Being a writer means you write. A lot.
I’ve been there, staring at a blank page not knowing how to begin, but I also know that the only important thing is to begin. However you begin. It’s at this point, when either I don’t know how to begin or I don’t know how to continue or where my story is going or what they hell I’m doing writing to begin with because I quite obviously suck at it, that I remember this is a PROCESS.
Don’t wait for that perfect opening. Write something. Anything. Get the flow started. Don’t know where your story is headed? That’s okay, too. This is what E. L. Doctorow says about writing:
It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ~ E. L. Doctorow
I’ve written and published 8 books that way. Working on the 9th now, and some days, I just don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, and that’s okay.
That’s what editing and revisions are for, and, yes, those things are essential. They are not steps you can skip over by “doing it right the first time.”
They are a crucial part of the writing process. Every step of the writing process is…
- Prewriting: daydreaming, outlining, charting, research, planning, brainstorming, chatting, etc.
- Drafting: writing…get something down, ANYTHING down on paper. This give you something to work with.
- Revising: here is where the magic happens. Cut. Add. Move around. Shake it up. Polish.
- Editing: more critical eye for plot flow and continuity issues, solidifying characterization
(Repeat 2-4 as needed)
- Proofreading for grammar, usage, spelling, etc.
- Publishing — format and get it out there, either yourself or through a publisher/market
What helps me the most is getting into my “writing zone,” that is a little bubble I create for myself, consisting of coffee (lots of it. decaf.), chocolate (M&Ms dark, usually. Portion controlled. 12 = 52 calories. I usually have 24 in the course of a writing day), and classical music in headphones (Pandora One is well worth the $15 or so for unlimited playing. I keep it on Ludwig van Beethoven radio). Once in my writing bubble along with my writing hat, I sit before Scrivener (highly recommend, btw–everything at your fingertips, no more searching through notes and files for that research or character sketch or notes…all right there. Well worth the $50 and day to learn to use it properly) and I write.
I make little goals, usually 1,000 words in one hour, inspired by the #1k1hr hashtag on Twitter.
And I write.
Sometimes I don’t get 1,000 in that hour, so I keep at it until I do. Sometimes I get 1,500 or even 2K in an hour, but that’s rare to get that many words. Because in any given writing session, I’m simultaneously researching, making notes, updating character sketches as they further reveal themselves to me, etc.
Then, at the end of that hour, I get some more coffee. Check Facebook, etc., and dive back in for another hour.
Since I’m very goal oriented, I use word count meters and set both daily writing goals and a finish date for the first draft. One of the things I adore about Scrivener is their Project Target window, which allows you to set a word-count goal for the entire novel (short story, screenplay, whatever) and a date you would like to reach that goal. The program then tells you how many words you have to write each day to reach that goal.
On my current project, the sequel to my alter-ego, O. M. Grey’s, novel Avalon Revisited, I set a 85,000 word goal to be completed (first draft) by January 31, 2013. Each day that I sit down to write, the Project Target window shows me how many words I have to write that day. It started at something like 2,500 words a day, but as I generally set my goals higher than that, writing about 5,000 a day, the daily word count adjusts itself for that. Today, the minimum words I must write to hit my January 31st goal is 1,841. It’s 8 am, and I’ve already written 1,118 of those words. In just one hour.
Tomorrow, that daily goal will drop some more.
This keeps me inspired. When it’s one of those days when I’m stuck or frustrated or whatever, I can look over at that Project Target meter and see that I just have 300 more words to reach my daily goal and stay on target, so I hammer them out. Whatever they are. Whether or not they stay in the final draft is irrelevant.
Then, overall, I’ve started keeping a Word-Count Progress bar on my blog so my readers can watch my progress as well. There are several, but I use Writertopia’s Picometer and Progress Meter, which looks like this:
This is where I am in Avalon Revamped as I write this blog post (three days before it’s set to go live), so head on over to Caught in the Cogs and see how much I’ve written since then.
So, go! Write! That’s what I’m about to do. 4,000 more words today…