|Take a certain Disney fish's advice: just keep swimming|
Okay, since it’s November and Greta has broken the ice, let’s talk about word count, that bane of any author’s existence.
Except maybe Stephen King’s or writers in his class. King writes eight hours a day, every day of the year except the Fourth of July and his birthday. His word count must be phenomenal. After all, his books regularly top 1000 pages and he comes out with at least one a year. Before he was hit by a car while walking along a Maine highway, he wrote so prolifically he had to use pseudonyms to keep from flooding the market. He’s slowed down a bit since then. Every month is National Novel Writing Month for him. I assume it’s the same for Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward and others in the top tier of bestsellers.
I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I’m a slow writer in the best of times, primarily because I do what Greta does. I edit the previous day’s work before I start the new day’s writing. It helps me get back in the groove every day, and it leaves the work in much better shape when I reach The End. It’s as if I’ve gone through a couple of drafts already. (I’m a plotter, too, so the system makes sense for me.)
The idea of just getting it down and fixing it later is fine in theory, but horrifies me at some deep level. It’s the editor in me, I suppose. The only way I can still that inner critical voice is to throw it a bone on a regular basis. Then I can move on.
My system works for me as long as I can set aside enough writing time. That’s where daily life can interfere to the point at which the work in progress stalls out. I’ve discovered it’s not just a matter of telling myself I’m going to knuckle down and write for two hours (or four, or one) every day. I have to be realistic about when I can be productive and when I will be easily distracted, when my environment is conducive to work and when it allows only for interruption.
I recently decided I had to start getting up early in the morning to write again. That means, even though I don’t have a day job and I no longer teach martial arts, I’m up most mornings at 5:30 a.m. so I can write for an uninterrupted two hours. I make a smoothie the night before, get a quick cup of coffee and start in. I don’t check email, I don’t look at Facebook. I just write for at least two hours straight.That way I avoid the demands of email requests (promotion campaigns and so on), phone calls and other interruptions later in the day. If I’m really rolling that means 1000 words of progress everyday, not just some days when “things work out.”
Many of you who read this blog are professional writers. You know about deadlines and goals and pressure from editors and publishers. But for those of you who may still be waiting for The Call, or who may just have published their first book and are wondering where to find the motivation to write that next one, understand that being an author demands a special kind of self-discipline. You don’t have a boss or a professor or your mom pushing you to do the work. You only have yourself. The better you are at cracking your own whip, the more this will work for you.
Sometimes you’ll have to keep at it without any kind of encouragement. It was several years before I found my wonderful agent Michelle, and several more years after that before we finally published my first novel, Unchained Memory. In the meantime, I’d had time to complete a second and almost finish a third novel in the Interstellar Rescue series. From a marketing point of view, that was great. The books came out one after the other.
Now I’m halfway through Number Four in the series. I can only say I’m glad I had the head start! And my advice—to myself and to others? Just keep writing.
No matter how you have to do it.