Sunday, May 15, 2011

Writing Habits...

Reading and writing a lot are the keys to becoming a successful writer. You have to do both in order to succeed. No if's, and's, or but's about it. If you don't have the desire to do both, then you don't belong in the game. My reading habits are scattershot, but I go through about 40-50 novels a year, mostly in the crime/mystery genre. Some literary fiction slips through with the occasional spy novel, but my books tend to congregate in the world made famous by Hammett, Chandler, Cain, and the other "boys in the back room."

As for writing, well... this does tend to vary from writer to writer. My own habits have gone through a few changes over the years. I used to be much faster, knocking out three to four thousand words a day. Problem was the work wasn't very good and full of mistakes. So I started changing my habits a few years ago and now I tend to write 1,000 to 1,500 words a day. Sometimes I'll catch fire and nudge my way to 3,000, but those are few and far between.

I do all of my daily writing in one sitting and at the very least I try to complete a scene or two. I focus all of my energy like a guided missile on that scene or scenes and everything else after is a mystery. Before I start writing the new work, though, I go back and rework the material I wrote the day before. Most of the editing is minor house-cleaning. Getting rid of extra words and dialogue that don't fit with the story. Some extra work is sometimes needed and maybe other scenes or bits related to character motivation will also need to be excised, but that doesn't happen often.

I type really fast so my work tends to be done in an hour or two. Some might think this is lazy, but mentally I am spent after writing those couple of scenes. I throw everything I have in the tank and then some. I suppose I could learn some endurance, but when you work other jobs you have to take the time that you're given and make the most of it. If I were a full-time writer, sure, I might stretch it out a little, but I think I would go crazy if I spent six or seven hours writing. There comes a point when you just need to shut the brain off and work on something else. Let the brain recharge and come back to the work later or the next day with a renewed perspective and a fresh eye. You'd be amazed at how well this works.

Any revisions I make after I've completed the book tend to be minor and, again, related to character motivation, character relationships, and any other phrases that tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Since I've been revising and fact-checking my own work along the way, the revisions as a whole tend to be minor. Is it a perfect system? I doubt it, but no one has ever gotten it exactly right. That's not an excuse for a laziness, but a simple reality. I'll throw everything I have to get it right, knowing I won't be 100% accurate in my goals and desires.

All the more reason to try again and do better the next time, using the lessons I've learned from the last story and the stories that preceded it to try again.

It's always about the next one.

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