I love reading writing advice. Whether it’s plain grammar stuff, about style or flow, about scenes or chapters or characters or world-building, about how to balance writing with the rest of your life, how to manipulate yourself into getting work done – it’s great, and I suck it up like a sponge. I love to learn.
But sometimes it depresses me, too. I’m a very disorganised writer – probably because I’m a very disorganised person. I don’t work well with schedules, I get up ridiculously late, I procrastinate, I play games and watch TV when I should write, all those things. I can stick to a schedule of 1000 words a day, or 1500 words a day, or 4000 words a day, but never for long.
Here’s some random information about my novels:
My first book, Wielders, took from January 2008-August 2008 to write. Lots of times I managed 2000 words in a day. Lots of times I went weeks without writing a word. Writing this book was not a good experience: part of this is because I started writing it in the very last year of art school, so I was stressed out with graduating, and after graduating, I really just wanted to do nothing for a while. It got done, though, and after years and years of never managing to write more than, say, 4000 words on a single story, it felt amazing.
Which gave me the confidence to try NaNoWriMo that same year. And, lo and behold, I knocked out over 70000 words in ten days. Always Read the Fae Print was born. The first four or so days, I wrote at least 10k a day.
That, too, felt amazing.
In 2009, I didn’t write much in the way of novels. I wrote a few short stories, and spent a lot of time revising the two novels I’d written then. I tried NaNoWriMo again that November, fed up with my lack of new-wordage: the first hour, I wrote 1600 words on a sequel to Fae Print, shelved it, and worked on a different project. I got to almost 19000 words before calling it quits. The project didn’t feel right, I had to produce a lot of artwork on a very short deadline for an upcoming exposition, and my cat Shady, who’d been with me nineteen years, died.
In March 2010, I started up again, this time with The Hands of Cally Wu. I wrote on a mostly steady schedule of 1000-1500 words a day, rarely less and often more, felt good about my productivity, and wrote about 40000 words in three weeks.
Then I put it on halt. I needed to do some brainstorming and get other things done – short stories, another round of Fae Print edits based on awesome beta feedback, beta-ing books for others…
I didn’t get back to it until mid-May. Since then, I’ve written about 12000 words. This past week? I wrote 400 words. No more. Not because I had other things to do, because I didn’t, really, and not because I didn’t want to, because I woke up every day telling myself I’m going to write now.
It just didn’t happen. I procrastinated. Sat around uselessly. (Well, okay. I did a lot of plotting, and feel like 250% better about the new ending I have planned. But still. No words.)
So, like I said, I’m disorganised. It’s frustrating, sometimes, to see people knock out words on a regular schedule, to make self-imposed deadlines, and talk about The Right Way to Write. Because I’d like to be able to do all that. That’s the weird thing: I’m only disorganised when it comes to getting things done. In my head, I’m totally anal-retentive about making lists, compartmentalising, schedules, all those things. Getting something done, though, especially on my own schedule, is hell. I don’t know if it’s simply me, or because my brain tends to work differently – autism and ADHD are having a big ol’ party in there so that probably affects some things – but it doesn’t matter.
Because in the end, you know… whatever. I get books done, I get them edited, I get them shipped off to beta readers and agents. I plan new books. I write those, too. I’m not always happy about the way it happens, but I’ve tried every other way and those didn’t work. Apparently, for me, the Right Way to Write is to go to bed late and to get up late and to marathon TV shows and doodle a lot and read other people’s books and play Worms on my cellphone. And then, when I feel like I’m ready to write, I throw words onto a screen until I get burned out, and then I take a breather for a few weeks or a few months and I do it again.
And however frustrating it can be for my oh-so-organised brain… in the end, the book gets done, and that part always, always feels good.
All of this is a really roundabout way of saying that you should read these blog posts by Hannah Moskowitz and Elana Johnson, because they both made me scream “YES! WHAT THEY SAID!” out loud and freak out my darling cat.
Also, I’ll stop with the stupidly long introspective posts soon. Probably when I get back into the practice of throwing words at a screen. I need to get this new-and-improved ending written some day!