So all that talk about the plotter and the pantser in the previous post was not an endorsement of either style over the other. It was more about evaluating these boxes I put myself in to see if I actually belong there. I didn't used to do that to myself. Lately I've come to realize that boxing myself in was an attempt to gain some control over my life. My rigidity had limited success for a limited time, but when it stopped working I just kept it because I didn't know what else to do.
The rigidity carried over into writing. I had it in my head that linear writing was the goal. Since it's easier to give advice on how to plot a novel than how to write the way you want, the writing sites are full of that linear advice. Notecards, outlines, software, exercises. Real writers write every day, I'm sure you've all heard that at one time or another.
Well I've spent a couple of years giving up on rules. Now my only rule is: Do what feels right, not what the world has told me I must do. It takes practice to learn how to tell the difference between the inner voice and the outer, but I think I'm getting pretty good at it. And as a result, I'm not afraid to write anymore, which is a big deal. See, ever since I got an agent I've felt out of sorts. You'd think it would be a freeing situation, not having to worry about every little thing, but I found I was worrying approximately six and a half times as much. I think I've licked it, though, and now I write without fear. I put absolutely no pressure on myself in the way of word counts or time frames. It's nice to have a goal as a guide, but if I don't reach the goal I merely set up a new one rather than dwelling on how I missed the old one.
Today I found myself thinking, "This book could be somebody's favorite someday." I really believe it has that potential, if I continue the way I'm going. It's a cozy feeling. I have that reader in mind while I'm writing, that future woman/man/teenager who will cherish this book for at least a little while. I write for the one reader who will fall in love with my characters, and hold that love in her heart for years to come. Connecting with that one reader is my personal definition of success.
And, of course, a million more like her wouldn't hurt.