Basics of writingGuest postsNovel writing

The value of one hour

NOTE FROM RICK: During the month of August Scott and I will be taking a hiatus from the Write Well blog while they work on their Punctuation for Fiction Writers book. In the meantime, I (Rick) obtained permission from 13Thirty Books (a new endeavor of which my brother Lance is a part) to repost some of their excellent blog entries, which contain excellent and encouraging advice for writers.

I’ve selected four of their previous posts that especially mirror the philosophy and purpose of Write Well, Write To Sell. They post new blog entries frequently, so please check out their site for other good advice.


guest post by Adam Fenner

(reposted with permission from 13Thirty Books and with minor edits)

There are two incredibly difficult things about writing. The first, is sitting down, just dedicating oneself to sitting down in front of a computer and beginning to write. Second, is editing. After all your hard work, now it is time to rip it apart and turn it into something readable–and potentially marketable. Here I am going to talk about a simple rule to help create a steady output of written works.

My simple rule for myself is: one hour. No matter how bad or how busy my day is, I find one hour. I create it if I have to.

I’m a student, with a full class load, starting a small business, have a part-time job, a second part-time job, and currently working to create two games based on a fantasy world I created. That is me. There are plenty of others who work full time and have family responsibilities in addition to whatever else may come up. We are all approximately in the same boat.

I am going to begin by doing some simple math to demonstrate the value of one hour.

I write at an average of about 1,000 words an hour. They may not be good words, but they are on paper. I am going to take that one hour of 1,000 words and show how that can be converted into real output.

1 hour x 1,000 words = 1,000 words per day.

Easy enough so far.

There is an average of 30 days in a month.

30 days X 1,000 words per day = 30,000 words per month.

Let us also assume that the average novel is 90,000 words.

I assume that the majority of you can see where I’m going with this.

90,000 words/30,000 words per month = 3 months.

In 3 months I can potentially write the rough draft of a full length novel. Now, of course, I use the word rough as it is intended. I’m not sending my rough draft to my agent or publisher as is. It needs to be edited. A lot. But it is a start.

I’m going to offer some general rules of thumb to think about when one is finally able to sit down for their one hour.

The first being: just write.

If you get stuck on the perfect way for your character to enter the scene, that is okay. Write something simple which gets it done, and move on. An acceptable solution now, followed by forward progress, is better than a brick wall and no progress. If your dialogue is crummy and bland, keep writing. Within my writing group, and with working among other authors, I have heard countless times:

“I loved that scene.”

“Really? Because I thought I was writing garbage?”

Moral of the story: just write. You never know how it may be read by someone else.

Don’t waste your time going over and editing your previous work.

This isn’t the time for that. Take a glance at what you last wrote and keep moving. You can edit later. If you spend thirty minutes editing now, then that is thirty potential minutes of output that you have lost. Because, when you hold your beautiful, completed manuscript in your arms for the first time, after that last piece of punctuation is typed, you will learn the hard work is only beginning.

Establish something habitual.

This is a broad statement. What I mean is, do something the same way every time to let your body and your brain know it is time to write. Signal to your muses, “Let’s do this.” This is something I will expound upon in later blogs, but take control of your muses, don’t let them grab you as they see fit. I mean, listen when they speak, but they should also sing on command. This takes time and a bit of training. For me and many of my fellow writers, it involves a favorite spot in the house, and a glass of some spirited drink. I prefer the dining room table with a cold bottle of beer. Which leads me to my final guideline.

Don’t be beaten by change.

For a length of time, I’ve been happy with my beer at the dining room table, in my quiet house, listening to the hum of my refrigerator. But in the near future, I may have to find my one hour leaning against the side of an armored vehicle, or on a bunk bed after everyone has fallen asleep. What I’m trying to say is: don’t allow yourself to make excuses. Life happens, a child in the hospital, a major project which is due, whatever it may be, but don’t duck out on your hour because you had a bad day at work or you drank all the beer (It happens to the best of us.).

To wrap things up: one hour a day could be the difference between taking four years to write a manuscript (i.e. my second one), or months, as I’m hoping to do with my next one. Accomplishing this is all a part of prioritizing and time management.

And here I thought writing was something people who didn’t want to get a job did.

–Adam Fenner

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