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ProAm Tips #15

Always be writing.

I’ve said it before. But unless you have product, the editing, marketing, and sales just won’t happen. I don’t care how flawed it is: finish it. I don’t care how rough it is: finish it. I don’t care how you deus ex’ed the ending: FINISH IT.

You wanna push words? You gotta push words. Simple as that. Some people write 200 words a day. Some people write 500. Some, 2000. Stephen King shoots for five pages a day, according to On Writing, his memoir. But… is that single spaced? Double spaced?

I have to write a pair of essays for my entrance into the University of Texas in the next two weeks, so I can get my 4-year in English (I just got my Associates three weeks ago!). They have to be about 500-1500 words each. This isn’t new. I just finished a class in communications in which I had to write a 500-word essay each week on the new chapter in the book. And my reaction tot he UT essay was the same as my reaction when I found out about the weekly essay length:

“500 words? A week?? That’s adorable!”

Folks, I personally churn anywhere from 200 to 8000 words a DAY when I’m firing on all cylinders. But that’s me. Even if I only wrote 200 a day, that’s still 1400 words a week, assuming (As I do) that you write each day.

I am NOT bragging (although I can; because I can back it up) and I’m not look-at-meing either. (Yeah, I said it. I’m a writer. Othef ther perks is making up words and stuff. If it worked for Shakespeare, it works for us. This is an all-inclusive club, and if you write, you’re a member. And membership has (few, but tangible) priveledges. What i’m saying is, even if you only take one step a day, at the end of the year you’ll have walked 365 steps.

Okay, that doesn’t sound like a lot. I guess the point is, shit adds up. (I’m not awesome at inspirational metaphors.)

Whatever your goal, write something every day. It adds up, no matter how big or small. Ray Bradbury touched on this in a speech once. He said (I’m paraphrasing here) if you commit to writing one little short story a week, why, at the end of the year, you’ll have 52 short stories. And it’s impossible to write 52 bad ones. it can’t be done.

I doubt that it’s impossible to write 52 BAD stories. But 52 stories (depending on length) is like, three, maybe four books’ worth of stories. And you’ll have started a great habit.

But you gotta finish them. That’s the key. Don’t flit from project to project like some demented butterfly. Pick one, hammer it out, and get it done. And when you’re done, let it sit for a while. A couple weeks. A month. Let it fester, and grow, and change. When you go back, first READ IT. Don’t edit. READ.

Out loud, if you can. Do voices. Make character inflections. But read it out loud. I bet you’ll find stuff you never realized you wrote. After you read it out loud, put it away for a minimum of one week. THEN begin editing. Let it grow in your mind.

Move on to the next project while you’re letting your fields lie fallow. Because that’s what you’re doing.

For those who aren’t farmers, or gardeners, or have never heard the term, lying fallow is what you do when you have several crops. You rotate your growing spaces. You move crops from field to field. Never grow the same thing twice int he same space. That way, you don’t deplete the soil, you don’t burn out the nutrients. You let the soil enrich naturally. Those fields are your stories. You let them lie fallow so they can enrich and replenish, and grow stronger when you DO go back to plant.

But here’s the key for me: always finish ONE thing before starting a new one. I know, I know. Your brain itches. Your fingers want to run off and do the new shiny.

This is where the discipline comes in. You NEED to finish. And running off and starting a new project while you’re int he middle of one already is like planting corn in a field half-sown with peas. It’s gonna be harder to do both, keep them separate, and do them WELL.

To sum up: write every day. FINISH YOUR CURRENT PROJECT. Let them sleep for a while.

Your writing will be better for it. Your brain will construct new pathways, allowing each project to have its own little niche. And you’ll soon have product to push.

And remember: as if writing wasn’t hard enough, as if FINISHING wasn’t hard enough, as if this whole thing wasn’t hard enough… this is the EASY part, folks. =)

The editing, marketing, and selling is WAY more demanding and finicky than telling the stories. You’re not gonna enjoy all of it. Especially not as much as telloing a great story. But you WILL get through it.

WE will get through it.

Stay tuned, stay hopeful, stay writing.


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