Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Writing # 3

This is the third question that came up in my writing group. How does one make production as a writer?

Part of the answer is in On Writing # 2. Don't get discouraged by negative feedback. This is true, but I also have second thoughts about it. Most writers I know are in writing groups, since editors do very little editing these days. You have to send them a critiqued and revised, completely finished manuscript. You should listen to criticism from the members of your writing group. If their comments seem off the wall, find or create another writing group. And sometimes the world is telling you that you aren't a good writer, and the world is right. I have no idea how you separate the criticism which should be ignored from a true message that says, "You really need to find another line of work."

I do know that the writers who grow, whose work improves, listen to criticism from their writing group and the friends who read their manuscripts and editors.

Other than that, one makes production by treating writing as work. You clock in the way you would clock in at a factory, sit down and do your job. The writers I know mostly set a word goal for each day: a thousand words, which is three of four manuscript pages. If you write three pages a day, you will have a thousand pages at the end of a year. Cut down and revised, that is a novel.

I've heard of writers who set a time goal, rather than a word goal. You sit down at the computer and stay there for three hours every day. You cannot do anything except write fiction. If words do not come, you sit and stare at the blank screen or write nonsense. But you can't escape to another place or task.

Think of writing as coal mining. Every day you down into a dark, dangerous place. You have to stay there for the length of your shift, and if you can't dig enough coal -- sixteen tons or whatever -- you will be fired. The town you live in has no other jobs. You have to mine the coal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coal mining is perfect. I love the imagery and the framing. There is no other job; you must mine the coal.

9:28 AM  

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