I used to jump between stories a lot; a thousand words here, a few hundred there. I have a brilliantly organise Microsoft OneNote file with around 200,000 words of half-started shorts; story stubs, some of which are just a few sentences, others several chapters long.
By writing when the mood took me and moving on when I lost the motivation to carry a story on, I ended up with a hundred unfinished pages of rambling with nothing to show for it.
Sometimes, I’d knocked out a four thousand word first draft when I’d only intended to jot down a few scene structures, and that felt great, but ultimately what good are a thousand great ideas if there’s nothing to show for it at the end?
Since writing 1000 words per day consistently, and focusing on one story at a time, I’ve completed two first draft short stories in the last four weeks, and I’m now working on chapter two of what I think will be a web series. I’m not sure yet.
I’ve also noticed a significant improvement in my writing — proof will be provided at some point in the near future — and in the process of writing. Writing 1000 words doesn’t seem such a hurdle as it was before.
Consistency is a powerful tool.
In the meantime, here are a couple of thoughts about the writing process that I’ve been considering since I wrote my last article on the topic.
Editing is much harder than writing a first draft
I can merrily pour out a stream of consciousness on the page for hours, but at some point, this stuff has to start to make sense and fit within a larger narrative. And pulling together all the loose ends of a first draft is like connecting up boiled spaghetti into a single pasta thread.
Most recently I’ve been working on a story that grew from the humble beginnings of a short story. The first draft was a complete mess, just a series of random sentences and scenes; the second draft tied them together a bit more, but it took at least six pass overs before I had anything resembling a cohesive story. That’s a lot of work and editing for just one chapter.
Don’t have three first chapters
Last week I wrote no less than three different first chapters to a short story. The problem is I dislike them all equally. My advice to myself is, don’t worry about your first chapter until last. I hope this bears out.
What you read changes how you write
Two years ago I made the decision to read more often. Cut out the TV, drop the YouTube videos, get rid of Facebook, and just read. And it’s been a real success, for the last two years I’ve been getting through roughly two books a week and keeping a log of everything I’ve read. But the interesting thing is that I can tell what I was reading at a particular time in my writing style. Go back and read the short I wrote over Christmas, and it’s embarrassingly obvious that I was reading Orwell at the time. Go back a few weeks further, and I can tell exactly the time I was reading Timothy Snyder.
There’s something about a writer’s voice here, but I haven’t fully learnt the lesson yet.
See you tomorrow.