This post continues on from Part I.
Having made no conscious effort to adapt my writing routine back in April, I once more made no conscious effort to adapt my writing routine in June and July. (Here, adapt is the key word. Whether it’s conscious or not doesn’t matter.)
Time and space away from the laptop in June meant that time and space in front of the laptop became more important. As such, my day’s three writing blocks solidified into two or, as was more often, one.
Sometimes having a whole day set aside for writing can be daunting, particularly if I’m not in a positive mood about how it’s going. It can feel like I have too many hours to fill with not enough words. Having said that, I’m getting better at focusing on the writing and not the “work hours”.
But when those days, or the hours available in them, or both, are reduced, a sense of urgency is born and a greater value is placed on the time left available to write. This helps me to better focus, to feel as if I’m playing catch up [which I am] if I want to produce a similar word count [which I do].
Even before my insomnia began to wane, I started getting up earlier in the mornings. My lack of sleep had been pushing back my morning alarm later and later, but I’m a morning person and sleeping in time I would normally use felt like a waste. I much prefer the feeling of getting ahead [it’s certainly much better than the feeling of falling behind] on my reading and writing, regardless of my previous night’s sleep.
This is just as well. In July, I began a part-time job in a nursery [the type with plants, not children] that has me waking up even earlier. Again, I adapted. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working in the mornings and writing in the afternoons. So far I think this has really benefited my writing.
While I hope to turn my writing into a lifelong career, I’ve always felt some rather moronic measure of guilt that my writing currently doesn’t earn me any money. Now that I’m working part-time, I hope this guilt will vanish and I’ll be able to better focus on my writing.
I now have a good balance of time and space away from and in front of the laptop, with a greater value—and enjoyment—placed on the latter.
Now if only I felt like I was writing enough…
THE DREADED WORD COUNT
As with May, I didn’t look at my word count until the end of June. With time and space away from the laptop, I knew the total was going to be less than usual. I’d calculated to achieve by the end of the month any amount between ten and twelve thousand words.
By the end of June I’d written 86,746 words (up by 9,905 words).
All things considered, I thought this was a reasonable amount.
When compared to March and May, when I achieved 13,714 and 14,362 words respectively (and that was with almost***** double the writing time), it becomes more than reasonable.
I also managed to produce a healthy amount of notes. I’ve discovered I enjoy developing ideas as I’m writing them, not before. If there are changes that need making, I keep a note of them for the following draft. (Another reason why the current draft isn’t yet ready for a second pair of eyes.) This helps keep me excited about the story and believe in what I’m doing.
For July, I calculated a word count target of between thirteen and sixteen thousand words. I had more time and space in front of the laptop than I did in June, but still less than what I usually have in a month.
By the end of July I’d written 95,881 words (up by 9,135 words).
All things considered, I thought this was an unreasonable amount.
I realised something needed to change.
While I don’t want to rush my first draft, I need to be producing more words in a month than that. Otherwise Everborne will take too long to finish. I’ve always been my harshest critic and I uphold my writing to a stratosphere-high standard, but I need to focus on getting to the end of the story first. For the moment, that’s the main objective. Those parts of my brain can awaken (maybe to a half-conscious grogginess) when I’m making changes to the following draft, before I hand it out to my alpha readers.
That means I’ve set myself a word count target for August. [My previous targets in June and July were more like loose estimations that didn’t need to be met. My August target is something I’ll actually aim for.]
It wasn’t that long ago I said this: In the past, I’ve found word count targets to be counter-productive. Not only are they stressful, but they can undermine your sense of achievement when you produce writing that you’re actually proud of. It can feel like a good—even a great—day, until you notice you’re 300 words short.
I also said in the following paragraph: I’ve found that word counts are better measured over weeks or months, as that helps to average out the days.
While a couple of months ago it may have benefited my writing to avoid word counts, I now feel the opposite would benefit my writing, especially as I’m no longer fixated on the word count as I’m producing it. Perhaps I needed to temporarily ignore word counts to get over that. (Here we go again with adapting.)
Word count targets are a good way of measuring self-progress (providing you reach them). More than that, I need one for August to keep me focused on my main objective: getting to the end of the story. My worry needs to be over what is written, not how it’s written. That’s for Future Tom to worry about.
There’s been a lot of different Toms in this post, but do you know which Tom I envy the most? [Hint: it’s definitely not mop-headed, lanky-limbed school boy Tom]. Past Tom. The Tom who sat down in September 2016 and began writing Everborne. He produced over 36,000 words that month. Followed by 34,000 words in the next. Come Christmas, he had written over 100,000 words.
That was an awesome output.
Past Tom could just sit down and write. And that’s it. He cared that what he’d written was good, but he didn’t obsess over it. He wasn’t harsh on himself. He wasn’t over-critical. He didn’t allow himself to get distracted him from his focus on getting the story out. Sure, he got stressed around November, but he adapted and he kept going.
That was such bliss.
If Past Tom could do it, then so should Current Tom. I might not achieve the same amount of words [I shouldn’t expect to, not now my writing time is limited to afternoons] but I need to achieve that mindset and writing ethic. That bliss.
I guess we’ll find out in August.
I’m finding reading to be less of a double-edged sword, particularly when I’m inspired by the author’s writing style. Admiration doesn’t now necessarily lead to imitation. An author’s voice may on occasion slip into my own, but I’m getting better at thinking more about what’s happening in my story and less about how it’s happening, which as mentioned above is exactly what I need to be doing.
It became quite disheartening to think that what I was writing wasn’t actually my own voice, but rather an amalgamation of imitation. After all, is Everborne not my story? Now is the time to nurture my own voice, not disguise, ignore or abhor it.
This realisation—coupled with the desire to produce more words; writing becomes less natural, less fluid when you’re trying to summon someone else’s style instead of your own—has helped me so far, but I expect the struggle to continue. As I said in May, it’s a tricky one. While I need to learn from other writers, I need to do so without it impacting my sense of progress. There still needs to be a me in my writing.
As well as reading daily, I’ve started listening to audio books, which has also helped.****** Listening to the words of one author while reading those of a second is a good reminder that there’s more than one correct way of telling a good story.
******I highly recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (narrated by Michael Page) and Under the Dome by Stephen King (narrated by Raul Esparza). Both narrators have a whole host—rather, town, in Esparza’s case—of characters to perform and they do so excellently. I’ve read both books before and they’re just as enjoyable when listened to. For me, I’ve found audiobooks to be a good way of re-reading books that’ve inspired me without it stopping me from discovering new ones; there’s a great benefit to be found in both.
[White water rafting for my brother’s stag (he’s the pair of shoes at the front). I don’t think I’ve ever looked happier.]