Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When Good Plans Go Bad - Kara Isaac

At the moment I’m currently working madly on my current work in progress, hoping to have it ready to pitch to agents and editors at a big writing conference in Dallas in September.

After my very unexpected semi-final in the Genesis Contest, I set off on a mission to go from blank page to 95,000 word completed manuscript in under nine months.

My first manuscript took two years. And that was pre husband, mortgage, or baby. So this time there was a plan. Five thousand words a week would see me finish a first draft by August, giving me two months to rewrite, edit and polish.

The plan had one flaw. Knowing that the real word has a way of taking over and there were destined to be a number of weeks when 5,000 words didn’t happen, I had a Plan B. This revolved around the fact that I was going overseas for work for two weeks in late June and would be shut in speeding tin cans for sixty plus hours. Sure enough real life happened, I feel behind and I set myself the task of 25,000 words to be written while I was away to make up on lost time.

I mean I had four flights over ten hours each. If one couldn’t manage to get some decent writing done trapped in a tin can with no meals to prepare, job to show up for or husband or child to worry about, all was lost.

I didn’t count on one thing. Food poisoning. The day before we left for Russia, I was plastered to my bathroom floor only able to lift my head when it was strictly necessary. The day we left I crawled onto the plane and survived the following five flights and two days in transit thanks to the wonder of some seriously powerful modern pharmaceuticals. Not a single word got typed.

I spent the first few days of the trip still unwell and when that finally passed, the jetlag kicked in. The free nights I had set aside to write while the boss graced various functions with his presence? Disappeared into an ether of bad room service and sleep.

Finally, on the first flight home, I finally managed to dust off the laptop, reacquaint myself with my long lost manuscript and start writing. By the time I landed, I’d managed to make up 6,000 words.

So blog world here’s the situation. I have 38,000 words written and need to come up with another 60,000 in the next two months. Preferably less, so I have some time to rewrite, edit etc. before jumping in a plane to the USA mid-September!

What is your advice for someone with a full-time job, a husband and a nine month old ninja on how to carve out time to write at least 1,000 words a day without being an absentee wife, mother or employee?

My limitations are:

• Can’t write during lunch hour due to system security precautions at my workplace;

• Solely responsible for my son on Sundays as my husband is in ministry so a work day for him;

• I already do the bare minimum of housework required!

• From 24 July – 1 August I’ll be overseas again and unlikely to be able to manage 1,000 words a day for most of that time


Kara Isaac is a public servant, terrible non-laundry-doing wife and bewildered mum to a ninja by day and contemporary romance writer by crack or dawn / late night. She aspires to one day rediscover what it's like to have more than five hours sleep in a row. You can find her (usually) very random tweets at https://twitter.com/KaraIsaac


  1. Oh Kara, it sounds to me like you are already filling every conceivable hour. Perhaps it's time to rethink the goal. Do you actually have to have a completed and polished ms to take to Texas? Will editors and agents ask for the completed ms on the spot? What if you have a rough draft and a polished synopsis and three chapters? For pitching purposes I think that would be enough. I've been to many conferences and have never heard of an agent asking for the completed ms to take home with her. In fact, I sold through a contest at a conference and the editor didn't want one scrap of paper to take with her -- not even the contest entry. I had plenty of time to re-read and re-edit the ms before sending it off to her. If was another year before the thing was actually published. I would suggest you hang onto your sanity and be sure the goals you set for yourself are reasonable and attainable. :-)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Alice.

    I'm not expecting anyone to take it home with them (expecially not with bag fees these days!)but I do at least wanted to have finished a good first draft so I can tell agents and editors it's complete and I'm not trying to pitch them something half baked. Especially when it will be years before I'll be able to attend again :)

  3. Kari,
    I agree with Alice. Work on a great elevator speech, summary and awesome first three chapters. Actual one chapters-the first page is what they might look at. Once you get an agent or publishers interest you will be amazed at the time you will find to meet their deadline versus your self-imposed deadline.
    I would also suggest getting a sitter one day a week so you can write. Preferably someone your son thinks is so awesome he won't mind abandoning you for a day. It sounds like your away from home a lot with your job. You might consider finding a job that requires less travel. The best advise I can give you is seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (writing time, inspiration and time-management)will be added to you.
    May Jesus bless your writing with His wonderful inspiration.
    Cindy Huff

  4. I think I'm going to have to agree with Cindy and Alice. The writing conference I attended awhile ago had quite a few writers pitching their unfinished novel and one girl even landed an agent just on the 'idea' of her novel. Do what you can. Let God do the rest. Let Him bless you. Let Him choose if you managed to snag an agent/publisher. I had a few interested offers and after a few months, sending them my finished copy, they said, no. And then the one who said 'not really' at the conference, was the one who said yes. Don't give up! You may be published in an entirely different way! blessings!!!

  5. Thanks everyone for your great advice. It's definitely helped take a load off :)

  6. I'm so excited to see you at conference again this year!!! And I agree, a complete, polished manuscript isn't necessary, but definitely get it as far as you can.

    What the agents/editors WILL look at, on the spot, is a one-sheet. I usually place one in front of them, and one in front of me. It provides something to look at, and talking points.

    I also place my first chapter and a 1-2 page synopsis on the table (under the one-sheet), so they can see I have more along, but I don't offer it to them unless they ask what else I have. I did have an editor read through the synopsis once and ask a few questions before asking for a full manuscript. I told her I could get it to her in two months, and she was happy with that.

    Something else that I've found useful is having some ideas for future work. One scenario for a 15-minute pitch is: They know they love it very quickly, and ask for a full. You now have 10 minutes left. What do you talk about? Or they reject that idea quickly (just pubbed a book like that, for instance), what do you talk about? I like having some "back-pocket" pitches for those moments, and I believe I've used them every single time.