[PHOTO NOTE: My current Facebook profile pic. Just because.]
Sometimes I get into a situation where I know I should be writing but I can’t manage to do the right type of writing.
By most metrics, I think I’ve had a pretty productive writing year so far, and I think it will get better by the end of the year. However, I’m also going through a bit of a transition. For the past couple of years, I was writing fan fiction and spending most of my mental and creative energy in that sphere. It has been a wonderful experience and I have a strong feeling that it helped me recapture my passion for writing once again, but I feel like I should be talking some of the other writing that I have planned seriously. I wanted to get back to writing books again and doing more with this site. I even talked about it for a few weeks recently.
However, it turns out that sometimes people can wind up trying to do a whole bunch at once and find themselves frozen, so to speak. Well, perhaps I might only be speaking for myself, but it is true for me, at least. I think this is partially because I get used to working in certain ways and when I get out of what I’m used to doing, that can mess with me. In years past, that would have just convince me not to write anything. However, since I’ve actually decided to get serious about my writing during the past several years, that’s not really an option that I feel comfortable exercising. Even though everyone has off days and I certainly have days where I don’t write a single word, the fact that I do that too many days in a row makes me uncomfortable in a way it never did before.
I want to be creative and I definitely feel better mentally when I accomplish any sort of writing, whether it’s serious writing, fun writing, or even just a good round of revisions. So, in lieu of writing anything else, I thought I’d discuss some of the observations I’ve had about some of my current work habits and why it might be sometimes challenging to write in some circumstances. For me, it beats not writing, so I hope any writers out there get some benefit from it.
- Conventional book-writing and fan fiction writing have two particular differences that I have noticed. The first of these is how you go about putting together the work. In fan fiction, most writers post their fiction as they write it, in individual chapters. As a consequence, you are writing your work in chronological order as you work on it, or else readers would have no idea what was going on.
This can be a sticky situation when you get to a point in your writing where it’s a slow part of the story and you don’t have as much enthusiasm for that particular scene. However, it can be a valuable way for you to realize that you either need to cut the scene altogether or drastically shorten it, so in that sense it can be valuable.
In the case of book fiction, however, you don’t publish as you go. You only put out the book when you finish the entire work. Because of this fact, you have the ability to write sections of the book in whatever sequence you like, just like how movie and television directors often shoot scenes out of sequence. I began this practice in recent years for three particular reasons. It encourages me to write the most interesting scenes first, and thus encourages writing productivity. I also find that it indirectly encourages me to eventually leave out those scenes, which I think speeds up the action and pace of the narrative. So, that is an advantage of novel writing.
The second difference, on the other hand, concerns overall word count. In the world of online fan fiction, there is no real limit to the amount of words you can write. I ended up writing more than a half million words for one series that I’m doing and nobody would blink and eye at it.
When it comes to conventional publishing, however, keeping a narrative under a certain word count is more expected. Novels are typically between 60,000 to just under 100,000. Fantasy and science fiction authors can go a bit over that mark, but otherwise, publishers want you to keep those books at a certain length.
I just took a look at the new manuscript I’m working on – essentially a sequel for the new book that’s coming out (watch this space for further announcements on that). I’m informally settling on a word count of about 80,000 to 95,000 for the book. I just started writing it in earnest two weeks ago. I took a look at my word count and I’m already up to 8,000 words. I feel like I just started telling the story. It’s a limitation for sure. However, maybe it’s a good limitation – not all of those unabridged novels and director’s cut films are genius-level works of art.
- Sticking to writing deadlines is a bit tough for me. I have usually been sticking to putting out my writing journals on WordPress every Wednesday recapping my word count and work for the previous week. Then again, those are pretty standard to put together because I’m usually just posting numbers and making the odd comments about them
Making creative content, stuff like writing advice and those A Writer’s Biography posts, is a bit more work. I’ve been trying to write a content-rich post every weekend, but as you might notice from the timestamp on this one, that gets a bit difficult. (I was thinking that I was going to get something posted by Saturday, ha ha.)
This is a skill that I think will be a work in progress for me. And, I realize that I’m not the only one with this type of problem. I’ve been gratified in recent years to learn that two of my creative idols growing up – the late great novelist Douglas Adams, and the cartoonist Berke Breathed, were notorious for missing deadlines. That helps me keep it in perspective.
- It’s tough to try and get a good word count going and be a poet.
I’ve started to write poetry (and have shown some of them on this site), but they don’t really add to the word count, do they? I mean, I managed to get this post well over a thousand words without too much effort, but verse is a totally different animal than prose. Poets often go through just as much work to put together a group of words that a prose writer would put in to write ten times as many words. My writing group has been pondering this question for a while and wondering what a rightfully equivalent amount of writing would be for poets.
Since I’ve been working at trying to write 200,000 words this year, obviously this has discouraged me from spending too much time on poetry. Something I might keep in mind when I am considering next year’s writing goals.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Take care of yourselves, everyone.