R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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Gettin' right back to where we started from...

After struggling with my writing for the last six months, I've come to the conclusion that even though I learned a few useful things from First Draft in 30 Days, overall it's done me a great deal more harm than good.

Yes, it taught me how to construct a functional plot outline, and reminded me of all the diverse elements I need to consider when writing a book. But at the same time, it made me paranoid about my writing method, and worried that it wasn't efficient enough to sustain a professional career. Since then I've been staggering from one unrealistic goal to another, feeling more like a failure all the time, and getting very little pleasure out of the writing process as a result.

First I tried Fast Draft, or as near to it as I could get -- 2000 words a day for a month, with little or no revision. And from that experience I learned that while Fast Draft may be very useful for writers who have difficulty outlining or finishing stories, it is not useful to me. I wrote 50,000 words on Touching Indigo during that time, but I nearly burned myself out in the process, and came very close to hating the book and my characters as a result. And so far hardly any of those words have made it into the second draft.

At that point I realized that I needed to go back to my old, slow-but-thorough method of writing a sentence, deleting it, rewriting it, rearranging it, writing the next sentence, deleting it and the first one, rewriting them both and so on, until I had a scene that was as good as I knew how to make it at that point in time. And the next day I would go back over that scene and tweak it before starting fresh on the next scene -- all things that the other, hyper-efficient methods had been telling me not to do, at least not on the first draft. And who knows, perhaps they're right that revising as you go wastes a lot of time and effort, but personally I can't feel happy about moving forward unless I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far -- and that requires quality and attention to detail, not just wordcount.

But I still couldn't let go of the wordcount idea. After all, wasn't it important to have Goals? And not to waste a moment of my precious writing time? Surely, all I needed was to find the right wordcount for me, something that would take into account my natural pace as a writer but still give me pride in having met my daily goal. So I tried writing 900 words a day, then 750 words a day, then 500, dutifully reporting my counts on a daily basis. But more often than not, I ended up writing fewer words than I thought I should, and feeling like a failure as a result.

So I'm getting off the wordcount bandwagon. From now on, my only goal is to write for at least two hours every day, and quit when I'm reasonably satisfied with what I've got, whether it's 1000 words or 500 or only 50. After all, despite what all the efficiency experts say, it's always worked for me before. I wrote my first novel There Came a Traveller (120K) in six months, the first version of Knife (85K) in eight months, and the original Darkness and Light trilogy (110K) in about a year (including the gaps between, when I wasn't even sure there would be another story let alone how long it would be). To me that proves that even if I'm "wasting" a lot of effort polishing paragraphs and scenes to a high gloss only to throw them out on the next revision, it can't be holding me back that much. So forget other people's ideas of efficiency, I'm going back to what works for me.

And there's one thing I've really been missing, the thing that has always kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep writing when I'd otherwise be tempted to slack off or quit -- but I'll save that for tomorrow's post.
Tags: fast draft, first draft in 30 days, wordcount, writing
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