Part 2 in the series ‘ enhancing your creative writing talent ’. By Melissa A Joy, fantasy writer and Blackheath Dawn consultant writer.
How many words do you write per night? Do you ever feel that it’s enough? Sometimes, you might see posts from fellow authors who are already published, and they talk about how far they are with their next book. Some can write thousands of words in one sitting, but some can only write a few hundred. Are there any tricks to this? Do you want to write more in each session but don’t know how?
I feel like this myself as I write my debut fantasy novel. It happens night after night. A while back I was writing 600-1000 words a night, but now I’m writing a maximum of 500. It feels like you’re pushing a huge, heavy boulder, and after a few hundred words it’s like you’re exhausted and you can’t continue. I blame writer’s block, but there are ways of giving that block a bit of a shove while you work.
Does it have to be a bad thing though? It can be a bad thing if you’re working to a deadline, but on the other hand if you’re all rush rush rush about it then it’s likely to be a load of rubbish and you’ll have a lot more editing to do afterwards. Sometimes less words and more careful phrasing and description can allow for better quality of work and less re-writing later. However, I have a few methods that I work to when trying to combat the block:
- If inspiration is eluding you for one part of your novel’s plot, but you have ideas for another part (for example with another group of characters), then switch to it and move ahead. You can go back to the bit you’re stuck on later.
- Write what you can. If it’s 500, 5000, or 10,000 words in one sitting, you’re still making some headway. You may get stuck in a traffic jam, but every time you slide the car forwards a few feet, you’re still one step closer to home.
- Do some research on the subjects that you’re going to be writing about. Nine times out of ten, I’ve found something that’s given me some spark of an idea that eventually transformed into something fantastic.
- Shift chapters around a bit if it feels like it might serve the story better. I’ve done this several times to make room for bits and pieces that need to go in earlier rather than later.
- Read books by other authors. I stopped for a long time because I felt inadequate and it put me off. They were published, I wasn’t. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever done as an aspiring writer. Reading will help you find your author’s voice, and it will help to spark ideas move the block.
We all want to make headway as quickly as possible. We get excited about our work and we want to get it out there, some way, somehow. I keep having to tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I only write 500 words of an evening, or even 250. I’m still making progress. Setting yourself goals is a good idea, but you need to prepare yourself for them and ask yourself whether or not they’re achievable. Don’t set yourself too soon a goal for something that’s going to take longer to accomplish, or you’ll knock yourself for six and get disappointed – it’s happened to me a fair few times.
At the time of writing this, I’m still working on book 1 of a series I’d begun developing a world for when I was roughly thirteen or fourteen years old. I wanted to be published by the time I was 25. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, I didn’t have the heart to delve into my book all that much, so it didn’t get done. It took a lot longer than I anticipated to finish a novel writing course with the . On top of that, I wrote first few chapters again and again and again, and could get no further. Then I started reading again, and more ideas came to me. I experience a surge of determination, and now book 1 gradually approaches completion. So, however much you write in one sitting, progress is progress. And remember this; “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu (Confucius).
© Melissa A Joy, fantasy writer and Blackheath Dawn consultant writer, 2014