Last night for the first time in … *does some quick counting* … 46 days, I did not write. Not a single word. Nope.
I mentioned once before that I set myself a personal goal of writing 250 words per day. That’s roughly one book page per day. If I did that over the course of a year, I’d have a 365 page book. Not too shabby. I managed to keep the schedule up through all of December and into January. Then I stopped it last night. Didn’t even open up Microsoft Word or my notebook to jot notes.
Did this for two reasons – one was due to exhaustion and being sick. Work has been a beast lately and tearing me down. The other, probably more important, is because I wanted to end the streak before we go on vacation next week. I didn’t want to have that urge of ‘Must write’ while snorkeling off the coast of Belize. Yes, I can feel the sympathy for my pains.
In any case, the streak is broken but the exercise proved very fruitful and I learned a lot of things. Here are the big three that stand out:
250 Words is Easy!
It isn’t all that hard to write 250 words per day. On most days, I could knock it out in less than 30 minutes. That’s half of my lunch break. Sometimes I’d even get most of the writing done while waiting for dinner to cook. You don’t really need a lot of time.
Quite often I’d get more than 250 per day. I believe my highest was around 2,300 words but I averaged somewhere in the 500 – 750 range. If I have a scene plotted out in my head or on paper ahead of time, that helps a great deal. Scenes involving dialogue seem to flow the fastest and action scenes or historical or back story comes out pretty easy as well.
The point is, once you get into the flow, it’s really hard to stop it and you just go with it.
(By the way, this section right here? 161 words or more than half of my daily goal.)
250 Words is Hard!
A refrain heard often in the house – “F**KIN’ BLANK PAGE! I see the damn scene but I can’t get it out!”
The blank page sucks. The scene that is beautifully plotted in extreme detail will not want to come out it’s cozy little hole in your head.
This happens. It’s going to happen and expect it to happen. Grit your teeth and work through it. There were more than a few days that once I hit 250 words, I got up and walked away from the desk. At that point, no chocolate in the house was safe.
Want to know what happened more often then not? I’d find myself returning after I’d had a chance to cool off and think the scene through and end up writing some more. Sometimes I’d double the day’s word count. Frustration sucks. Don’t give in.
Don’t Get Hung Up on the Details
It’s the little scenes that tend to cause a hang up. Quite a few days I found myself staring at a passage trying to figure out exactly how to describe the setting or describe the feeling or whatnot.
Then I figured – ‘Screw it. I don’t have to describe it now.’ and I didn’t. Here’s what one of those passages look like:
“You should seek rest,” the elf said, mangling the guttural tongue of Men. “Your wounds are not fully healed.”
“Out,” Kelin croaked. He pointed at the tent flap and spoke again, switching to Elvish. “I want to go out.”
The elf hesitated, then reached forward and pulled open the flap. Kelin leaned against him as they stepped outside. [WATERFALL. TENTS. PLATFORMS IN TREES. TRAINING GROUNDS]
“Where is this place?” Kelin whispered, fearing the answer.
“We are at Feihem Gorge, Lord Dyser.”
I had no idea what I wanted Feihem Gorge to look like. I suppose I could have done some research on gorges and gotten ideas but that would have distracted me from writing and I didn’t want that. So for now, I put in the brackets and the rough idea in all caps to draw my attention to the page on a re-write. I do the same thing if I can’t come up with a good name for a location or character – [NAME].
Yes, I’ll have to come back and get that on the next pass through but that’s why it’s called a 1st Draft. Get the story on the page, get the idea on the page, and then worry about the fine details later. Sometimes these come through without any problem and if so, I put them down. But I’ve been working hard on the habit of not letting it stop the flow of writing.
(And for those wondering – Yes, I will be writing tonight.)