Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing Like There's No Tomorrow

Or: One Hundred Books Before I Die...

So, in a few short days - four, to be precise - we will finally learn what happens when we reach the end of the Mayan long count calendar. Personally, I suspect it will be something along the lines of Y2K. I'd intended to go to an "End of the World" party put on by some friends, but alas, it was cancelled due to health concerns. Bummer. They were gonna pass out tin-foil hats as party favors, and I was gonna wear a sandwich board sign. The front would say, "Repent Now!" and the back would say, "The End is Here!"

So much for that.

Regardless, knowing that we are facing the imminent demise of the world as we know it, I've been contemplating my list of projects of late, debating on what I want to accomplish before it all goes up in a puff of smoke. Or, before I die of extreme old age, which is likely to happen before the Mayan prophecy comes to fulfillment.

My conclusion: all of them. I don't want to leave a single story unwritten. It's strange, sometimes, knowing how many characters, conflicts, and series are crammed into my head. I've got entire worlds filed away up there, waiting for the light of day. This morning in the shower, I came up with another story. Like the others before it, the story is compelling, exciting, complex, and sure to be worthy of a screen play. And like so many others before it, it will have to take a number and wait in line.


There's only one way to write as many stories as I want to tell before I die. I must learn to write faster. I can't do much about the time I have available to write. I have 24 hours a day just like everyone else, and God, family, work, friends, church, and basic necessities (like sleep) all claim a chunk of my days. I can minimize distractions, turn off the television, quit playing solitaire and focus, but that's all I can really do. The formula for success in writing is very simple.
BIC = Finished Manuscript
The answer lies in self-discipline. I have a target word count goal I aim for every month. And I have to discipline myself to pursue that goal. Finishing means applying myself toward reaching that goal and surpassing it every day. And if I fail to hit it, then I have to catch up the next day. Stephen King was once asked by a reader how he wrote so many long books. He looked at the man and said, "One word at a time."
"Writing is manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe." John Gregory Dunne
There are many times when writing is fun. I am inspired, and my fingers fly across the keys. The words pour out in a torrent of creativity. Sometimes I write so fast I leave out whole words I meant to include (that's what editing is for). Most times, though, I slog through the paragraphs, fighting for that one right word that best describes what happens next. And no, it isn't fun - these times. It's a job. It is labor. It is work.

The reward is twofold: a) seeing the book in print and knowing that people are buying it, reading it, and liking it, and b) knowing that one more world in my head has been committed to paper, and that I'm free to move on to another project. Someday, I'll get to that new story I thought up this morning.
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