In mid-December of last year I set myself a goal: to write a ridiculous amount of words in 12 months by breaking it into manageable chunks. If I wrote 2,740 words every day, I would hit my million word mark without a problem. It sounded simple, easy, and delightfully dramatic.
Now it’s the end of March. I’ve written two novels, some 170,000 words, but I’ve fallen over 60,000 words into the red. I hadn’t foreseen visiting England for a week to see my ailing grandmother, nor spending a week at the hospital as my girlfriend’s father underwent a quadruple bypass surgery and recovery.
But I’m back in the saddle, and about to finish Chapter 3 of my new YA novel entitled MEMORIES FROM THE FUTURE. With a deep breath, I’ll pick up speed and over the next month or two whittle down that word debt so that I’m back where I should be.
So how am I doing this? How am I writing that many words? What have I learned thus far that might be of benefit to others?
The first thing that has become obvious is that ideas are not that important. The more I write, the more ideas come bubbling up from the depths of my mind.
Second, I’ve come to trust in my ability to sit down without knowing what to write that day and simply pull something out of the box. Justine Musk in an excellent post describes how we all have a box into which we can reach with faith that we’ll be able to draw something out when in need. That we have to trust our ability to be creative, to invent on the fly, and you know what? She’s right. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down without a clue as to where the plot was going to go, started typing ,and then realized within a few paragraphs that yes, of course, that’s what should happen. Like that it hits you, and you’re off, linking disparate elements or complicating things in exactly the right way.
No, it’s not the creative part that’s hard. Ideas and plot twists, new characters and complications are easy to devise on the fly. Instead, I’ve discovered that the real challenge to consistent writing is being willing to go beyond your comfort zone.
What I mean by that is that all writer’s have a style of writing that they prefer. Some like to write a couple of paragraphs a day. Others like to write only on weekends. Some like to write a novel over the course of five months, and then take the rest of the year off. Either way, we all have our rhythms. Writing every day requires breaking those ‘natural’ rhythms and forcing ourselves to write even when we don’t want to. When we feel tired. When we feel burned out. When we’d rather go outside, or revise our last novel, or the last ten pages we wrote.
The trick to writing every day is that you need the same mind frame as a marathon runner. You have to be able to tell the difference between saying ‘I can’t’ because you’re out of your comfort zone, or saying ‘I can’t’ because your body is really failing you. The first is what you can push through, the second is a true obstacle. Most of us, however, stop at the first. We reach a point where we run out of mental toughness, and we quit.
I’ve come close to that already. March has been rough. I almost decided to quit in order to work on releasing THE GRIND SHOW for the Kindle and editing ONE BY ONE for traditional publishing. But instead, I took a deep breath, and sat down and began my next novel.
And you know what? It’s going well.
I didn’t think I could keep going, write three novels back to back, but I’m doing it.
The creativity was the easy part. It’s simply keeping the desire alive that’s hard.