Went for a nice walk in our Little Forest yesterday with the Creature With Fangs and my Beloved Husband.
Whilst perambulating, I came across
Aside from tromping through the snow, yesterday was an excellent writing day. I tried to take a break to watch the All-Star football game, but honestly, I couldn’t get into it.
Now, to Batch #2, (I will get to all of your questions, I promise, even if it take a couple of weeks.)
You asked: When you’re working, how do you measure progress? I’ve set a personal daily goal of 2000 words a day (1000 before lunch, 1000 after dinner) and try not to type less than that many a day.
I know other authors just spend X hours on the computer and are happy with whatever comes out.
DO you have a recommendation?
It depends on two things: what kind of book I’m trying to write and where I am in my writing process.
Right now I’m working on a historical novel. For me, that means I spend a lot more time up-front developing and polishing the two plot strands – the exterior plot of the story that deals with the historical events (CHAINS = occupation of New York City by the British in 1776) and the interior plot arc of my main character, which must be woven in with the historical events.
Right now I have all of the historical plotting done on my current Work In Progress. I’m still refining the interior stuff of my main character. In the last week, I tossed an entire sub-plot tangent that bogged down the book and took my character to a really dumb place. So sometimes, you can measure progress by what you are throwing out!
When I have the bones of my plot laid down, and I understand my character’s internal journey, then I let my imagination run and my fingers fly. At this point – if family demands and publicity needs can be kept at bay – I try to write a minimum of 10 pages a day, though it can be a lot more than that. These are not polished pages, not at all. This is letting the magic of story – circumscribed by the limits of my plot structure – flow.
After that comes the slow and painstaking revision process. Sometimes that means one page a day, but if I’ve done my job, it is a well-written page. Different writing tasks require different measuring sticks.
As always, a caution. This is the way the writing process works for me. Every writer develops her own style, so feel free to ignore all of my advice!
Another note – the process for my YA novels is different. Someone ask me about that later in the week, please.
You asked: what kind of educational background do you have and do you think it prepared you to be a writer. what other things helped you be a better writer?
I did not go to college straight after high school. I worked at the mall and later on a farm. When I was ready to go to school, I went to Onondaga Community College in Syracuse NY and got an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. I LOVED community college. It had terrific professors and I could afford it. I did so well there that the nice people at Georgetown University gave me a big honking scholarship. That, combined with a lot of student loans, let me go there. I studied foreign languages and linguistics. I avoided the English department and did not take any creative writing classes.
What prepared me to be a writer was reading thousands of books, writing – for fun – not worrying about publication, and learning how to observe people and human behavior. I also had a job for a while as a freelance newspaper reporter. That helped me learn about deadlines and not being afraid to revise my work.
There are a few people who go to college and come out with the skills, perspective, and experience to launch themselves into a career as a full-time writer, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen to too many people. Go to college, study what sounds interesting, and figure out how to get a decent day job that will pay your bills. Then write for fun. Again, other authors did it differently. But it worked for me.
AFTER you reach your writing goal today, head over to Fuse #8 to watch the hands-down best video ever from the world of children’s publishing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It’s long, but so worth it. Go to the bathroom first so you don’t ruin your pants.)