Wednesday, August 11, 2010

15 and 500

Trying to sit down and re-learn to write is tough. I tried outlining. I tried discovery writing. I tried writing long-hand. I tried dictating into my iphone’s voice memo app.

Nothing jived with me. Sure they worked for a little while, but eventually I would abandon them, no steam left. I still had ideas, but they fizzled out rather quickly. I had time (we all have time, we just have to use it well) but faced with writing or doing something with the family, I chose family. (That couch looked pretty good after a long day of work too). Don’t get me started on responsibilities.

When I started, I found myself really energetic the first week, then it tapered off. Anyone that followed this blog last year can attest to that. It’s the story of my life. I have plenty of ambition, just not enough stick-to-it-iveness. Luckily, habits can be formed. If you do something every day for a month, it will become a habit, for good or bad.

Good mantra to follow. After starting and failing a few times with my blog (which I’ll get into in a later article), I decided I should be spending my time working on an actual novel. If was to get myself worked up to 1 hour per day writing, I needed to start even smaller. I chose 15 minutes per day of freewriting.

Freewriting is great. You pour your thoughts into paper no matter what they are. Don’t know what to say? No problem! Just type over and over “I don’t know what to say” till something comes to you. Trust me, it will.

Do this for long enough every day and it’s amazing what sort of ideas will come out of you. Talk about your friends, family, pets, and idea you had as you were at the ATM. Document your dreams and ambitions. Use it as a sounding board for ideas you need to flesh out. It’s a wonderful tool. I use it as a way to bridge the gap between my stressful life and writing.

Fifteen minutes of raw writing. That was my goal. I did it for an entire month. Not quite every day, but it got to the point where I was constantly aware if I haven’t done it that day. The step that I’m currently working on is to write 500 words on my book. I already have an outline (more on that later), so I can sit down and pick a random scene and just start writing. Following 15 minutes of freewriting, my mind is generally clear and I’m ready to delve into my book.

500 words takes me 20-40 minutes depending on how well my muse is fed that day. There are days when I look up and find I’ve written 700 or even 1000 on those rare days, but 500 is my goal and that’s what I’m doing every day. I had a 2600 word day last Sunday. It was a very good day!

Right now I’m around 28,000 words in my novel. I feel good about that. 500 words per day means I’ll hit an average novel length of 90,000 words (very ambiguous goal here) in about half a year. That’s not bad honestly. Of course the greats pump out 3-4000 words per day, but they also do this full-time. I’m spending less than an hour per day. I’m very happy with my output.

After while I’ll increase my word count requirement to 1000 words/day, but I’m in no rush to reach that. I’m happy just doing what I’m doing. I think it’s much more important to develop the habit rather than overwhelming myself by trying to bite off more than I swallow.

NaNoWriMo is coming up. I hope I’ll be ready for the 1600 words per day needed for that.

Bit by big, little by little. I’m getting there.

Till next week, keep writing.

1 comment:

  1. Never having written anything beyond a paper for college or a short report to my boss, it never really struck me how long it would take to write five hundred words.

    I find myself being critical of just the last sentence or two I've written, and find that I go into edit mode almost immediately after writing them. Needless to say, continuing a train of thought for any meaningful length of time is neigh on impossible for me when I write. Did/do you have a problem with that as well, and if so, how did you over come it?

    Also, have you thought about dictation software? Its another thing entirely to talk your thoughts, versus writing or typing them. I found it uncomfortable, almost embarrassing, just talking to a microphone with no one else to hear me. It just seemed very alien to me when I first tried it. Weird, huh?