I’m getting farther and farther behind on the power curve with this blog. I keep thinking I’m due for another post and next thing I know it’s been a month. Or more.
I keep going on about just writing. Shut up and do it. Pick up the pen. Put it on the paper. Write. That sort of thing.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned anything about how to improve your odds that you are going to write today, and tomorrow, and the day after, and so on. Since that is the hardest part about writing, the doing it, the subject is certainly worthy of discussion.
1) Don’t worry about it being good. Whatever you put on paper for your first draft, especially if it’s your first project, is going to be bad. Part of it will be good, maybe even great, but most of it will be suitable only for lining the parakeet’s cage. And that’s okay. Write something horrible. You can fix it later. The key is to have something to fix later. You can’t fix a blank page but by filling it.
2) Pick a time everyday and make that your time to write. It should be a time and place that works for you. It doesn’t matter if your friend gets up at 5am every morning and hammers out five pages before breakfast. Go with something that works for you and stick with it. Mornings, for example, don’t work for me. The house needs to be quiet (or at least interruption free) for me to get anything done. Combine that with my chronic insomnia, and somewhere around 11p is a great time to plug into Pandora and knock a few pages out. It helps me sleep, too, which is an added bonus.
3) It helps if you can write someplace other than Your Sacred And Holy Place Set Aside Solely For Writing. That, in my opinion, gets you out of the mindset that things have to be ‘just so’ for you to be productive. I wrote the first draft of The Screenplay sitting in a lawn chair at my kids’ soccer practices. For an hour or two, four nights a week, I got to be outdoors and generally not be bothered. Wonderful combination. I still miss those times. Having a child old enough to be sent to the grocery store for milk instead of you going does rank high on the list of cool things. It’s a trade off.
4) Start small. Writing can take endurance. You (probably) don’t knock out two or three thousand words in your first hour, and you probably won’t do it at your first sitting without some practice. Go for a few hundred words, or maybe a full page. Being with a small daily goal and work your way up. Adjust as needed.
5) Write everyday, but don’t get all psycho about it. I have days where writing anything isn’t going to happen. On nights that I have Scout meetings (I’m the Scoutmaster for my son’s troop) I’m lucky if I remember my name by the time I’m done. If there’s a soccer game on the DVR, that’s about the only thing I’ll want to do until that game has been watched. Give yourself permission to take a day off, but set some parameters. I can not write for an evening, but it has to be worth it. Either there is a game on that I can watch live, or a movie that is on my list (you should have a list of movies and books you want to watch and read, but that is for another post), or need to get caught up on my reading, but that is rare. I keep up pretty well on my reading. The point is, take a break every now and again, but make it for a worthwhile reason. Xbox generally isn’t a good reason. NCIS reruns are not a good reason. A Kurosawa marathon might be, depending on your choice of poisons. Don’t feel guilty about it. Just get back on the horse the next day and knock out your pages. I used to beat myself up about it, but with life getting in the way, sometimes you need some recharge time. Take it. Just don’t let one day become two and then three and then the next thing you know you haven’t looked at your manuscript in six months. That would be no good at all.
6) Lastly, keep a notebook/journal. I keep both. The Journal has a summary of the day’s thoughts. Entries in the journal are usually 100-200 words long. Nothing big, but it serves as a good warmup before starting The Project. The Notebook is where I jot down ideas as they come up, either for the current project or planted as seeds for the next one. I also write down character names and traits for The Novel. That list has saved my bacon once or twice when I’ve forgotten a detail about a character or haven’t been sure about how I spelled their name when they last appeared 300 pages before.
I hope this all helps. These are tricks I use with some regularity that keep me interested and engaged in my writing. Some days it’s what I look forward to the most. Other days I dread writing with every ounce of my being. What counts isn’t the idea you have, or the awesome character, or the Magic Weapon of Ultimate Good, or the Technology That Will Save The Future. It matters when you sit your butt in the chair and write it all down. The only time it counts for score is when it is on the page.