Hello from the Wednesday Writer.
Three hundred words. That is the challenge I set when I decided to actually write one of the stories in my head. If I wrote five days a week, I could have a rough draft done in less than a year. Every morning, I sat at my desk whether I wanted to or not, and I wrote three-hundred words before work. Some of them even made it into the eventual book.
Here are a few tips of my trade:
Follow a Path: I printed blank calendar pages for my novel Thirty Days to Glory since it would follow a month in the life of my characters. I jotted down the main scene for each day. If I had no idea what would happen next, I’d just say something general like, “Elmer will have a memory of the war.” That kept me on course. Calendars have since become my favorite way to plot a story. I rarely write from a detailed outline, but I like to have some stepping stones for the path. Characters keep surprising me along the way, and plots twist or fizzle out. But the main stones are in place. I always fill my calendars in pencil so I can move things around.
Review and Resist: I take a few minutes every morning to read the last few paragraphs from yesterday’s work. Generally, I resist the urge to revise those sentences. Revision steals time from the rough draft. However, I admit, I’m kind of a revise-as-you-go-gal. I do it. But, everyone says you shouldn’t. Pick your own path on this one. Do review, though. Otherwise, you will end up repeating yourself or leaving gaps in your story.
Find a Spot: My morning writing spot for years has been the rocking chair where I read and pray. It sits in a corner of the living room, and everything I need is within reach. We are moving things around in our house this summer, and I may get an actual office. I suspect I’ll keep writing in the rocking chair, though. Carve out your own spot somewhere. You will be surprised how soon your mind begins to respond.
Put Your Fingers on the Keys: Lots of mornings I thought about working on the calendar or coming up with new character names or sketching cover designs because I did not feel inspired to write. Unfortunately, I rarely feel inspired. I always tell young writers that we must discipline our art. Sit ourselves in the chair, put our fingers on the keys (or pick up the pen), and write. Something. Anything. The very act of putting letters together and forming words unlocks something in our brains and our souls. The sentences start to stand in place and march on command. It is a miracle, actually. Every time it happens, I experience a rush of pleasure because I can feel myself cooperating with the Holy Spirit. (Although, I never claim my writing comes straight from God. He would do a much better job than I do.)
Repeat: I am writing my fifth novel now. (Number four comes out this fall.) I find lots of other spaces in my life for writing, of course. I write on the occasional Saturday at home. I steal a few minutes after work. I take my computer and calendar when we travel. And I lock myself away for hours when I get to the serious business of editing and revising. But, those thirty minutes in the mornings are what keep me on task.
Lots of people want to write a book. A novel, a textbook, a family history for the grandchildren. Thirty minutes a day will get it done. Have fun!