I try to work on a loose schedule. As in, some books should be written at certain times, edited at others, to be ready for beta reading or outside editing times. Ava and the Cursed series are my current priorities, and it can be stressful trying to keep up when life gets in the way. But it gets done in the end. Usually in a frenzied week of no sleep. Sometimes, I come up with ideas I want to write rightnowthissecond, but I don’t have time on the “schedule,” so I might outline or write a few paragraphs to get the new shinies out of my head, and then put that idea aside until I have time.
Recently, I got it into my head that a page of writing is just 300 words, and writing a page a day will give you two novels a year. A page is pretty easy, in my experience, and I decided it would be a good idea to use these 300 words for some fresh new shiny ideas in addition to my normal schedule. I have the time to write a lot, so an extra 300 words shouldn’t pose much of a problem. New shinies are always fun, and therefore, the words generally come easy. At least at first. I know I don’t have time to edit any new stories, but I think it’s good to have manuscripts ready to be picked at.
Anyway, I started the extra 300 words and used them on a fun idea I had. It’s a little tongue in cheek, but also a happy ever after type of story, and I really need some practice at these. I’d already written something like 20k words on this thing by having a quick session whenever I could, but I ultimately set it aside for good because I didn’t have time for it. No time. No fun. *Lashes whip*
Mission 300 extra words a day started. And somehow became the priority in the mornings. And somehow, I kept forgetting to stop at 300 words. And somehow, those 300 words kept turning into a couple of thousand words until last night when I wrote something like seven thousand words and realised I had finished my fun idea in less than a week. Not one word of it resembled teeth pulling. It was fun and easy and done before I knew it. Mission 300 extra words a day is awesome.
Which brings me to my point. Finally. Everyone’s talking about (that article I keep receiving links to which mentions) some successful writer going through an apparently brutal writing schedule of 2k words a day because they’re now forced to complete two books a year instead of one. (Math looks dodgy, but moving on). And when I say everyone’s talking, I mean a lot of people are poking fun. (Which is kinda mean). My first instinct is to say that an experienced writer should be capable of 2k before breakfast, unless they spend twelve hours a day on Facebook, in which case, congrats on getting so many words done on your breaks from Facebook. (Which is also kinda mean). But that’s not really fair, and I don’t know anything at all about that particular writer, or many others, for that matter, so I’m gonna generalise (because I’m so damn good at it).
While I feel that agonising over every single word is a waste of my time, others may feel like they’ve earned that word and given it a greater value by agonising over it. But the amount of words you write every day has no definite bearing on quality (or writerly awesomeness), one way or another, and everyone’s process is different. There are no shortcuts. Some people write slow and edit fast. I’m the opposite. Writing’s a dream, but editing’s a nightmare (because I hate to do it, just like some writers, unfathomably, hate writing. Weirdos) . Some people edit as they go, which kind of slows down the process. Some people have to research the shit out of something tremendously dull (or distracting) in between every chapter. (And hey, I’ve been known to start out with Polish mythology and end up reading about, erm, living dolls). Some people need time to warm up and so use some of their writing time to read over old stuff or whatever.
And some people… some people aren’t writing what they really want to write. They’re writing what they have to write to survive. This makes such a difference. Writing words on a story you don’t believe in, or a story you’re sick of, or a story you’re just not in the mood to write, can be brutal. Not everyone is free to write what they want. Imagine only writing one particular series or genre for your entire writing career, all because you’ve been pigeon holed, or you think readers only buy certain genres, or you feel like you don’t have any choice because someone out there believes this is what you’re good at and diversifying would bastardise your sales. Or some other shit.
That would be soul-destroying for me (and brutal). I wouldn’t manage 500 words a day under those circumstances. Even writing two different series can be hard for me sometimes when all I really want to do is dig into some horror or fantasy (and yes, I write kinds other than urban, judgypants). And if you start a series, you kind of feel like a dick for working on anything other than that series because you know people might be waiting for the next one. But, sometimes, there’s nothing like a genre change to refresh your mind. If it’s stale, it doesn’t read well, that’s all I’m saying.
I had some seriously brutal days on the Cursed series. Holy shit, I thought those books were going to kill me some days, despite the fact I knew the characters inside out and that y/a is my soft spot genre. The problem with that series is the fact I began Verity so long ago. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t waste the epic ideas on a lesser skill set, and the best way for me to increase the ‘oul skills was to follow through with the old ideas first. That in itself presented some problems. Especially with Verity, it being the first real idea I had. I was a lot younger then (obviously), I had a different mentality, and that took a surprising amount of adjustment for present-day me. I found myself mammying the characters by the shitload, for example. (A side-effect of having five kids that nobody bothers telling you about, by the way). So my own headspace made it a struggle, in that old me and new me were fighting for control.
But more than that was the fact I had spent so many years in the middle of Verity. I had vague ideas of where I wanted the series to go, and what would happen to the characters, but I never actually worked it out and wrote it down properly. I had lots and lots of lovely scenes that I would play out in my head regularly (but which will sadly now never make it into the series), but no cohesive story from start to finish. So I was living in the middle of the story for a long time, and it was hard for me to give that up and get to the end. This is a key thing for a lot of writers, I think. Getting so used to being in the middle of a story that they can’t mentally bring themselves to go further. I’m coming to terms with the fact I’ll have to say goodbye, so I might as well get out of my own way and do it already, but I still haven’t written that last chapter.
I know it will be brutal.