Time to Write

“Oh, I’ll write that novel when I get the time.”

This actually makes me grind my teeth a little. Not because I think everyone in the world needs to write a novel. Hell, probably all novelists don’t need to be writin’ ’em, if you know what I mean. (Yes, yes, possibly me among them, so hush!)

Like anything important, though, you don’t find time to do it. You make time.

I didn’t always. I’d write when the Spirit moved me, and often it was good stuff — fun vignettes with interesting quirkiness or a tasty idea.

What I never do, unless I have a production schedule, is complete a novel.

At the Foot of the Throne was not actually the first novel I ever completed. The first was one called To Ride a Black Dragon (not fantasy — it was a contemporary piece) back in 1994. It was crap and unpublishable because there were points about plot and pacing I did not understand, but I did finish a novel, by golly.1 At the time I was not working full time, so I had a 10,000 word a week goal for myself. Doable if that’s all you’re doing, which in my case, it was.

These days it’s 1,000 words a day, but I don’t take weekends off, so you’re still looking at a 7,000 word week.

I’ve had people question the idea of just getting the work out like that. My reason for doing it is simple. When I have a challenging word count goal, I finish the first draft. I have something to edit and work with.

And at 1,000 words a day, you find yourself making time to do a little writing here, or a little writing there. Can you write 100 words while waiting for the water to boil for pasta? What about waiting for the bus?2

I used to have a writin’ ritual to get myself into the creative “mood”. I’d get up, have breakfast, make myself a latte, turn on a specific series of CDs and then settle down to write. The problem was that if, say, my then husband stayed home from work, or I didn’t have the equipment for a latte or something, the ritual was spoiled and it would throw me off my writing mood.

I stopped doing that and decided that as Frank Herbert so quaintly put it, “Mood is a thing for cattle or loveplay.” The goal, a finished product, was the important thing, so screw mood. Just write.

I’ve read more than one interview with journalists who turned to writing fiction who said that the deadlines and the pressure to put out copy were excellent training for the writing of fiction. With my own self-imposed deadlines, I’m inclined to agree.

‘Course it could be I’m completely talentless and will never make it anyway. But trying is fun!

1 It’s also salvageable, so it’s possible that I’ll go back and edit it pretty heavily, or even do a re-write, after Stoneflower.

2If you think that’s absurd, I promise you that if you go to a writer’s convention, you will find people who find weirder places to write than a bus stop!

3 Replies to “Time to Write”

  1. Can you write 100 words while waiting for the water to boil for pasta? What about waiting for the bus?

    Elf Sternberg is rather prolific, and reportedly he writes with his laptop while riding the bus to/from work.

  2. My wife Sparkler, who is near finishing two nonfiction books, swears by the 10-minutes-a-day rule. Every day, no matter what, sit down and work on the book for 10 minutes. Of course, some days you’ll go way longer once you get rolling, but 10 minutes is all you *have* to do.

    Because the biggest hurdle is always getting started. And even 10 minutes sure adds up.

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