Watermelon Watermelon

I'm currently in the midst of trying to make a January deadline for a first draft of my newest manuscript. As the Muses know, I have a horrible time with rough drafts. I write very, very slowly (or so it seems to me). Part of the problem is having a hectic, more than full time job at the university. Part of the problem is allowing myself to write shitty first drafts. And part of the problem is I take up all my time for writing by whining (I'm sure no one else can relate to that last one).

Writing something on the screen where nothing existed before is a BIG challenge for me, but I still keep trying new ways of supporting myself while I'm in that process. I have tried a variety of things to help me get through the first draft and some have worked better than others. One friend recommended committing a certain amount of time every day to writing. She made the promise to herself several years ago to write at least ten minutes a day. That ten minutes could be spent on writing anything, even her shopping list, but because the time was so manageable she was able to keep the commitment. Ten minutes often stretched into thirty or even longer. Unfortunately for me (much like jogging five miles every morning before breakfast) it sounded great, but didn't work so well for me in actual practice.

This time I decided to try a new technique for me and strive for a word count goal each week. I called on fellow writer, Bret Ballou,to help me be accountable. We agreed to check in weekly and let each other know how it was progressing. The "reward" would be drinks in the hotel bar at the winter SCBWI conference in January to toast our success. It sounded like a good plan. So every Monday morning I was supposed to let Bret know how I'd done on my 5000 word goal for the week. NO EXCUSES! (That was mostly for me, not for Bret)

So Monday morning came around and Bret emailed me:
Did you make the goal last night??

And this is what I emailed back:
Well... not really because i got very very sleepy and starting writing watermelon watermelon watermelon over and over again to make the 5000 words.

Then Bret wrote:
Watermelon Huh?

(You see when I was in seventh grade choir, the director told us if we didn't know the words of a song to just mouth "watermelon watermelon" over and over and it would look pretty convincing to the audience.)

Then Bret in his infinite wisdom wrote:
Consider a shorter word next time, after all, the number of letters doesn't contribute to word count, just page count. Work smarter, not harder. ;)
And, of course, he's right. Word counts, page counts, time counts. They are all mind games we play to get something, ANYTHING, down on the paper for that first draft. It isn't always our best stuff, and sometimes it's just watermelon watermelon, but at least it's a start. Even though it's just mouthing the words until we know them. Because, let's face it, without a first draft there is no second, or third or twentieth. So if you happen to go to the SCBWI conference in January, stop by and say hello to Bret and me. We'll be in the hotel bar drinking watermelon martinis.

P.S. Bret, I didn't make my word count goal this week because I was sick with a sore throat and a cough and ... but it's ok. I'm getting there. Slowly, but surely.


I owe you a drink anyway, Donna, but I'll buy you another one just for that post. Thanks.

Donna. I think every first draft from now on will be the watermelon draft. Brilliant post, dear one, and hope you are feeling better!

LOL! Bret makes a great point about choosing a shorter word. Too funny! I carry a notebook with me everywhere so that when I get inspired I can write no matter where I'm at. It works! It also helps me to have a meter for my work in progress on my blog. Advancing it is a sort of reward for me.

Heehee! I'm trying to finish a first revision pass on a new ms by early January but seriously having way too many "watermelon" days, still. Thanks for the smile your post put on my face this Monday! And good luck!

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