At precisely twenty minutes to eight this morning, Sunday the 9th of August, I landed. Not gracefully. More like a loud thud.

I’ve spent the weekend doing what I think most writers, teachers, agents and publishers would advise against. I read the first 56,000 words of my unfinished novel. I made changes, edited, even gave one character a new name. I closed the laptop at about ten o’clock last night and cleared my head with an episode of ‘King of the Hill’. And then I had seven hours of disturbing dreams: crashing airplanes, moving heavy furniture, surrounded by strangers.

When my eyes opened it was a new day. A day not entered into enthusiastically. Completely out of character for me. There’s no doubt about it, I’m a ‘spring outta bed with a song’ sort of gal. But before the coffee was brewed and before my face was washed, I was vexed by the road ahead.

Why am I doing this? Why do any of us do this?

My answer is simple: because the story has to be told. I have fallen madly and deeply in love with the characters on those pages to the extend that I happily rise at the ass crack of dawn and stay up well past bedtime to capture moments of their lives on a blank piece of paper.

I don’t know what ‘outside’ means anymore, and my gym membership card has a thick layer of dust on it. The ten pounds I’ve gained since my 50th birthday in November are inexcusable. My friends haven’t seen me in months – at least not the three-dimensional ones – and that’s inexcusable, too.

But you know – it’s all worth it. The joy I feel from a scene well written, the satisfaction when plot points are resolved, looking in on these people’s lives – people I created – I don’t want to miss that because I gave up. When I’ve written the final chapter, my friends will still be there the ten pounds won’t (the diet begins NOW).

So – with my head far removed from the grump I was only thirty minutes ago I offer myself this challenge – to have the final draft written and the ten pounds vanquished by my 51st birthday. That gives me about twelve weeks to write 50,000 words. Let’s break it down: 4100 words per week; 600 or so words per day – or about 85 carefully crafted sentences. Not a problem. Who am I kidding?

As for the poundage? Tell you later…I’m off to walk The Dish.

Oh, and just so you know it’s not all doom and gloom and “oh woe is me” – I picked up two great books yesterday that might help me through the process:

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson and

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

I purchased Lawson’s book because of the hype. I purchased Lukeman’s book because when I began to read

Joyce Maynard’s new book Labor Day, I realized I was already completely engrossed by page seven – PAGE SEVEN!