Thursday, March 13, 2014

The ABNA, UFO's and other Writers' Benchmarks by Christine Locke

Last month, I worked like mad to produce an entry for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  It's a project I announced on my blog some time ago, but one I expected to take a long time to finish.

Originally, I was going to enter the third book in my YA series.  My betareaders, however, have given me some feedback on that, and I ended up inspired to rewrite the entire ending.  Due to some family scheduling issues, I didn't have my usual time to devote to creative composition.  That's what made me turn to my old manuscripts for ABNA  potential.

So here's what I've learned about writers' contests like ABNA and writing challenges like NaNoWriMo: they help you finish old projects.  I once heard  old,  postponed projects described as UFO's: unfinished objects.  I liked that, even though that particular writer was referring to knitting projects. I don't know when I ever thought I'd have time to complete that old tale I started thirteen years ago for my kids.  Now it's done, a UFO no more.  I may self-publish the story or just keep it in a box under the bed, I haven't decided--but it's done.  The ABNA drove me to it.

This reminds me of the best business advice I ever received.  It came from my uncle, and I was in my first real management job--a startup, remote store full of systems and people and projects for which I was ultimately responsible and a grand opening date looming too close on my horizon.  I loved the store and especially the people, but I had never managed through a grand opening before.  I was overwhelmed.

Here's what my uncle said.  The best managers never kid themselves into believing that they will go to work and solve all the problems.  You never solve all the problems, he told me.  The good manager shows up every day without fail and solves SOME of the problems.  The next day, she shows up and does the same thing--and then the next day, and the next, and the next.  Before you know it, most of the problems are solved, and that good manager and her team?  By that time, there's pretty much nothing they can't handle.

My uncle was right.  But he wasn't just right about business.  Over the years, I find that his advice is good for many endeavors.   Marriage, for example, or figuring out how to be a stepmom--or a mom.  Now, as I think about finishing those writing UFO's I find myself thinking of my uncle's management advice once more.

As you work to complete a creative project--like a novel--don't worry about solving all the problems.  Just show up at that keyboard or notebook every day (or night, in my case), and solve some of the problems.  Then show up the next night, and the next, and the next.  Before you know it, the novel is done, and there's pretty much nothing you can't handle.

Anyone joining me for Camp NaNoWriMo next month?  I might actually write a NEW novel!

Happy reading, happy writing--they'll both make you happier while living.

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