Monday 15 February 2016

How To Write More

I'm not entirely sure whether Austin Hackney reminds me most of an Oxford don or someone who's escaped from Unseen University.

Either way, what he says is spot on.

For a long time, I've been on the hunt for a writing routine. I always follow that sentence up with 'because I hate routine'. I do. That's not changed.

But I have realised that staring at the clock makes me hate it even more.

A couple of years ago, I attempted a 1k a day routine for seven days a week.

I managed about four and a half weeks, which was more than I was expecting.

1k a day is not hard, but I still gave up.

I managed to complete the novel, Rosy Hours, but I stuck to my tried and trusted method of 'write whenever the hell I feel like it, for as long as I feel like it.'

That does work for me. I've published four novels to date, and there's a nemesis novel in a bottom drawer somewhere. 

However, this year I'm trying to be a writer, rather than just writing. I'd like to have three novels not only finished but either sold or on submission by the end of the year. At which point, I rather need to approach it as a (very low paying) job.

I know 'don't set yourself a timetable, set yourself a quota' sounds like the same thing, but I can attest that it is not. There really is a noticeable difference.

If you allocate yourself a specific time for writing, it's amazing how productive you'll become on Facebook over those two hours. If you give yourself an hour to see how many words you can write, that little word counter in the corner of the screen will take on mammoth proportions, you'll start hallucinating that the count is going down rather than up (unless you're using Write or Die, in which case it really is going down).

Time limits are pointless. It's not time you're trying to create.

Coming from the 'write when you feel like it' angle, I don't really want to write 5,000 words a day. I know I would hate it, and I don't want to hate writing because I love writing (most of the time). 

So, knowing myself, I know that I'd be happy with 10,000 words added to a manuscript each week. That's 2,000 words per working day, or 2,500 plus a day off if required. At that rate, you'd have a novel every eight to ten weeks. Even with the amount of goofing off I'm capable of, that should get me three novels by December.

There, I've jinxed it now.

You'll notice that I've stipulated 'working days' there. If I'm treating this like a proper job, no way am I working weekends. Shuv it up your arse! That's not the deal. I get lie-ins, I get plenty of coffee, and I get weekends.

The quota is for the week, rather than the day. Mondays are a good day (how many people can say that?). Refreshed after the weekend, and enthused having had two days to cogitate plot twists, I can happily knock out 3,000. Today I managed my 3,000, and did the shopping, and got my phone fixed, and made soup. 

Slam dunk.

That takes the pressure off for the rest of the week. I can coast. 1k is cat's piddle, 2k, no big deal. And if I find I'm straggling, due to needing a day off to deal with Real Life (TM), I can put in my final push on Friday. Working hard on Fridays is sort of nice, because there's an immense satisfaction when you finally finish and look ahead to two free days and a tub of ice-cream. Finishing on Fridays is such a nice feeling, you don't mind the mental sweat that precedes it.

So, for the first time ever, I may just have hit upon a writing routine that works for me.

I tend to find whole numbers help, too.

Adding 10k a week I usually start the week on a whole number. Last week was 50,000.

Two days later I hit 55, which is another satisfying number, because it's halfway to where I need to be.

Two days later, 60,000.

When I open up a manuscript, I look at the word count, imagine what it'll look like when I've finished for the day (say 61,000 becomes 63,000) and off I go. I only give the counter a cursory glance to check if I've made it. 

I always finish the sentence or paragraph I'm writing. This helps too, because it means I start the next day already twenty, thirty, sometimes a hundred words into my next writing target. 

Unlike saying I must write 2,000 words today!  if you're working to a weekly quota you're ahead of the game if you went over the day before. You're not resetting the clock to zero each day.

Psychologically, it has a big impact.

And, yes, some days it's like pulling teeth, and you stare at the word counter like you used to stare at the clock during class, but, at the end of the day - or the week - you get results.

Let's see if I can keep this up longer than four and a half weeks...

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully, accurately and humorously described. I think I must have the same mindset as you. I start off well when I discipline myself, but a few days or weeks later, it's all over...