A thousand words a day! For any writer deep in the trenches, this probably sounds like nothing. Hell, to me it sounds like nothing! So why was it such a hard number to hit today?
My plan for the Blue Daunia series goes thusly: Publish an issue on the 15th of each month. From the 16th to the following 15th, write a thousand words a day, for twenty days. For the next ten or so days, re-read, revise and edit like nobody’s business. Voila, 20,000+ word novella disguised as an issue! Put it on the Amazon Kindle Store for a couple of bucks. Done and done.
And now, just for the fun of it, here’s a cat telling a joke to a paper towel dispenser. . .
Anyway. . . . As I’ve said, a thousand words a day is nothing, really. Until things like going to the bank, going grocery shopping with the family and then going to hang out with friends in the evening until, oh, 10pm, when ya gotta get up and be at your day job at 7am the next morning.
My friends are very dear to me (as is my family). I wouldn’t trade time with them for anything in the world. And yet, yes, I could kick my own butt for not putting in my thousand words for the day. What does this mean? It means I’ll be playing catch-up tomorrow afternoon and evening. Yessir, 2000 words tomorrow, after a 9 hour day-job shift.
Normally, I would cringe at the prospect of this. . . the very thoughts of it. But I’m a writer. I got this. (Bad grammar aside, I got this).
So, what makes me so confident? An outline. I have one. A solid, concrete plan of characters, locations and events, in a precise sequence. And even though that precise sequence always manages to un-sequence itself, the plan is securely in place. I know exactly what I’ll be tackling next. All I have to do is write my style (ever-evolving) and bring my craft-hammer down upon the subject matter.
I used to be a pantser. Did you know that? Of course you didn’t. The overwhelming majority of you barely know me yet. Writers know what I mean though. A pantser is someone who can just sit down and write, letting the story and their characters take them to wherever fate will allow. This usually results in a masterpiece which feels quite free-spirited and free-flowing. I envy pantsers. I envy my old self.
And yet, I don’t. Not really. It’s hard sometimes to envy a style that, for many, can more easily result in the dreaded writer’s block. I am now what is known as a plotter. Writers immediately know this as someone who outlines and plans, to varying degrees, what will be happening in the story, and roughly when in the story things will happen.
Lately, and especially with an adventure series, I find it far easier to dedicate an afternoon to brainstorming an idea for the next issue and then doing a few pages of an outline. . . a sort of bone structure on which to hang the prose. Once the outline is out of the way, writer’s block has one hell of a time clutching you in its evil grasp. Just try not knowing what to write next when it’s right there in the outline! It’s almost absurd.
So, does this mean that the pantser method no longer has a place in my arsenal? No, I don’t think that’s true. See, pantsing. . . What? Where did the term come from? That’s a good question. . . I’m glad you asked. Pantsing refers to writing by the seat of your pants. Simple enough, eh? Anyway, pantsing will always have its place as a great way to brainstorm new story ideas. Maybe it doesn’t work so well in the context of an established series, but I could see it working as a way to get a new story arc started within the series.
Let’s say I’ve outlined a plot of a story arc that ends up taking up three issues (comic book style). I haven’t outlined the next story yet, so I sit down and just start typing. Maybe it’s a conversation between Daunia and her shipmates. Maybe it’s someone else, far away from the ship, hatching an evil plot which the crew might find themselves all caught up in later.
Pantsing reigns supreme in such instances, and I would be foolish to stifle my imagination and step away from the fun just because I hadn’t previously outlined this particular bit. When I’ve taken it as far as I can go, and then sit there wondering what to write next, only then would I allow myself to revert back to the plotter I have recently become.
Either way, a thousand words a day really is nothing. It’s funny to think back on. . . when I first texted my father the link to my first issue, it took him by surprise, because he hadn’t known about it. It also started a texting conversation, in which I explained to him my plan to write a roughly 72-page issue per month. He responded by saying something like, “Are you sure you can manage that every month? That’s nearly two and a half pages per day!” First, he was going by pages and not by words, and secondly, I hadn’t told him the part about how I was planning on only dedicating 20 days to the actual writing, not 30. But I did text back “Two and a half pages takes about half an hour,” and he responded, “That’s some fast writing!”
Fellow writers. . . can you imagine a world in which 2.5 pages is difficult to come by in a 24-hour period? It’s almost unfathomable. I have to admit, I had a good laugh over it. At that particular time, on that particular day, I had a good laugh over it. Not today, though. Today I could kick my own butt. . . because 2.5 pages would have been a great deal better than nothing!