In the time I have been writing seriously, the last six years or so, I have discovered only one and hard fast rule – or truth, if you will: Writing is Hard.
If anyone ever tells you different, feel free to kick them someplace tender and tell them it’s from me.
My first book, “The Watch”, was published very recently, and the elation I felt at that accomplishment (a life long dream) faded when I realized that getting published was not the be all end all of the writing life. The next story – the continuation of your writing – is far more important.
Starting a book is a daunting task. Well, no, let me qualify that; getting those first words down, with a story newly forming in your mind, and all the possibilities bouncing off the inside of your skull, is freaking awesome. The daunting part comes when you’ve used up all the clever you were alotted that day and realize you’ve only got down 1,500 words. And you’ve still got about 80,000 left to go.
That’s when you say, “What the fuck did I get myself into?” and hope some kind of natural disaster strikes so you don’t have to stare at that horribly blinking little cursor on your computer screen. I swear the bastard thing is taunting me.
In order to help me in my quest to finish a second book, a sequel to “The Watch”, I entered into the “Word Count Death Match” with my friend and conspirator, kc dyer. I was hoping this would give me the push I needed to crank out a piss-pot full of words and get the first draft of the new story done by the end of the month. Imagine my surprise when I received a massive push (in my head anyway) and cranked out about 16,000 words in 4 days.
I was a happy boy, right then, thinking I had the world by the short and curlies and was on my way to fame and notoriety…or at least taking the first step to defeating the horribly blinking cursor (I’ll teach that smarmy bastard to mock me!).
My elation at my progress was short lived as my word counts fell from an average of 4,000 per day, to 1,000 per day, to 200 per day. The clever, it seemed, was all used up, like a jar of cookies you weren’t supposed to eat. I felt as though the cursor had won and I started checking the news for the next natural disaster, hoping it would head my way.
My despair increased the more I looked at my screen and saw that no words were going to magically appear. Then, as I sat on my couch, searching between the seat cushions for inspiration, old words, from a time in my life nearly forgotten, came back to me.
My karate instructor, Sensei Mike, used to like to tell me a saying I hated, usually when I was nearly drowning in sweat and felt like my legs were going to fall off: “It’s not the first kick that’s important, it’s the last one.”
The point he was making was this: the work you do when you’re fresh and excited and full of energy is not important. The work you do when you’re tired as hell and feel like you’re going to die, but do it anyway, is what is really important.
So I went back to my computer, laid hold of the cursor, and made it blink out a few words. Then a few more. And a few more after that, until I had a page. One page turned into two, and two pages turned into 1,000 words. They were not pretty words, and they were not the best work I’ve ever done, but they were done, and out there, and available to be fixed.
To paraphrase Joe Abercrombie, who talks about the yoke of word counts here, you can’t edit words you haven’t written, and a pile of crap at the end of the day is better than no pile at all.
So, back to the grind I go. There are still two weeks in this month, and I cannot be defeated.
I’ll let you know how it goes.