the parents to put a lump in our throats, to be understandable and flawed, trying their best and coming up short, better than they seem and unable to prove it until the end, making us cheer for them even while the characters misunderstand them.
- I want the settings to feel distinctive and three-dimensional, so vivid that we effortlessly fill in the blanks to visualize the world in full detail as we read.
- I want the minor characters to be unique and memorable and complex and fun, to add the perfect elements to their scenes and the story.
Okay, so that may not be the simplest list to check off. I do like to set my goals high. But I’m feeling great about it because these are the important things. Once I do these ten things, the manuscript will be ready to send!
How do you feel about goals? Ever force yourself to make a list like mine and neurotically set it to ten? What’s the best way to make it effective?