On Writing

My goal for 2016 was to have a book finished and edited. At the time I’d been working on an idea I really wanted to do but was struggling with, and I had a second story I’d played with that was 100% Things I Liked. But the second story turned out to be so easy to write, and so I drafted up a plan. 150 words a day, 1000 words a week, marked on a calendar until I finished it. I bought a planner so I could mark my progress every day. I used my habit app to track it. I finished it two months early.

The issue I’ve found with writing, besides it just plain being hard, and keeping one idea in my head is impossible, is the scope of it. I want to write books. I don’t write in chapters, and I have a concept from beginning to end plotted out. But it’s so hard to start with the first thousand words, look at outline, and imagine the finish line. It’s so hard to sit down and write.

Doing Deadlands is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done for myself. Bimonthly is easy, because I start them with four months of time to write, 8000 words being the general goal, and I can finish within three months and edit within one. It means each segment is its own story from start to finish, but still part of a bigger story. I can explore characters, introduce new elements, and change things, but each chapter is its own thing. It means every two months I have a goal, a fairly easy goal in the grand scheme of things, and I get instant gratification when I finish that goal. It’s done. There’s a complete story. And it means I have to work. I set schedules. I made playlists. I gave myself a responsibility.

Writing feels like climbing a mountain most of the time. You start off easy with the concept and the characters, it still feels fresh and new. As you reach the middle everything starts feeling convoluted, you start second guessing everything, and you lose sight of the finish line. When you finally reach that point, it’s a breath of fresh air. I started thinking of writing like this. Each word is one step forward. A sentence isn’t much, but at least you’ve moved. One word at at time, until you have a paragraph, until you have a scene, until you have a story. It becomes easier.

150 words is a paragraph. 150 words is practically nothing. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days getting out three words seems like an effort, but you can write a paragraph and that be done. The story has moved forward another inch. Some days it’s a breeze. Some days you can knock out 500 words with one keystroke, and suddenly you’re ahead.

I’m going to start editing in August, which is a beast of its own, but at least I completed something. At least I reached a goal. If you struggle to write, if you don’t feel like you have time to write, if writing seems a lofty ambition you’ll never reach, try 150 words a day. Try 50 words a day. Try to write a sentence every day. Suddenly you have a paragraph. Suddenly you have a scene. Suddenly you have a story.

And right now, 150 words a day is incredibly hard. Summer is my busy season, and I don’t have an extra minute at work, and at home I’m too tired. But I’m still getting out my bimonthly story, and I’ve found Sunday morning I can usually write unbothered. I’ve started writing 1000 words just on Sundays. It’s worked. It’s become easy.

Find a method. Make it work for you. Make it your responsibility. It’s the only way anything’s going to get done.

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Author: Jimmy

Librarian/writer/geek

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