One great thing about being in the early stages of learning anything is how fast you can improve. I’m pretty damn certain that every day over the past several months I have become a better writer and more likely to succeed in the business of writing. I’m equally sure that there will come days in the future where I will feel like I’m not getting better, or making progress. Those times, or plateaus, are commonly discussed in education theory and I believe they apply to most things in our lives. They can frustrate, but the secret at those times is to just keep pushing forward, maybe try to change-up some routines, and don’t stop putting in the time because you will break through the plateau eventually.
One of the best things I’ve learned about writing lately is something I’ve learned about myself. I love the rewrite. I like editing and revisions. It’s the first draft that I’m not too fond of. I find that getting out that first draft is really, really hard for me. I don’t do well at turning off my inner editor or my inner critic. I agonize and worry about every sentence. I reread and revise as I go. It’s a slow process and sometimes just getting started seems a truly daunting task.
But. Once I’ve got that first draft I really relax. I like going back through my work and changing, tweaking, tightening and generally improving it. I stress out when I’m faced with a big wall of white space that I’ve tasked myself to fill with prose, but I love when I’m faced with pages of prose I’ve tasked myself with improving.
My take away from this is that I must learn to embrace two of the most common pieces of writing advice I’ve come across:
1) Write everyday
2) Don’t be afraid to suck
If I don’t write those painful first drafts, then I’ve got nothing to revise. I need to get through the part I find hard before I can do the part I love. The best way to get those first drafts done is to just write them and not worry about how good they are. Once I’ve got something filling up all that white space I can sit down and turn it into something worthwhile.
So, to try and push myself to embrace these rules I’m setting a new goal: One short story a day.
Now that might seem like a crazy goal, especially considering I haven’t even hit my one story a week goal yet, but it’s really not.
First of all, that’s my goal, but I won’t feel bad if I miss it. It’s what I’m trying to build up to, I don’t expect to succeed right away. Secondly, they way I see it, if I’m aiming for a story a day I’m probably sure to at least hit a story a week. If I aim for a story a week and don’t make it then I’ve got nothing but an unfinished story to show for myself.
Third, a short story a day is really not asking too much. For proof I offer you some inspiration:
Chuck Wendig writes a bare minimum of 2000 words a day. His ideal is 3-4,000 a day. That is a story a day speed, unless your short stories are running to the long side. Which, I admit, mine so far are tending to. In addition to those word counts he also blogs several times a week, hangs out on twitter, has a wife and young son and probably does other things my spies haven’t reported on yet.
Matt Forbeck aims for 5000 words a day. Sometimes he hits it, sometimes he get’s more, sometimes he gets less. That, again, is a story a day rate of writing. Right now Matt is working on writing twelve 50,000 word novels in one year. On top of that he has other writing projects going on as well. Oh, and he has a wife and 5 kids; 4 of which are 10-year-old quadruplets. He’s on Twitter too, but not nearly so much as Chuck.
Brian Keene tweeted the other day that he had written 40,000 words that day. Of course, some people’s heads exploded. He insists that it is not that big of a deal. He also insists that it was a one time thing because he let a deadline come up on him and his daily average is around 5000 words. Again though, his daily average is a story a day. Sorry, I haven’t stalked him long enough to learn about his personal life. Though again: on Twitter.
Now, I know cranking out 5000 words of a single larger work is not the same thing as cranking out a complete story of 5000 words. Also, I understand that I’m referencing full time writers. But you want to know a little secret I’m figuring out? The folks who make it as full time writers generally work their asses off and crank out the words because they have to, because its their job and because they love writing.
So, that’s my new goal. A story a day, or at least a first draft of a story a day. Some days, like yesterday, I’ll make it. Some days, like today, I probably won’t. But I’m aiming high, because really – what’s the point of aiming anywhere else?