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Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Many Words Do You Write?

John Braine (author of the Room at the Top series) once said, "A writer is someone who counts words."

Do you?

You should - because it's a sure fire way of getting around writer's block -and a good way of keeping yourself on track.

Having specific word counts to aspire to, will keep you writing more - and for longer. You'll have more to show for your efforts, more to submit, and consequently more work coming in. Your writing success is directly correlated to your word count.

Last night I was talking to a writer - well, someone who wanted to be a full time writer - and she told me she'd taken a year to get to her manuscript to where it was now. I asked, casually of course, how many words she'd written so far.

Four thousand, she said. Four thousand! G'ah - that's less than eleven words a day - what's she doing, I thought, chiseling them in stone?

By stunning contrast, Robyn held the whip to me yesterday (metaphorically speaking) and I produced 2500 words for a treatment we have to get to a producer by 5pm today. And I did that between 10am and 2pm - taking a break to make lunch - because I had to pick up the kids at 3. Talk about pressure!

But I think this is the point. If you don't pressure yourself, you ain't never gonna have enough words down to make you a contenda (to mis-quote Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront'!)

Writing something every day is important. Pushing your limit is important too. It doesn't matter if you start out writing just eleven words a day - as long as you consciously try and increase that amount as each day passes.

I try to write - actually try is not the word, have to write would be more truthful - at least 500 words a day or I feel bad, like I've failed in some unannounced contest. 2000 words and I feel good- complete somehow.

Which means that I could have written my friend's manuscript in two days - rather than take a year over it.

I know this is common amongst writers.

People call themselves writers because they have a writing project on the boil - whether they're actually working on it actively or not. I used to do this too. I felt like a writer because I had a novel that I would dip into every now and then. I spent years like this, believing myself a writer because I wrote sometimes.

Now I know different. Writing for a living means exactly what the phrase suggests: you write because you have to live, and you live to write. Writing becomes the center of your life - and you make a living from it!

The whole idea of that seemed like a fantasy before I took the plunge - before I realized I just had to let go of the silly 9 to5. Before I realized that holding on to a false sense of security was wasting my time - time that could be better spent being a writer.

That would be my advice to you. Don't wait, plan and dream to be a writer. Just do it.

Take the chance - we're only here once, our lives are on loan.

Do what makes you happy.

Reject compromise. Reject criticism. Reject everything and everyone who would want to see you live a lesser life.

Simply, write, and...

Keep Writing!

Rob@easywaytowrite.com

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Writing the Big Scenes in Fiction

Let me ask you a question.

Do you avoid / dread / loathe writing the big scenes in your fiction?

Over the years I've noticed one of two things.

One, the writer is so nervous about writing the big important scenes that they will subconsciously avoid them by taking ages over getting to them.

Here's how it goes.

There's a crucial scene in the story where there's a confrontation or a climactic event - and the writer is creeping up towards it, filling the pages with exposition and preparatory dialogue - only to freeze just before 'the big scene' and put off writing anymore - sometimes for months or, in some cases, years.

The other scenario involves glossing over that part of the story. You'll often see writers fill pages with the run up to the big event - all nice showing instead of telling and yet, when it comes to 'the big scene' it's told from a distance or from an uninvolved point of view or, most commonly, in retrospect, after the event.

This might seem strange, though I think it's fairly common.

It's kinda related to what I was talking about in last week's newsletter - the idea that writers are sometimes afraid to confront their own deepest emotions. I think that in the same way most sane people avoid confrontation, writers will avoid opening themselves up to a challenge.

Climactic set pieces make very compelling reading. Writers are often judged by their ability to pull them off - and perhaps that's the problem. Writers don't want to be judged by writing that is focussed, action based and as graphic as an open wound.

We'd prefer to hide behind the relative comfort of internal dialogue, character exposition and literary description. Mistake!

'Big scenes' normally involve heightened emotion - something not all writers are comfortable describing - because I assume they're worried that their particular experience of heightened emotion seems so personal - even private.

But that's the point. Readers want to know what other people's heightened emotions are like!

They want to experience the thrill of adventure, danger, risk, marriage, death, murder and the myriad of other BIG emotions any one of us may fall victim to.

It's important not to shy away from the challenging - in life and your writing. Challenging yourself makes you grow - gain wisdom and lead a more fulfilling life.

You don't have to drive Speedway cars to describe the thrill of it. You can use your imagination - that's what it's for - and describe what you feel for the benefit of readers.

In a sense that's your job - to give a reader the experience of 'being there' without them having to leave their armchair.

You owe it to your readers to confront the big scenes.

As an exercise, try writing JUST big scenes - especially if you're a little afraid of them. I think you'll find that they're very satisfying to complete, even if they might take just a little longer to get right.

Get straight into the action. Keep the sentences relatively short and describe ONLY what is happening.

I'm sure you'll benefit - and so will your readers.

Keep Writing!

Rob@easywaytowrite.com

The Easy Way to Write

Welcome to the official blog of the Easy Way to Write from Rob Parnell, updated weekly - sometimes more often!