That’s how long it’ll take to do just about anything. The decks? Two weeks. The engine? Two weeks. Stay on Mars? Two weeks. Repainting rooms? Rebuild an entire Money Pit? That’s easy. Two weeks. Two weeks. Setting up for a garage sale so I can unload as much as possible that I wouldn ‘t want to load on the boat (closing in on that ‘move on the boat’ part.) Yeah, two weeks should work. Should we continue?
First off, NOTHING ever takes two weeks… unless, that is, it should have taken two days. I suspect if you measured time you’d find even two weeks take more than two weeks to pass. It has something to do with time bending, string theory, and a whole bunch of science stuff I don’t get. It has to. How else could those ‘two week’ tasks span months? EVERYTHING takes more time to get done. Way more. Waaaaay waaaaaaaay more. And even if each task took only took two weeks, if that list of to-dos has twenty or so tasks, you’re pushing into a year, once you account for holidays, illness, weather, budget, and all those other little issues life likes to toss on the tracks. Now, throw ‘Finish next book’ onto the pile, drop one large tree right in the middle, and here we are today. The bottom line is everything takes longer than expected, setbacks happen, shit happens, and we can either deal or curl up and hide.
But for anyone who knows me well also knows determination is one of my strongest personality traits/flaws. I don’t give up. Period. I guess that’s where Otto Hammon got it from. Then again, Hammon is out of his mind, so what’s that tell you? Setbacks only make me more determined, and the more I felt like I was falling behind, the more determined I became to figure out how to use my time as efficiently as possible. There are only so many hours in the day and so many weeks in the year. Other writers manage to write while working, raising families, and so on, and some are quite prolific. What was their secret? How did they manage their time so they could produce a book or more a year?
For decades Donald Westlake turned out multiple books a year under multiple names, top quaility books that are still a delight to read. And he’s just one of many. It can be done. So I took a long, hard look at the way I approach writing, seeing where I was on the right track and where I was spinning my wheels. I started observing myself and the steps I was taking, while reading interviews with some very prolific and successful authors, and some patterns emerged. Of course there’s the standard stuff we all know. Block distractions. Shut the interwebs. Write early. Write late. Write whenever. And that’s all well and good, but to really maximize my writing time I’ve learned a little more, which has done much to improve my output, both in volume and quality.
Here’s a summary:
2.) Know what you’re going to write.
Okay, that seems obvious, but not just the general stuff. I had my outlines, but they were general and broad. It’s a good starting point, but until all the details were cohesive, it wasn’t time to start just yet.
3.) I’ll say it again. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE.
Write out the whole outline, expand. Something isn’t fitting quite right? Fix it NOW. Before moving on to writing.
4.) One more time. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE.
Map it out. Timeline it. Put it this way. You don’t start writing (fiddle with the varnish) if your boat/story is full of holes and won’t float. Period. You don’t even cut the first plank (or strip of cloth) without first planning the hull.
5.) Got it all outlined and broken down from start to finish? You know what you’re going to write? Good. Almost there. Look at whatever you’re tackling that day and rough out what you’ll be writing, using a bunch of pronouns and abbreviations. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s just a warm up, mentally and physically. It doesn’t matter if no one else can read it. If I can, I’m good. Just basic facts, focusing on the events, what goes wrong, who reacts how. Just ten minutes or so, and now the ol’ brain is primed for that world. And finally….
6.) Go for it! All they heavy lifting is over. Let the characters do their stuff, and keep those fingers typing. I’ve gone from 1,000 word days to 1,000 word HOURS. Now, here’s a fun thing I discovered, and the few rounds I’ve given it have proven exceptionally productive. Check out writeordie.com, by Doctor Evil. Very funny, warped, and brilliant, as well as oh-so-effective.
Oh, wait. I skipped Number 1, right? That’s the most important step. OBLIGATE YOURSELF TO YOUR DREAMS. MAKE TIME TO WRITE. Actually, rule number one applies to anything important. We often find ourselves handling everything else first, then writing in what time remains. But if something truly matters, it should be a priority and treated with the proper respect. Writing time is non-negotiable, and so are dreams.
On a closing note, I present the latest edition of Engine Room Porn. Definitely my favorite spot on the boat at the moment.
Yes, I know I didn’t NEED to highlight the lettering on the manifold but I had a few rare spare minutes and some silver paint, and it makes me smile. (Hey, I like my engine super pretty.) We’re down to a few final wires, hoses, and we’re gonna crank all that shiny over.
Share on Facebook