It has been brought to my attention that there are no websites around that deal with timelines and how to stay on a project. I can address one of those, at least. I am absolutely terrified of timelines. That is simply because I don’t consider myself a “professional” writer–I’m a professional computer programmer…that’s what I do during the workweek. So, I don’t think I would be any good to anyone for advice from that especially since I need it myself. How to stay focused on a project? I can answer that.
How is it that I stay focused on my novels? Easy. I have a vision. My first novel is actually the first in a series of at least five (maybe more, if I am feeling frisky) novel. It doesn’t matter, though. It could be one novel because the idea is the same. I focus on the end. Whether it is the end of the novel or the end of the series, I stay focused on actually getting to the end. It’s why we do anything, right?
If you are a bodybuilder, what is your motivation? What is your focus? The endgame. You have a vision in your head of how you want your body to look. Some people just want to look fit and healthy, while others want to look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s about a concrete goal that you can actually achieve. Being swoll isn’t concrete; that’s subjective and can be manipulated as you go along. Your vision, if you start with one, should be something solid and tangible.
A vision, like the Fortune-500 companies who use them, gives you focus; a direction to move. So as a writer, you must have a vision of where you want to go with the piece of writing you are planning. Having a vision of seeing your book in print or as an eBook, is not truly a Vision. That’s too generalized. You need to focus your Vision and limit it to the scope of what you are trying to accomplish. For instance, I stay focused on Copper Rain by knowing what my character was going to be like at the end of the series, then I further broke it down to what I wanted him to learn by the end of the novel. You see, by the end of the series, Kalan Laurelbane will be the most revered (and powerful) wizard in all the Nine Worlds. He didn’t start out that way, he started out as a thief and swindler using the remnants of low magic to ply his trade so he could get money to go north to search for his mother. In Copper Rain, though, I had a vision of what he needed to learn to complete his quest to rid the surface world of a chimera that has taken an artifact made the rain come. So my focus what on exactly what did Kalan need to know in order to defeat the Magistrate and his chimera.
That was the vision I had for the novel as well. I found that I really wanted to know how this turned out. That’s the same reason many of us play video games. I don’t know about you, but I like my video games on easy mode so that I can get through the story (think BioShock: Infinite). Just finding out what happens next kept me going. Same for the story. Even though I did the outline and knew much about the story, I didn’t know everything. I knew it at the highest level. I knew it in general terms…nothing specific. That was how I had the freedom to still be creative, even though I had every scene mapped out. I made myself a little box in which I could fit my scene. My scenes all start out as four pages or one thousand words. That’s my daily word count goal, by the way. Sometimes they grow because the scene might make sense if I kept going. Sometimes, they fall just short. It doesn’t matter, they’re fluid. I stay focused on those scenes much in the same way as I stay focused on the book. I have a well-defined vision for each scene. I know how the scene is going to start because of the scene the preceded it, so all I need to know is how is it going to end. Then I simply write with that in mind.
Granted, this is really simplistic and even watered down, because there are tons more that goes into it. The point here is that in order to keep going, even through the Act II slowdown, is to focus on the end, the vision that you have of the character by the end of the novel.