Monday, March 25, 2013

Something different

I know I keep referring to Eugenia’s February post about the business of writing.  I can’t seem to get past the suggestion of writing 1000 words per hour.  I have responded to that post both with a comment and a post of my own.  I have even tried writing 1000 words per hour and came to a conclusion that it was burn out central.  But I can’t seem to shake the nagging feeling that I need to approach my writing a little more like a business.

For years writing has been a hobby and a passion and I treated it like that.  I wrote when I wanted to.  I wrote what I wanted to.  I wrote how I wanted to.  It made me happy, but if I was to live by the fruit of my writing, I would be happy but impoverished.  Eugenia’s post got me thinking (more like obsessing) about what would happen if I treated my writing more like a business than a hobby.  So for this month I decided to try something different; something outside my comfort zone.  I decided to write a 30 000 word novella in three weeks.  Not only that, I decided to write suspense, a genre that I have not written before, and using characters based on popular fiction. 

That required some change in my writing process(es) and my organization.  Since characters were based on popular fiction I had to first do a total immersion in the fiction. I had to read lots of suspense/mystery novels and watch suspense movies galore to get into the mode. Normally I write by the seat of my pants.  My working outline is the story in my head, I know how it’s going to end (though nothing is written down) and I see the characters and scenes like I do a movie.  However, for this project I had to write a detailed outline, character sketches, and relationship maps to see how the characters related to each other. 

Remember I wanted to do 30 000 words in three weeks?  Well that means 10 000 words a week or about 1400 words a day (note I said day not hour).  But with the first week spent in total immersion and planning and outlining, it only leaves two weeks for actual writing.  That’s a little over 2100 words a day.  Now I know you’re thinking that’s not much.  But throw in work, three young kids, and a household to run, and writing time is as precious as it is scarce.

I was determined. So I reorganized my day, measured the amount of time spent actually writing (I don’t have the Facebook distraction problem many have) vs. the amount of keepable words.  I have found ways to occupy my kids that allows me to work for longer than a few minutes at a time, without resorting to television as a baby sitter.

It has been two weeks since I made the commitment and guess what? I am over 20 000 words with a nicely developing story.  I know I didn’t do a thousand words an hour, but I have managed to carve the time out to write efficiently and effectively.   And you know what?  I am enjoying it. 
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get out of my comfort zone and try something that I haven’t tried before.  I guess I can put that resolution down as QED and I love it. 

And an important lesson I have learned: I can treat writing like a business and still be passionate about it.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've come to the conclusion that I'll never make writing my business until I retire. I just can't do such things as trying to write a 1000 words an hour, and I don't imagine I'd want to read the writing of anyone who did.

Jewel Amethyst said...

That was my attitude to it a month or so ago. But I decided to try to challenge myself. I am amazed to find that I really enjoyed the challenge. Could I write 1000 words an hour? Well if I'm only writing for about one hour or two, maybe. But then I get burnt out.

My aim is not 1000 words an hour but to become better organized and challenge myself to be a more productive author.

Julie Luek said...

I just had a conversation about this with a friend on Facebook. She said she felt like she was so focused on the product of writing, that the fun was being sucked out of writing, something that usually brings her such joy. On the other hand, writing, at least for me with first drafts, is rarely joyful. It truly is about pushing through, getting words down, writing, working and producing. And ironically, it's the product and the refinement of that product that is the joy-- the art. As far as a word limit or count, I'm not at that place, but sitting my butt down in a chair and writing? Most definitely.

G. B. Miller said...

At this stage of my life, I'm lucky if I can drop 300 words an hour w/o artificial help. With artificial help(aka voice recognition) I could probably meet the goal of 1,000 words per hour.

However, for me at least, it seems a bit slower as now I have to sit and think about what I want to say, instead of simply typing it out. So I don't think I'm gaining much in the way of speed.

But, it is what it is.

Eugenia O'Neal said...

Wow, Jewel! That's fantastic. I'm glad you didn't just dismiss the idea out of hand but were open to trying something new. I have to say that I only made it to 1,000 words per hour one hallowed Saturday a couple weeks back when I had a very clear idea of the scenes I wanted to write, which characters would have what attitude, the setting, etc. Oh, and I limited myself to only a couple posts on FB that day.
I'd love to duplicate that again but haven't quite gotten there yet.

William Doonan said...

Damn - that is impressive. How is the story working out? If I could write effectively at that volume, I might start thinking about ramping it up as well. I'm eager to hear/read the results of your experiment.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Julie, that was the source of my reservations at first, that I would not enjoy it, but in the end I had fun. I think the fun part came from achieving something that was out of my comfort zone and discovering that I can be more organized.

Would I repeat it on a regular basis? That's still left to be seen.

Jewel Amethyst said...

G.B., if I had to do voice activation I would be down to one word per hour. With my lisp and my accent I can't even get my phone to place a call. Voice activated stuff don't go well with me. But it helps that I'm a fast typist having taken typing back when they still offered such courses in school. And I did it on a manual typewriter (probably only available in museums now)

Jewel Amethyst said...

Eugenia, I haven't reached 1000 words in one hour, but I did reach 1200 in an hour and a half so that isn't to bad. Of course I had to take a break from the entire story for the rest of the day :).

William,I'll let you know when I've completed it. I have about 2 more chapters to go and I am already at 26000 words.

bettye griffin said...

Congratulations, Jewel! I, too, decided that in order to be competitive I needed to get these stories I have outlined actually written and up for sale.

I had a very ambitious schedule for the first four months of the year, including eBook reissues in January and March (both done; I had to proof them after having the actual book contents scanned), plus new releases in February and April (the February eBook was uploaded mid-month; it took 90 days from typing the first word to entering the last of the edits, which makes me very proud). I am currently working on my April release. I don't try to produce words by the hour, but instead by the day, with a minimum of 1000, usually broken up into two, sometimes three writing sessions. It has worked beautifully, and it is already paying off...

Liane Spicer said...

Way to go, Jewel. I know better than to try 1000 words an hour - although it has happened serendipitously in the past when I'm really in the flow.

Since last October I've been much more productive, especially during the Christmas holidays when I wrote and released a 36000 word novella, completed a short story and released it in an anthology with a few others I had released as singles, and edited and released a short for an author with my press. I've slowed down over the past two months because of other priorities, but once they're out of the way I'm getting right back on that productivity horse.

Lynn Emery said...

Interesting, good luck! I've had authors chastise me for talking about approaching writing as a business, even with some saying, "I don't want to be a business person".
This has mystified me since it's all in our control. No one forces any of us to do any "business" writing stuff we don't want to do. If anything kills the joy, the stop doing it. There are so many choices and ways to run your business and love the writing.