Thursday, March 31, 2016

Writing without a schedule.

In some purely artistic world, you wouldn't write to a schedule. You'd write when you were inspired. It would take as long as it takes.

I have a couple of problems with that.

First of all, under this blanket unending process, I'd probably never finish a book. I usually have a set time I try to write a book, a certain number of days, a certain number of words a day. It's this self-imposed discipline that results in a finished book.

The length of the book, the number of days I take, the number of words per day I try to write, seems to vary a lot, depending on the book, depending on my mood, depending on outside factors.

But the schedule I arrive at becomes binding, somehow, even though it is completely arbitrary. 

Secondly, there are those outside factors to take into account. If you have publishers, you have to try to fit your books into their schedule. The same thing with an editor and a book cover artist. I'm constantly juggling these factors.

I tend to stockpile my books, getting the editing and the cover art and the chance to submit to a publisher when I can. They don't usually come along at the same time.

So perforce, because my editors and my artists and my publishers all have a schedule, I too must have a schedule.

On writing days, and most of my days are scheduled as writing days, there is no particular hourly schedule. From the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed, writing is always lurking. I tend to focus around 11:00 on, until around 7:00, but allow myself to work outside that. I don't write all those 8 hours, but I'm thinking about it.

Lately, sometime in late afternoon, I go for my 5 mile walk, and that's where the ideas I've been playing with begin to coalesce and I get words on screen. (The walking--writing connection has become so strong a trigger, I'm actually a little worried about it.)

It is this freeing up of at least 5 days a week, at least 8 hours a day, which has made me so prolific. I don't run out of ideas, I just run out of time.

Once I came back to writing, I sort of vowed to say "Yes" to every decent idea that came along. One way I've accomplished that is by being so disciplined. If I write 6 days a week, and I give over the whole day to writing, 2000 words a day isn't that extraordinary. In fact, if you give it that much time and attention and can't do that many words, you're probably overthinking it.

Well, in the course of a year, that's one hell of a lot of words. Even if you take, say, 1/4 of the available time for rewriting, it still produces a bunch of stories. (For me, taking more than that much time on rewriting is overdoing it--I almost always make the book worse instead of better.)

Anyway, as you can see, I've worked out a process.

With the latest book, "Fairy Punk," I reached the point in the book where I'd usually be crafting an ending, making sure the plot all comes together.

But I've decided this time not to truncate the "quest" just because I have some artificial schedule. This time, I'm going to keep writing as long as the journey is interesting.

It also turns out, because of the scheduling with my outside factors, that I more or less have an extra month or two to write if I want to take them.

So I'm writing this book without a particular pressure to complete it within a certain amount of time. The only requirement is that I keep to my daily schedule and that I continue to enjoy writing it.

It would be kind of cool to make it an "epic." Somewhere north of 150K words. I don't think that is going to happen, but a 100K is pretty much within reach.

But that's just it. I'm leaving it open-ended. There is no schedule for finishing, and I'm sort of enjoying that freedom.

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