Sometimes, I wish this was easy.
I’m good at coming up with ideas for stories. I excel at writing and pacing. I enjoy doing it.
So why isn’t it easier than this?
A couple weeks ago, the right plan for a novel I’ve been trying to write since I was 15 finally congealed in my head. I plotted it out and was excited. I even blogged about it last week. I was raring to go.
And then I sat down and the words stubbornly refused to come out. I practically had to put a gun to my head to write 600 words. And when I would write, touching fingers to keyboard was like taking a giant dose of Benadryl — sleeeeeeepy.
Needless to say, authoring the latest draft of Calibot’s Revenge has been a little frustrating. If I’m enthusiastic about writing this new novel, you’d think I’d have words flying out of my fingers faster than I can read them. I’d have what Stephen Donaldson calls “a gusher.”
Well, maybe. Writing, I’ve learned, is like any other sport or activity. You have to keep at it to stay in shape. and the last time I was actively writing a book was April. That’s when I finished the first draft of Red Dragon Five.
Since then, I’ve been editing. I read the first draft and marked it all up. Then I went through it chapter by chapter and made changes. That required writing but not crafting a lot of prose from scratch. It was making changes. I might have added a few new paragraphs here and there, but that doesn’t take a sustained effort. When I was finished with that, I read it again and put in chapter titles and fixed a few typos.
All that takes time, and it’s incredibly important to the process. But it isn’t like writing 3000 to 5000 words a day on a first draft.
It also didn’t help that I had arguably the busiest summer of my life. With the kids back in school, I’m just now getting back into a regular routine. And I am still run down from all the things we did this summer. Nothings eats my creativity like exhaustion.
So all right, I’ve got some excuses. That’s not good enough, though. What do I do about it?
Any decent author knows there’s only once solution: write. Just sit down and do the work. Try not to put limits or expectations on it. I like to write a whole chapter at once. It feels more satisfying to me that way. But those first few days, I had to write partial chapters. One day, I only wrote 300 words.
But that was 300 words closer to the end. It was a couple paragraphs of the story. I got something done that day, even if it was very little.
Monday, I wrote a 2000-word chapter. Yesterday, the next chapter was shorter, so I only wrote 1200 words. But I can feel the flow coming back. Just like getting back to going to the gym, I can feel my writing muscles growing stronger. I’ve got four chapters done (although the first chapter needs me to go back and add some things). Today, I’m going to try to knock out the fifth one.
You have to stay in shape as a writer — you have to work almost every day so the ability to conjure and shape words stays sharp. And you have to be patient with yourself when you need to get back into it after having been out for awhile.
Keep writing. Write every day. It doesn’t matter if the words are bad. If you get in the habit of putting them down every day, they’ll start improving on their own. You’ll be able to write more of them.
Before you know it, you’ll have a completed project.