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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded #3: I know you're busy, but...

It happened again today.  I was having a nice conversation with someone, and he mentioned that he had an idea for a book he was going to write someday.

Now there's nothing wrong with having a good idea and sitting on it for awhile, until both the idea and you are ready.  And there's nothing wrong with having a cool idea for a book that you know you're never really going to write.  The potential heartbreak in this situation is embodied in the word "someday."

If you truly hope and plan to write a book or a story or your memoirs or a poem, you must decide to do it, then you must make it so.  If you're truly too busy now, then look ahead and make a plan.  Say, "When school starts and the kids are on a regular schedule, I will get up an hour early and work on my poetry before I start my day."  Or maybe you do have time now, if you tell yourself that you will have dinner with your family, but that they can then watch TV without you for a day or three per week. 

Notice that these plans do not involve the word "someday."  "Someday" is the enemy of dreams.

Before I wrote Artifacts, I wrote an environmental thriller called Wounded Earth.  It took me four years, because when I began it, I had three children under ten.  As I was finishing it, some dear friends introduced me to the legendary science fiction writer, Joe Haldeman, and his wonderful wife Gay.  I was gobsmacked with awe, particularly when Gay took me aside and said, "Do you want to see the Hugos?"  (Why, yes, I did.  They were kept next to the Hugos and the Nebulas and the World Fantasy Awards and...)  And I was mortified when my friends brandished the manuscript of my book, which they'd smuggled into the house with us.

I did not ask Joe to look at my manuscript.  (He said they got so many unsolicited manuscripts from people hoping for his help that they could use them for insulation.)  But I did take away something very valuable from that encounter, beyond a new friendship.  When my friends said, "Mary Anna's a writer!", Gay said just one thing.  "Do you write every day?"  And I was happy to say that I did, unless my family responsibilities kept me from it.  I found it very interesting to see that this was her criterion for whether an aspiring writer was really serious, and whether he or she had some potential for making it.

If you make time to write a single page three times a week, then you will have a draft of a 300-page book in 100 weeks...two years.  A single page a day, every day, will give you a book in a year. you write every day?


  1. MAE, have you ever heard of or worked with NaNoWriMo? That's the project that puts writers all over the known universe on the mission to write a full novel in a month. I'm not sure what month out of the calendar year they choose, but I DO notice less traffic in the fall ... so I'm thinking.

    Anyhow, I met someone who participated. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and evening pizza deliveries!

    And then I got to thinking that writing a LOT every day is not the same as writing WELL every day. But when a prolific writer combines dedicated butt plantage with equal commitment to EDITING, this is how good writing gets done.

    I love that you broke the process down mathematically. It seems so doable! Uh oh. I feel a novel coming on! Did you hear that Leanne has accepted my proposal for publication? I'm doing the whole book without VERBS! New genre! Totally unique! Very niche!

    Thank you, Blogger Babe. I'm learning SO much!

  2. One request - you need to put a "like" box on your blog. That way I can "like" it everyday. I am enjoying the inspiration. Thank you. This is a wonderful idea!

  3. I think NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a great idea to kickstart a book. I've never done it, but I'm sure it's an incredible learning experience to immerse yourself in a project so thoroughly.

    After the Mo is over, however, it will take several more Mos of editing and any number of rewrites before the finished book is likely to be the work of art it could be. So I see NaNoWriMo is the first step of many, but part of my point in this post is that a writer just *has* to take that first step. And the next and the next...

  4. A novel without verbs? Possible? Yes!!!!

  5. I'll talk to my webmaster about that box, Donna. Thank you!

    If it's connected with Facebook, though, I have to accumulate 20 followers in order to have a feed to Facebook. I've avoided asking regular readers to become followers, because that just seems sad, but if anyone is so inclined, it might make that "like" box possible.

    And while I'm talking about odious things like readership, I *do* have that silly "vote for me" box on the blog. This is a widget that's connected to a blog rater at The Huffington Post. The total views the blog gets, and the total number clicks on that "vote" button, per week, will determine how high I am on the list of blogs promoted on the HuffPo. So if anybody wants to click on that, early and often, I won't argue with you. :)

    And, oh heck. If you tweet or Facebook or whatever, and if you have some writer friends, let them know about this 30-day series of writing tips. I'm doing my best to pass along the things I wish I'd known ten years ago. Because I love you guys!

  6. Mary Anna, There's so much info here I've got to re-read!
    First I'll look for those darn buttons!

    Giggles and Guns

  7. I'm told that the "Vote for me" button is broken. But my webmaster tells me that the breakage is on the part of the "Vote for me" people, and that he thinks that the votes actually count anyway. Who in the heck knows? So click on it if you're so inclined, and maybe the truth will reveal itself...