by C. Margery Kempe
Not long ago I wrote a piece for another blog about my basic rule for writing more, in which I gave my standard advice to myself: shut up and write. I can say that to myself. I long ago gave up any expectation of politeness from my brain; on the plus side, it rewards me in other ways that are useful, so a little rudeness, I can live with. But that’s only the beginning of the advice.
A friend of a friend (attempting to motivate said friend) linked to this piece from SFWA by Rachel Aaron about how she went from writing 2K a day to writing 10K. Yes, you read that right.
I know some of you who will fall over with a clunk sound contemplating 2K a day. It’s not really about the numbers (although, wow, eh?). It’s about getting more of the writing you want to do done and not standing in your own way.
I had a friend stay with me in Galway who needed to get some writing done for a deadline. She regularly wrote about 10K/day on average the entire weekend. It can be done. It does require, as Aaron suggests, that you know where you’re going (i.e. outline) but how you work with that knowledge will vary. I’m going to concentrate today on the side of the triangle Aaron calls, “Enthusiasm.”
There are at least a couple of strands to the discussion here: as Aaron notes in one of those lightbulb moments,
If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn’t want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn’t love it, no one would.
She’s got a point.
There are always lulls. It can actually help your story to give the reader a moment to catch her breath. But if you find yourself plodding along, just trying to bump up word count, chances are you’re not going to keep your reader’s attention any more than your own. It’s time to stop and figure out what you need to accomplish (some exposition? character building?) and how you might better do so in order to hold your own interest and your reader’s. Be creative! That’ll get your enthusiasm back. Need to establish some back story? Don’t just have the messenger Exposition arrive and say “Your sister, whose death by unknown hands torments you to this day, grew up in the same house you did as a child with a pond in the back…blah blah blah.” Figure out a surprising way to fill in that background. Maybe you need to do it earlier or in smaller chunks. A photograph falls out of a book: it’s your sister by the pond — happy smiling. Build from there!
The other strand of course it the ‘long project doldrums’ which affect most of us. Like long-term relationships, novels can feel as if they’ve got into a rut. The solution is the same in both cases: shake things up! Surprise your characters. Have they been bickering back and forth, unable to work out their differences? Maybe they need a break from each other! LOL, not that they have to go out and have affairs (well, depends on the book you’re writing ;-)), but maybe a little time with someone else will remind them (and your reader) why they should try to work things out.
Robert Frost wrote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Don’t settle for any less for yourself or your reader!