Saturday, 29 June 2013

Chore? Or Habit?

There's are so many things I love about being an author. I love creating stories I can escape into. I love hearing back from readers who find themselves being dragged into my creations and lastly, I love helping other writers.

Most authors I know are double my age. And it astounded me at first. But then I realized it wasn't because they had never written at my age, but rather they were lost as to what they needed to do to achieve what they wanted. They didn't have any guidance. So, as you can imagine, when I meet writers my age, I'm more than willing to share all I know.

Today, I had a young writer contact me with trouble of 'seeing the end'. She's been writing sporadically over a period of five year, writing and re-writing a novel.

Now, people often ask me how long it take me to write a novel. Truth is, it all depends. With my rural WIP, Fixing Fences, it took me ten days to write the first half. It's been six months since then and I have yet to start the editing process. Every book is different. Every 1000 words you write have a different pace. And the main thing is comes down to is commitment. Or rather, habit. So, unless you are happy with working on the same novel for five years, I don't think you have anything to worry about. We all move at our own pace.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Jim Ryun
Now, based on my observations (particularly those of my twin sister who has just begun writing her first novel), the beginning writer seems to struggle most with 'getting it done.' All writers - published, unpublished, amateur or professional - struggle to manage their doubts. Doubts are natural. Human. The idea is to push them aside and keep yourself motivated.
Some might disagree with me, but I believe that when it comes to writing and editing, the processes must be separated. They require two different mindsets. And as I have discovered, editing whilst in the process of creating can cause the doubts to rise and the end to seem too far away.
So I have a few tips for writers struggling to reach 'The End':
- Manage You Time and Form a Habit - The writer who contracted me told me that writing was beginning to feel like a chore. I had to smile. Writing is at first, a chore. But its only because you are working to form a habit. When you are trying to balance commitments, a social life and well, sometimes just some peace and quiet, it can feel like you will never find the time to write. But, the harsh reality is you have to make it. You don't need to write all day, everyday for a year to finish a novel. Unless you have a deadline, you can tailor your writing schedule to what suits you. Now that I've at University and my debut is out, I struggle to find time. But truth is, I can often find half an hour or more a day where I think, 'I could have written then'. So the task is simple. Set a daily word count, publicize it to keep yourself motivated, make sacrifices (like that bedtime read if you have to or that last episode of Game of Thrones :P) and 'get 'er done'! Like Jim Ryun says, motivations is all you need to get started. Habit is what is going to keep you going till the end.
- Don't Look Back, Always Move Forward - I find you can learn so much from watching a good old Disney movie. Finding Nemo is very fitting at this moment. 'Just keep swimming', my friend. If you are always looking back and wondering, how do you ever expect to move forward? Unless you are Michael Jackson and plan to moonwalk your way to the end, learn from Dory. You are writing a draft. Sometimes, it is only just the skeleton of a great novel. And other times it isn't. But you don't need to worry about that. That's why we edit. Get the words down! Worry about perfecting things later. It's only when your novel is completely mapped out that you can start to analyze your characters goals and motivations in full. That's when you start to change things. So, drop the red pen. Get rid of that inner editor and just write that goddamn novel!
The Journey is always smoother if there is a light at the end of  the tunnel - Anyone here drive in the dark with their headlights off? If you do, I can only assume you have some super night vision. It's the same with writing. If you are hitting stages in your writing where you are not sure where it is going or how you are going to move from one scene to the next, one motivation to another, you might benefit from plotting. There are no limitations to mapping out a novel. It doesn't have to be in detail. It could just be a single motivation and a decision to be made. Check out my post on plotting, The Pros of Plotting. It helped me when it came to writing my second novel and saved me from complications I'd experience in my first.
So there you have it. A little advice from me. It's important to remember every writer is an individual. Sometimes it's a matter of working out what is best or you. But I think the most important thing to take away from this post is that eventually, chores become habit. And habit is a commitment which the longer it is carrier, the stronger is becomes. For some, writing is as essential as breathing. But do you think their first novel was created on a single breath?

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