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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not my cup of tea

There is an inspirational blog called Sweat it with Sven. Barbara Vey mentioned it on her blog -- Beyond Her Book. It is all about writing a novel between 60 -100 k in 70 days. This works out to between 850 - 1,500 words per day with seven days off. Several hundred writers have signed up to the programme.
I looked at that and thought -- is that sweating it? And what is with the days off bit? Great idea and all power to the pen of those who have signed up, but it is not for me.
Currently I am feeling vaguely dissatisfied with writing 1000 per day. I think I prefer between 1,500 -2500 per day. And at the end, I write very fast indeed because I want to get there. Signing up for something like this or the NaNoWriMo tends to make my daemon go on holiday. Go figure.
But the important key is writing every day. Most highly successful writers write every day, maybe taking Christmas off. Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and George Bernard Shaw spring to mind. There was a lovely article in the Smithsonian recently about Hemingway and his secretary, and how he used to growl out his word count for the day if he had had a bad writing day. I do write every day. Or do something writing related with my novels every day -- proofs and revisions/plotting out a new book all count.
In many ways, it does not matter how much you write. Some days the words flow and others you are lucky to get a paragraph. The key is to write. Like anything, writing becomes easier the more you do it. And yes, I know that lots of people have other jobs/roles in their lives. BUT I discovered that once I made the commitment to write every day on my current wip, no matter how little, I found that I was suddenly able to write. I have also discovered the physical act of writing down my word total in my Daytimer is useful. (The flip side of this is that sometimes I do less because I know at over 30 k, my speed increases)
It is all a matter of desire. How much do you want to tell this story? How much do you want to get it done? There is always some reason why you can't write. Or why you deserve a break.
Lots of things have gone by the wayside for me. I no longer do as much needlework, nor do I tend to play computer games. My evening reading is often research related, rather than reading a magazine. You can carve out bits of time. Desire, dedication, discipline and determination all play roles.
Lots of novels have been written on trains, during lunch breaks or on the kitchen table as the children did their homework. Sometimes, novelists are more productive when they are forced to fit their work around life because they know that they only an hour to write. Or even five minutes to get a sentence down. 100 words is a good target for some people.
I should note that some people like kicking targets into touch. So they always to exceed their target and other people like having an aspirational target. Sometimes, it is useful to set a minimum number of words and a maximum. For example I will write at least 500 words and no more than 3,000 words today sort of thing.
And what happens when you exceed your target -- you stop. You make a few notes, and you walk away from the computer, trusting that the daemon will be there, anxious to get started. Balance is important.
My other trouble with these things is that it makes me feel like a rabbit in the headlights. Or if I see that someone is so far ahead, I begin to think what does it matter? And the Crows of Doubt start cawing.
Actually in many cases, it is the quality and not the quantity that is important. A fast book is not necessarily a great book. You should never sacrifice quality for speed. Different writers have different natural speeds. Some writers naturally write faster than others.
As one of my editors said to me, they are trained to try and get the best of a writer and to prevent burn out or prevent the writer from standing in the corner, going quietly mad. Each writer is different.
With writing, it is all about knowing your own working habits and what works for you. It is not about trying to emulate some other writer's speed. It is about trying to produce a high quality product for your shop window so that your readers keep coming back and back.

2 comments:

Donna Alward said...

Those types of things have not worked for me either. And yet I finish books!

There are days when I don't write. It depends what is going on. And I rarely work on the weekends unless I have to or if the story is just BURNING.

Just when I make a decision to write a certain amount, I'll get my author alterations or revisions on a previous book...

My goal though is to WORK every day. Sometimes that means taking ONE whole day and doing the other business-type things so I don't have to worry about them later. And I try to be kind to myself. But that all can happen because I know I will finish the book. For others who have a hard time finishing, or tend to edit too much as they write, these types of competitions are useful. To each his own, I guess!

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

FAB post, Michelle.

I've noticed a huge difference over the past couple of months with my writing output. Without even realising it my writing stamina has improved loads (because I've been writing 7 days a week). Even when I'm having one of my not-so-good days I'm always doing something writing-related and I'm sure it's making a HUGE difference.

I hasten to add that my children are now much older, due to fly the nest later this year, and I'm lucky that I no longer have to go out to work.

Love,
Sue xx