30 October 2014

More of the Good and Less of the Bad and Ugly of Writing

In the last couple of posts I talked about wanting to write my current novel in a year. Before I started writing, I set down some ground rules to give myself the best possible chance of achieving the goal. I thought I'd share them here - some are obvious, some may not work for you, they're just things that helped me. 

I committed to writing five days a week for an hour. Initially I started with a word count, but I found if I didn’t make the word count it was discouraging. When I swapped to writing for a specific period of time, I still kept my word count spreadsheet, but tried not to fixate too much on the numbers.

I decided an hour was a long enough period of time to get something done, but not so long I felt I was giving up everything else, especially after a full working day. If the words were flowing, then I kept writing and sometimes didn’t even realise I had done more than the hour. That was especially true at weekends.

Setting a time limit rather than a word limit was helpful when I got to the editing phase, as I find it gets depressing when my word count diminishes.

I decided not to go for a target of writing seven days a week for a couple of reasons. The first one is fairly obvious – it’s easy to miss a day and then you can feel like giving up and not writing for a couple of weeks, or even months. Another reason is that I enjoy writing, and I want it to remain a pleasure rather than a chore. For me that means at least one day off. As I said these are things that worked for me.

There were weeks when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make my target, for example the week we packed and moved house. I gave myself permission not to write for those specific times, but to begin the following week and get straight back into my routine, rather than let days or weeks meander on without writing. I felt better as I wasn’t beating myself up over not writing, and I was eager to get back into the story, because I was enjoying the flow I’d built up.

An hour a day, five days a week was a stretch, but it was also realistic. 

Writing time was writing time. There was no internet, email or social media, and I set other times to do research. When I got to a place where I needed to research something, I’d mark it with a comment and keep going. This was actually quite a difficult discipline to begin with, but it was incredibly useful and I’m sure it saved me heaps of lost time on detours through websites, blogs and other interesting but timewasting diversions. It was pure writing time, and because I’d told myself it was only an hour, I had to make the most of it.

In this post I shared a great way of working when I was able to devote longer periods of time to writing, for example a whole day or days.  

I didn’t edit during the first draft. This was incredibly difficult for me, but another useful learning tool as I didn’t spend a lot of time going over and over the same parts, editing them to death and then later deciding that section wouldn’t even make it into the final version. On days I found it hard to get started, I’d read through the scene(s) I’d written the previous day and do a little light editing to get me started. This was another way I managed to keep going and get the first draft finished without wasting a lot of time. It also stopped a lot of the self-doubt that comes when you read what you’ve just written. Rather than spending time worrying about whether it was any good, I just kept on writing. 

Time (when). When I have the option, I prefer writing in the morning as I feel a lot more creative at that time. During most of the time I was writing Still Death, I was working on a project with a company and working from their office. I had to start early, so I wasn’t able to write at my preferred time. However, I was leaving work at a reasonable time and generally getting home before my husband, so that became my writing time. I found once I got used to the routine of arriving home and settling into at least an hour of writing, the creativity was there. That was a really good learning experience as I’d always thought I did my best work in the morning. What this proved to me is – create a routine and stick to it, even if it isn’t what you consider to be perfect. 

Think positively. Without a doubt this is the hardest. It gets really difficult trying to quell the critical voice that keeps popping up. What makes you think you can write? Why would you succeed when others don’t? That scene is rubbish.

Negative thoughts are the easiest way to get off track and stop writing. I don’t think they ever truly disappear, but the trick is to be mindful of them, or the times when they’re likely to start up, and then change those thoughts to positive ones. It’s not easy, but like anything, the more you practice it the better you get.

Still Death will be available from 8th November, but you can pre-order it from the retailers below.  After the launch it will be $2.99 but at the moment you can pre-order it for 99 cents.  

Barnes & Noble
Apple Store
Kobo Books 

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