One Step At A Time

They tell you to write every day if you’re serious about being a writer.  But too many aspiring writers say they don’t have the time.  Actually, they do.  What they really mean is “I can’t write a novel in a week.”

Well, I wrote one in two weeks, but it took up all my time and some of that was vacation.  At the time, I had no kid and no school and a light work load.

What they really mean, whether they realize it or not, is that writing a long work will take a long time.  When you figure out that’s what’s really holding you back, it becomes one of those “Well, duh!” moments that frees you up.

“So, Jim, aren’t you the one who’s been whining you have precious little time to do any writing now?”

Yes, I am, but I do it anyway.  Since I overloaded the current academic term, my writing output has dropped to almost negligible.  Yes, I’ve reached the point where writing a blog post has become a sort of workout to keep the writing muscles from atrophying.  But writing a blog post, if you do it right, is more like writing a newspaper column.  Most columnists and paid bloggers work on tight deadlines.  They have to have something ready to go tomorrow.  So keeping this blog humming daily has been a good exercise.

But it’s not writing fiction.  It’s not writing short fiction.  It is occasionally writing a review, but unless I decide to dedicate this blog solely to book, music, and movie reviews – all of which require vast amounts of prep time – reading, listening, watching – this blog will remain an Internet version of Dave Barry.

If Dave were angrier and less funny.

Back to writing fiction.  Every writer I know, with one or two exceptions, refuses to let go of that old chestnut “Write everyday.”  For me, I’ve finished a looooong novel and am now focused on short fiction until I can dig out from under the academic avalanche I’m buried under.

“Gee, Jim, where are your short stories then?  Let’s see them?”

OK.  The first submission of the year was originally an academic assignment.  So was the second.  I should know more about them soon.  The third was a rewrite of a story based on Marillion’s 1981 hit, “Market Square Hero,” retitled, resubmitted, and accepted.  You’ll see it in the next couple of weeks, assuming the editor isn’t himself buried under his own avalanche.  A third was a story written for a specific market.  They just reopened.  I expect I’ll hear back by summer’s end.

“Well, okay.  But you had college and some old stories.  We want new!

I’m working on new.  Three in the can awaiting rewrites.  And I am working on new stuff.

One paragraph at a time.   Or one scene at a time.  Guess what happens if you write just a little bit of a short story every day.

You eventually finish one.

So how does that apply to novels?  Ask George Pelecanos.  He once told NPR that anyone with talent (or even without, when you think about it) can finish a novel in a year.  You write one page a day.

That’s 250 words.  After a year, you have 365 pages.  Given the average first manuscript is about 350 pages, you’ll finish with time to spare.  If it’s longer, you’ll finish a little later than a year.  Point is you’ll finish.

Notice he did not say get published.  That’s a whole ‘nother nut to crack.

And as I’m pressed for time, I’m not going to crack it here.  I have an agent to do that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on something for my agent to sell.


2 thoughts on “One Step At A Time

  1. I’ve recently started writing frequently again, trying to find a pace I can maintain. That appears to be 500 words, four or five days a week. The problem: while I can write in small chunks, I have a big problem revising like that. So finally writing down “The End” tends to be a drawn-out process.

    My other problem: I’m about to finish a story. So (gulp) I have to start a new one next week.

  2. Bet you don’t take a full time term of classes next time huh? Hard to do that, work full time and still take care of your home and family. Believe me, I know….cause I go to school too 🙂

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