Blog Post No. 457
Writing is a sprint and a marathon. Each day is the sprint. You sit at your computer and type away, trying to reach a self-imposed goal. Sometimes it’s a struggle with stops and starts. Sometimes you breeze through it in no time and wonder at your own incredible speed. Then, the next day, you do it all over again, and over again, until it’s done. That’s the marathon. The fun part comes when you have other obligations and you have no choice but to force yourself to go fast. Otherwise you sit at your desk late into the night until you finish. Or you don’t finish and everything falls to pieces.
If you couldn’t tell, I was talking about me in that last paragraph. I’m not always good with being productive every day, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can write every day until a first draft is finished. Some days are easier than others, but I’ve been doing well with the new novella, Snow from a Distant sky. I’ve always struggled most with starting. (As you may have read about multiple times on this blog). Even when I get over that first hump, each day is its own adventure.
When I first took writing seriously, I had no idea how long I should write for at a time or in a day (not that I was at risk of writing too much back then). There are several different methods when it comes to gauging how much to write in a day. Some people swear by time (write as much as you can within a time period). Some swore by numbers (write for as long as it takes to reach a goal). And everyone has an opinion on what those times and numbers should be. Eventually I settled on reaching a word count goal, but I’m not opposed to writing for a specific time when I’m having a really tough go of it.
The trick was finding how many words in a day is enough. For me, it’s a thousand as a minimum, but when working on a book, I tend to try for a chapter a day. My chapters can be anywhere from 900 words to 2000, so it usually averages out to more than 1000 words in a day. I try to not make my chapter too long or too short, though it all gets manipulated in the editing anyway. For Snow, I’ve been writing about 1200 words each day to get the chapters finished.
Since I’ve been back to the day job and my schedule changes day-to-day, I’ve had a few days when I had to scramble to get the writing in. I’ve gotten better at writing fiction at work (even in the last week). The driving force with making progress has been the stress of having to reach my daily goals. Last Saturday I had a twelve hour shift and I managed to get half the chapter written before I had to go in. Throughout the day, I managed to pick out the rest of the chapter. I’m not sure if the consistency suffered, but I’ll find out in the edits.
The last year-and-a-half have been a weird miasma of time. It seeds up and slows down moment to moment. Some weeks feel like years and some months feel like hours. Every year time moves more quickly in general. When I’m writing every day, it goes faster, still. This month of drafting Snow has been a blur and going back to work has added to that sense of speed. For now, I’ve been able to keep it up, but there is a limit before I burn out. If forcing myself to finish the first draft pushes me beyond that limit, I’ll fall apart on the other side and it’ll take a while before I get back to work. If I manage come in under the limit, I tend to be good with moving on to something else right away. I think I can do it this time. I just hope I’m not going so fast that I crash.