Writing Every Day

So I've been reading Stephan King's "On Writing."  It's one of those books that every author needs to have read at least once.  The book is an autobiography of sorts mixed with writing advice.

In general I find the writing insufferable.  The entire work seems to drip with pompous self-assurance which, given the man's achievements, I don't entirely blame him for it's just annoying to read.  I just can't help but shake the feeling that he only issues the advice that he does because he's so successful.  Like it would have been interesting to me to read an autobiography by a young King and compare it to the style of established King.

But despite the moments of teeth grinding, there are quite a few gems littered around the book.  Sometimes you have to dig for them, but they're there.  In retrospect, I will probably be going back to reread the book.  It's the type of work that you'll just get different things out of at different times of your writing career.

After my first read through the one thing that really stuck with me is his advice about writing schedules.   It's only a tiny little section compared to the rest of the book but for some reason is just struck me as being really relevant to what I'm going through now as a writer.

About a year ago, I decided to make writing a side business.  A short phone call to my accountant, a few minor changes to Quickbooks and I was ready to go.  Psychologically it was a big deal for me even if the reality was not.  I had switched gears in my head from writing when the spirit moves to writing on a schedule.

And I'm proud to say I've done pretty darn well following my writing schedule.  At first I was worried that it would stifle the creative juices but it has, in fact, increased them.  It also made my publishing output more consistent which has led to a slow (read: slooooooooooooow) but steady increase in writing income.

So then I read this book by this King fellow and he says, "write every day."  At first I scoffed at this.  Writing, though a now serious side business for me, is not my main job.  I teach 5 billion children a day and Stephan King has nothing but time on his hands to write until his fingers bleed.

Then he states his reason.  He says it keeps the characters alive in his mind.

This was enough to make me pause.  Even though it's not my job I'm serious enough about writing to have a strong desire to improve my craft.  And even though I had done (in my mind) an exemplary job sticking to my schedule, I had noticed that some days it took a while to get into a writing flow.  Especially between Friday and Monday (two days of non-writing in between).

So I thought, "what the heck?"  I don't have to have enormous word count goals every day.  On Saturday and Sunday, for example, it would be easy enough to jot down another 100 words.  The goal was just to write every day, no matter how much, and see what happened.

I'm now kicking myself for not doing this sooner.

Not only has my weekly word count doubled but the actual act of putting words on a page is becoming effortless (who knows if the words are good or not).   I no longer have that glazed Monday look as I try to yank an action scene out of my coffee-fuzzed brain.  My brain is still coffee-fuzzed but because I just worked on the scene the day before, the story flow is still fresh.  Before it used to take me almost my entire allotted writing hour to meet my word count goal since the starts were slow.  Now I find I'm completing the goal is half the time and still have enough momentum to keep going.

The moral to this story: King was right, damn the man!

Comments

  1. Alain, my writing changed when I did this as well. What also helped me was to jot down an outline of what I wanted to write about, no matter how basic. My second novel has flown by since doing this. I'm in the last 2 chapters of the novel and I wrote 6k words over the last two days. I write consistently every day, with a goal of 1k words minimum. But even if I don't hit that, by doing this it keeps the scene and characters alive, like he mentions, and like you are experiencing.

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    1. For me the outline was the first thing to go. I used to do the exact same thing. Nothing too specific, just major plot points I wanted to cover by the end of the chapter. Now I'm more than halfway done with my latest story with no outline it sight. The writing every day thing just let the story flow on its own.

      Granted, I'm writing novelettes not sprawling epic fantasy like you =p

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  2. Sprawling may be a bit of an overstatement... I'm glad it's working for you!

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