Write in spurts

Ask a handful of writers what works for them and you’ll get a handful of different answers. SFNovelist Diana Pharaoh Francis just posted about writing every day, and here I am to tell you that I’ve never done any such thing.

When I’m working on a novel and facing a deadline you can bet your boots I’m slogging my guts out daily, ignoring blogs, fave websites, online communities and so on. I’m focussed, in the zone, flat out, and nothing is going to stop or distract me. Then, for the other 5-6 months of the year, I forget all about writing.

Before I got a publishing deal the ‘not writing’ mode could last … years. The only way I sorted my priorities out was to give myself a deadline. I’d work out that book X should be finished by date Y, and I’d work backwards from there to identify dates for first & second drafts. Then I’d split the remaining days until my self-imposed deadline up so that I knew exactly how much to write per day.

Then, I’d determine the most important thing of all: my reward for meeting that deadline. Often it was a particularly desirable computer title, such as the latest in the GTA or Flight Sim series. I’d buy the thing, sit it on the desk above my monitor, and wouldn’t even allow myself to remove the shrink wrap until that novel was done.

You can probably find a different motivator, but if you’re like me and see daily writing as a chore, compacting it down into a few months and having a decent reward at the end of it can really work wonders.

Filed under For Novelists, learning to write, writing process. You can also use to trackback.

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  1. 1. Marie Brennan

    I’m with you (though I just commented saying I’m with her, too) — I write every day while noveling, but not every day otherwise. We’ll see how much that changes once I’m officially full-time; right now, though, in between novels I only tend to write if I have a short story I’m poking at or a new idea that’s shiny enough to make me put words down. I may spend a lot of time thinking about stories, but not typing up pages.

  2. 2. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    I’ll echo Marie. I didn’t think about the context that much–while I’m working on a novel/story I need to write every day. In between, I need to (oh, dear, forgive the analogy) be like cheese and sit there and mold for awhile. Or compost. Something like that. The trouble for me is that I have a day job, and I can’t do the burst writing when I want to and I have to plan further ahead. I suck at planning.

  3. 3. Karen Wester Newton

    Connie Willis uses treats from the coffee shop where she writes as rewards. But for me the biggest reward is reading the book all the way through once I finish it.

  4. 4. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Oh, yeah, forgot to say about rewards . . . I have no willpower. If it’s there, I’m unwrapping it, I’m wallowing it, I’m not writing. Case in point . . . Catie Murphy’s Queen’s Bastard. It was my carrot. I ate it long before I was done with the book.

  5. 5. Alma Alexander

    Chocolate always works. Best reward. Ever.

  6. 6. glenda larke

    Alma, chocolate is hopeless! It gets eaten before I’ve ever earned it…

  7. 7. Simon Haynes

    One of the things I like about writing and non-writing periods is that I don’t feel all guilty about not writing anything when I’m in the off mode. I can save all that guilt up for when I AM supposed to be writing.

Author Information

Simon Haynes

Simon is the author of the Hal Spacejock series, featuring intergalactic loser Hal and his junky sidekick, Clunk. His website contains a number of articles on writing and publishing, and he's also the programmer of several freeware apps including yBook, BookDB and yWriter. In his spare time(!) he helps to run Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Visit site.

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