Duties other than Writing
Back when I was writing my first novel A New Map of the Universe, my one task as a writer was simply to write. How times change! In the last couple of years, writing has become like running a small business for me. I spend time on administrative chores like tax and invoicing, pursuing opportunities like grants and residencies, and marketing activities such as blogging and speaking at libraries. Though many of these tasks are enjoyable (NOT tax!), they all eat into my writing time and last year I noticed there were days when I got no real writing done at all.
So this year I have decided to put writing front and centre. I begin writing immediately after school drop-off, and I don’t allow myself to spend time on any other writing-related tasks until I’ve hit my word count for the day.
Daily Word Count Goal
Last year at Perth Writers Festival I attended a workshop an adventure writing run by Peter Heller, in which he advocated a daily word count goal of 500 words, and by that he meant exactly 500 words. As soon as you hit 500 words, you stop, even if you’re mid-sentence.
Image via thelivingbrick.com
Apparently Graham Greene used this technique his whole life and Heller tried it out and now swears by it. He said it eradicates that feeling of starting each morning with a blank page, a new scene to write and no idea where to begin. Every time you sit down to write you’re already in the middle of something, so there’s no time wasted while you wait to get your juices flowing.
I was a bit dubious about it, but Heller’s novel The Dog Stars is one of my favourite novels of recent years; if this crazy method can result in a book like that I’m all for giving it a go.
And I know what you’re thinking. 500 words a day is so little. but 2500 words per week is 130,000 words per year. Even if I delete a lot, I should be able to produce a book a year at that rate. Also I find setting the bar so low helps me getting over my dread of beginning to write. I tell myself: I only have to write 500 words, how bad can it be?
So, at a snail’s pace of 500 words per day, here’s what I hope to achieve this year:
I’ve written 45,000 words of this story, which is an epic quest with a speculative twist, and think I’m about halfway there. Halfway through the first volume that is… did I mention it’s the first in a trilogy? Yikes! I’m really having fun writing this book. It’s got punch-ups and chases and drug benders and human sacrifice and all sorts of things I’ve never had a chance to write about before. I’m hoping to finish a first draft by June.
No, don’t worry, that’s not the title – it doesn’t have a title as yet, or even a working title but I’ve started making notes for my fifth novel, which will be a story about a family dealing with the effects of post-natal depression. Having suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of my son, I have wanted to write about it for a long time but didn’t feel ready. I think now I have sufficient distance from it/perspective on it to give it a go and I have a residency at KSP at the end of this year in which I plan to get started.
And last but not least, I finally have all the puzzle pieces in place for my e-book and accompanying app and if all goes to plan The Ark will be released in June this year. Huzzah!
Your turn: What are your creative goals for this year? Do you have a daily word count?
On reading: Top Ten Book Club Books
On writing: My year in Writing