Getting it down

Words on paper. It’s harder to get them there than you think. Slow and steady might win the race, but sometimes that consistent slog is difficult to maintain. Make no mistake – in the middle of any book, the worst TV shows start looking mighty fine.

I’m not a fast writer. I clock about 500 words in an hour. On a work day, there are about 2.5 usable writing hours in a day if I ignore meals, fitness, social niceties, and personal hygiene. It’s a bad idea to have too many such days in one week, or people start to avoid me.

On the other hand, there are those occasions when I burn up the screen, writing a hot streak that won’t quit. My largest day’s page count ever was 30 pages. Unfortunately, that level of output breaks my brain and I can’t write for days afterward. Counting on a blitz when I get behind is chancy.

An example of my accelerated writing style—I’m nearing a deadline—was this past weekend. I took Thurs/Friday so I had four days full to work with.

• Thursday I worked from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with three breaks of about an hour. Product: approx. 4,000 words. Pretty good, considering I was also doing some editing.
• Friday – got a late start (around 11:00). Product: about 2,500 words. Not so great.
• Saturday – Call me writer girl. 6,000 words. Time out for one grocery run.
• Sunday – 2,000 words at best. Too many obligations nibbling away at time.
• Monday night – 2,000 words written after dinner from 7:15 to 11:30. I don’t usually work this long on a week night, but the muse was happy so I just stayed with it.

Five days, approximately 16,500 words. There are writers who could have blazed through half a book in that time. I’m not one of them.

I think that’s one of the big lessons in becoming a writer—finding your working style and how fast you can comfortably produce in a day. You do what you do. There’s no good or bad. Some authors push to write as many books as possible in a year, but too much haste produces brain sprain and burnout, not to mention crappy books. Respect your process.

My happiest writing time is the after-dinner session. I have my laptop on the couch, feet up, CD player on shuffle, and the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness flopped over my feet. My brain works best in the evening for new material, and I can motor on like this for hours. If I’m editing, it’s the kitchen table with the coffee pot and I’m best during the daytime. I’ve risen from bed at 3:00 a.m. to put in a few hundred words and then gone back to sleep, but I’ve never been a crack-of-dawn person. If I’m up at five, I’m wrecked for the rest of the day.

Why would new material be a night thing for me and editing a day thing? Different halves of the brain? Probably there’s a psych paper in there someplace.

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