Writing Rules!

I came across a journal entry today that began, “Lingering covid symptoms meant more binging of shows this weekend. Specifically The Sandman.”

That was it. Really, Amy Jane? You couldn’t be bothered to leave even a three word review? Because I remember nothing about this show so many years later. I think I stopped watching after a few episodes. Mainly because I’m not into horror. It doesn’t do much for me, and I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to violence, threats of violence, and their ilk. Too often women become set dressing in these stories, and that gets pretty upsetting pretty fast. Disgust and fear aren’t fun emotions for me.

TBH, I’m not a big Neil Gaiman fan. There are two short stories of his that I thoroughly enjoy. “Chivalry” is one of them. His “October” story from The Calendar of Tales is the other. Oh, and Fortunately, the Milk is a fun, quick read aloud that never disappoints.

What I am a big fan of is Neil Gaiman’s 8 rules for writers. And it’s the first that I wanted to blog about today.

 

  1. Write.

 

It seems so simple doesn’t it? If you want to be a writer, write. But then you put it into practice and realize that it is actually not simple. When do you find time to write? For how long should you write? Why should you write? What should you write?

I’ve been writing commercial fiction for over ten years now. I’ve written dozens of short stories and personal essays, many of which have even been published. I’ve completed and published three novels. I’ve queried. I’ve done forays on social media, which I ultimately ended for my safety and well being. I keep a blog. I have a monthly newsletter. I’ve queried. I’ve entered contests. And I have five novels I’m currently writing that are in various states of still not finished. I am writing, but most days it feels like I am spinning my wheels, not moving anywhere. Not making progress. Why?

Let’s talk about math.

5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 60

In math those two sides of the equation are the same thing. But in life twelve blocks of five minute increments do not equate to one block of 60 minutes. It took me years to understand this. Sure I can plop my computer on the kitchen counter and type a few sentences as I cook, clean, parent, but that output is nowhere near as good as when I stay up late for an extra hour or two (or seven if I’m having a really good time) and just write. Sick days and late nights were the only times I ever wrote when my babies were little. And its no shocker that so many of the authors that were young mommies like me thanked their babies who took daily epic three-hour long naps in their acknowledgements because look at that blocks of uninterrupted time.

I’ve been reading Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson and remembering that this book came to be because of a Kickstarter campaign, I decided to do a little research. I cam across this video:

Sandeson (whom I’ve taken to calling Brando Sando) talks about blocks of time. Ramping up writing speeds of 800 to 1000 words an hour. Not revising as you are actively drafting. Finding 8 hours a week to do what has to be done. And then, the thing that made me go, “Ah-ha!’ Blocking out time for the other writing things that come with writing, but you don’t include in writing. For Brandon it is agent phone calls, YouTube videos, teaching, and this is all packed into an entire non-writer day.

For me this would be blog posts, newsletters, author emails, market research, visual content creation, reviews, agendas, planning. All of the tasks that I’m just magically supposed to do as an author, but don’t.

I often work myself into a corner of inactivity with trying to manage all of the everything. How can I best use my 40 free minutes of time before the laundry needs to be changed, kids need chauffeuring to extra curriculars, and the appointments start. I should write! But what should I write? I am behind on everything. My to do lists of what could be done are overflowing. Do I work on the authorpreneurial stuff or the novels? How do I find balance? All of it feels too much. Wow, I just spent 37 minutes trying to prioritize my time, and now I have three minutes left to do something. Better eat a cookie.

But after watching subject matter expert Sanderson tell me what I already know–If you want to be a writer, you need to schedule blocks of time for writing. And then schedule 20 percent of the time that you do have for this author thing towards the business/marketing side–Wow. Yes. This makes sense. No wonder I have all these unfinished incomplete manuscripts. Wow, it turns out that if you want to write you have to treat it like a job where you dedicate actual hours towards working away at it. Make sense. I can try that.

Only problem is it is summer. And I do not have any time that I can reliably set aside because I am the captain and director of the annual Trent Family Summer Ship that cruises every year for the months of May, June, July, and August. So I am falling back on my default: Try to write something everyday. It’s not as impressive as Neil Gaiman’s advice or Brando Sando’s, but checking that writer box anyway I can is all I’ve got for my structured/unstructured summer. And that’s okay. Seasons change. Lots of good writing happens away from the notebooks and keyboards. Some of the best writing in fact.

What writing advice have you come across that has changed your perspective? Are you a fan of any authors because they have really good advice about craft, but you aren’t so into their fiction?

what do you think?

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