Every so often I am amused with a new commercial: for just three easy installments of said amount, you could have a body like this too.... I realize that six pack abs, herculean pecs, and tree trunk arms and legs are easy to want, but the key ingredient cannot be sold; it must be endured. To have any kind of a healthy body, you have to work every day. The same is true with manuscripts.
Writer’s Digest has wisely reported over the years that writers write. And when I look back on my starts and stops and completions, I couldn’t agree more. So when I set out to complete a manuscript, I know that I need to make a daily effort. Here’s what works for me:
Write Every Day: Most authors at book signings have told me that writing every day is an absolute must. What I find is that it keeps the story world alive. Every time I sit down to write, I don’t have to reread my manuscript to remember who my characters are and what they're doing. I can also maintain my focus on character trajectories without losing their essence when not writing.
Find the Time: We have a clock that chimes on the hour every hour. That dinging is my only distraction. I write from 4 to 6 a.m. every morning while my family sleeps. I cannot write during the day or night for various reasons. Writing in the early morning allows me to work with fresh energy. I can also go about my day without the stress of needing to write.
Don’t Worry About the Word Count: Keeping a daily word count may work for many writers. However, if you are an aspiring writer like me looking for a fresh approach that proves positive, I can tell you that I write better when I am relaxed. Honestly, some paragraphs take me two hours. On some days, I write 2000 words. I don’t rush to meet word count quotas. I don’t paralyze myself with perfection. And I don’t worry about the word count.
Sit with It: When I read, I cannot help but guess what the writer was thinking along the way. So when I write, I often fold my hands together at my keyboard and think. I like to day dream. I also like to think things through. I only commit to paper what I conclude to be coherent and cohesive. Sitting with the moment and following various storyline scenarios in my thoughts helps me write with clear direction.
Research and Write: The Internet is an amazing tool. I keep a search engine open while I write. This helps me with accuracy and description. If characters take a cruise together across the Atlantic for example, I can look up all the maritime details: nautical routes, ship specifications, weather conditions, destination attractions, etc. Having a second monitor is ideal; you can write on the left and research on the right. But I never copy and paste. My goal is to produce original writing that is informed. And I don't want to get sued!
Believe in Tomorrow: Rather than worry about scene completion, I rest in the fact that tomorrow is a short time away. Having one day to think through certain outcomes and knowing that I will write the next day, I can relax in my storytelling progress (or lack thereof). Tomorrow always comes with added value.
Befriend your Inner Critic: It’s important for me to write my best even when working on a first draft. I will undoubtedly revise the manuscript several times through before printing for readers, but having informed and thoughtful writing to revise saves time and stress. My inner critic drives my creativity.
In sharing these insights, I hope to encourage aspiring writers like me. We can be powerhouse writers if we work hard every day. Early to bed. Early to rise. The truth actually is in the putting! :-)