Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Writers as Machines

When I first thought about writing, in my 20s, I could touch type quite fast and reckoned typing 1000 words in an hour was achievable.  Then work a 9-5 day, with a hour off for lunch, and another hour for breaks in the morning and afternoon.  That was 6 hours = 6,000 words per day.  5 days a week = 30,000 words.  There!  A 90,000 word novel in 3 weeks flat.  What was wrong with that?

Nothing, except it didn't work.  

Writers are not machines and there is more to writing than just typing words on a page. I have a lazy streak and sometimes I have to make myself write (I always enjoy it once I get going, just getting going can be a trial at times).  Other times,  the well of creativity has run dry. When my father died, I didn't write for three months, but I've had other fallow patches - usually after a big burst of creativity.  

You have to judge for yourself if you're being lazy, or just need a bit of creative down time.  Even machines need fuel to run.    


Philip C James said...

Great, motivating post, Sarah. Felt really low yesterday but your words and other factors meant I still managed to write 885 words. That's more than I expected (that's the other side of setting targets, even implicitly, of course. It may not seem much compared to others yet it leaves a good feeling and establishes a positive momentum for writing).

So if you are going to set a word count target, perhaps the secret is to set it lower than you otherwise might?

Sorry to read about the loss of your father. I hope no-one was expecting you to write to order in those circumstances.

Carol McGrath said...

yes, motivating which I am finding so hard at the moment. But it is not always quantity is it though I wish I could touch type.

Liz Harris said...

That's so true, Sarah.

And it's not just covering the screen with words, it's covering it with quality words.

Liz X

Sarah Duncan said...

Hooray, Phil, for getting your word count done - 885 is great, and of course it's 885 more words than nothing. Thanks for your kind words re my father - my editor was v understanding (but I did still hit my deadline...)

Carol - motivation can be hard to find. I think the answer is to accept you're going to have times when you're just creeping forwards. We can't be racing cars all the time! Touch typing has been an absolute boon - I learned when I was in my Gap Year.

Liz, that's very true, it's not always about quantity, quality matters too.

Charlotte Sannazzaro said...

What a timely post. There seems to be so much out there about improving your daily word count, how to write faster, people who finish books in weeks... it can make a writer feel somewhat inadequate when we use our free time for just daydreaming about our characters. But without the daydreaming, there would be no new plot points to type. As a pantser, I can't make myself outline a whole book despite my best efforts. I need time away from the screen to let the story perculate. And at other times, as you've mentioned, life sucks the muse dry. It can be depressing to see the word count remain constant, for whatever reason. Thanks for reminding us we shouldn't expect to be machines.

Sarah Duncan said...

Charlotte - I think there's a lot of pressure on writers to produce because there are some people who write vast quantities v easily. But it's a rare person who writes quality in vast quantities first time off...