As I mentioned in my original 5 mistakes post my biggest mistake was slowing down.
I have a thousand excuses for this. Life got in the way blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter. I had slowed down the output of words which led to fewer books which led to less news to share which led to fewer sales.
There are precious few things we can control as writers. We can’t control what the social media sites will do with their algorithms. We can’t control who pays attention to our news. We can’t control our placement in the ranks. And we certainly can’t control the trends of the day.
About the only thing we can control is our writing. So, that’s where the focus should be.
WHY SPEED MATTERS
It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter to anyone. This is something that worried me. I thought that if I put things out too fast readers would be skeptical of the quality and stay away. That’s simply not the case. As long as it’s a quality story, readers will accept it whenever it arrives. Actually, they’re waiting for it. Some of them are begging for it. Some threaten.
You’re a writer. You’re itching to tell stories. Why worry about windowing or perception when no one else is? Tell the stories you want to tell. It’s what you were born to do. The more stories you tell, the more ways there are for people to discover you. And, once they discover you, they have more to read while you put out the next piece of work.
Speed begets speed. Once you’re into a habit of writing to a certain pace it’s get easier and easier to write at that pace. Then it becomes easier to step it up. The satisfaction you get has little to do with releasing works. My two favorite words to write are THE END. The story is told and it’s ready to share. I love that feeling. I’m hooked on it. The more I get to write it the happier I am and the less bitchy I am to the people I love.
THINGS THAT SLOWED ME DOWN
Life blah, blah, blah is certainly one reason and that definitely falls into the category of personal problems. Those are personal, so I won’t get into it. But there’s always going to be something: work, kids, family, yard work—it’s usually the kids though, isn’t it? Work around it, because this is work. Happy fun time was finger painting back in kindergarten. Serious means delivering no matter what.
I wrote some well received books. I got lucky right at the start. And I love the people that read my books. But, with every reader I felt more of an obligation to make sure they weren’t disappointed. I didn’t want to let anyone down. This apprehension grew with each book. And I’ll tell you this, the second book is harder to write than the first. The third is a total bitch. The fourth was easier. And the fifth. But the sixth..and let’s not get started on sequels.
Things were going well. I’m not cursing my luck. I just didn’t acknowledge it was luck. With every climb up the charts I tried to figure out what lever I pulled, what button I pushed that made it happen. Trying to duplicate those results took up more and more of my time—time I should have been writing. But, those were things I could not control. I can control the writing.
I got a couch. Yep. I set up a sweet little writing space did my writing from the couch. And my napping. And over time I learned you’re not supposed to be that comfortable when you’re working.
So here’s what I learned long ago, forgot, then learned again. I learned it the hard way both times. And that’s just stupid. The easy way is to learn from my mistakes. Here’s how you can write faster without sucking any more than normal.
Start without a plan. No, wait. That’s the dumbest thing you can do. Outline. Outline, outline, outline. Know where you book is going. It might not end up there, but you’d better know what you’re trying to say before you start saying it. I tried to write a book without an outline once. Once.
Sit your ass in a chair. Up right. And not a recliner. This is a job. It’s the best job there is but the second you don’t treat it like a job it turns on you. Sit down and write. Don’t get up until you’ve written something. Commit to being in that chair for hours. Even if it’s just staring at a blank screen. Eventually you’ll write out of boredom.
Write scene by scene. Psychologists call it chunking. Parents call it baby steps. If you write scene by scene, the weight of an entire novel isn’t wresting on your shoulders. What’s more daunting? A novel length historical murder mystery set against the backdrop of the American Revolution that explores a potential secret relationship between Washington and King George or fice pages of someone discovering a body? That’s what I thought. By the way, you can have that George/George plot twist—I won’t be using it.
Have a page count. You might not make it. You might not be close. But as time goes on you’ll blow by that goal. And don’t make the page count one or two pages. That’s for amateurs and you’re a pro. Five, eight, ten, twenty. Pick it and hit it. My personal goal is to get back up to twenty pages a day. I’m starting with ten. Within a few days I was over ten. It’s all about habit.
Don’t stop for anything. Typos. Plot twists. That green squiggly shit that Word throws up when it doesn’t understand something. If something you just wrote isn’t working bold it and move on. If you think of something you need to add drop a note at the bottom of the chapter. Don’t rewrite anything. That’s what second drafts are for.
Nike the shit out of it. There’s no other way but to just do it. If you sit around and waiting for the muse she will never come. But she is attracted to the sound of typing. Start without her. It will get her attention. Then when she comes to check it out, club her on the head and tie her to the desk so she never gets away again.
When you’re done writing, write some more. You’re not ready to look at that first draft anyway. Go right from The End into a dark an stormy night. Start the next story right away. See that? You never stopped writing.
Getting back to this approach I wrote two short stories and 5 chapters in a sequel this week. That’s with 40 hours worth of work, kids stuff and blah, blah, blah. Oh, and this post.
Sit down. Write. Repeat until it drives you nuts not to do it.
Now it’s back to the sequel for—which is a topic for another post.