Day #1: 10K words/day

Spoiler alert: this does not have a happy ending.

I set the challenge for myself, and I was going to do it: write 10,000 words every day this week.

So, I woke up. I guzzled a coffee. I turned on my computer. I was ready to go.

Then I realized I had to write with the speed of a gazelle and the strength of… gazelles are strong, right? The strength of a gazelle. I guzzled another cup of coffee. I stared at the screen. Shoe002-731117.jpg

Fortunately, I have an outline of the story I’m working on (it’s a space adventure in the vein of Bridgette Jones’ diary). Just kidding about the Bridgette Jones’ Diary part, not about the space adventure part.

I get to work, hacking away at the words like they are short ribs that need to be braised. I typed and typed. By noon I hit 3,000 words.

It was lunch time. I ate a victorious peanut butter and honey sandwich. I was off pace slightly, sure, but 3,000 words wasn’t bad, so I rewarded myself with a brief 30 minute TV break.

But you know how TV works. I know how it works. We all know how it casts its perfect spell, drawing victims deep into its pixelated frame.

30 minutes turned into 3 hours. I rose from my television coma, puttered about the house, and huffed at myself. “Where’s your will power, sir? Your determination? Focus!”

So, focus I did. I sat down and plopped out another 1,000 words or so. Smiling at the computer, I realized that I deserved another break.

My mind got a little confused here. I think it still considers the word break in the vernacular of a high school girl, meaning it’s over, done, finished.

So, I stopped work for the night. It would’ve been nice to finish this post with a gloat about how I wrote 10,000 words in a  day, but I’m not going to lie to you internet, because you never lied to me.

No, it’s a bit of catharsis- being honest about things, even word counts. And I could make a list of excuses, because (ask my friends) I’m great at coming up with excuses. But I won’t.

And, to be frank, I’m not terribly bummed. 4,000 words in a day is a lot, nothing to be ashamed of. Better than 0 words. Besides, tomorrow’s another day, another opportunity for growth and improvement. Or, as Journey sang, “Don’t stop believing.”

I’ll let you know how day 2 goes. Here’s one useful resource I found:

http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html

In the meantime, let me know if you have any tips for writing!

Writing Challenge: 10K/day

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Three things:

Thing one: I’m about 10k into writing a novel. The thing has its shape– I wrote an outline for it long ago, and the outline hasn’t much changed through the first few chapters.

Thing two: I have a fairly free week starting tomorrow. The in-laws wanted some quality time with my toddler, so they’ve taken her away for the week. My wife will go into work. That leaves me home… alone. Unlike Kevin, though, I will not booby-trap the house in order to ward off any would-be bandits. So, that leaves me home alone with free time.

Thing three: I really want to finish the rough draft of this novel before school starts. But in order to do that, I have to do a serious amount of work this next week.

Conclusion: I shall write 10,000 words a day for the following week! They shall mostly be OK; editing will happen later; victory is imminent.

Now, I know what your thinking, “won’t the 10,000 words just be garbage.” You are quite possibly correct, but there is a precedent for this. People have done it before and survived.

She did 50,000 words in 9 days: http://lifeislimitless.com/how-i-wrote-a-50000-word-novel-in-9-days/

This person achieved the feat in a weekend: https://writingechoes.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/why-and-how-i-decided-to-write-50000-words-in-a-weekend/

I may even push through and try to write 50K in one day, like this guy:

I’m gonna make it happen’ captain. There will be typos, it will be revised, but to quote a prolific writer: “It is so very much great and it is a history time for barney moose yt own oh yes! Come now Kitten and say barney we must and we must go and dance dance.” Brilliant.

These 10,000 words every day won’t know what hit ’em. Wish me luck. If my fingers don’t fall off, I’ll update here to let you know what happens.

Good Writing Habits

I like it when my students make connections. Connections are important. When we relate things to life, we learn.

An especially helpful connection (for both me and my students) is understanding writing as a muscle. Or (as the kids would say)—do you even lift, bro?

My answer is a firm no, not literally anyways. Figuratively, on the other hand, I’ve been writing quite a bit, emphasizing pace. I’ve always struggled writing lots of words in little amounts of time. When I sit down to write for an hour, but I only get 400 out of my 1,000-word goal, it’s upsetting. It’s frustrating.

I’ve realized that I can’t get bogged down on word count. I just need to work consistently. When I show up every day, I can build my pace. 1,000 words, without consistent effort, just won’t happen. On the other, if writing becomes a habit, word count will follow.

Routine

Your writing muscle requires consistency. Gym rats don’t just magically end up at the gym. Similarly, writers should plan their writing time. A long, long time ago I would write late into the night. I would look outside, see the dark, feel the quiet of the house, and act artsy and poetic. But that was before I had a kid. Now I have a kid. Kids are cute, but kids make grown people tired, which makes writing at night a non-option. The energy isn’t there, so I write most of my words in the morning.

Find what works for you, though. Find a time. Set it aside. Write.

Isolate

Your writing muscle requires focus, but we live in an age of distraction. Technology clamors for our attention. Our phones buzz with texts and our TVs blare with Top Chef. When you write, seek solitude. I usually sit at the dining room table, because I know that no one will bother me there. Whether I’m typing on my laptop or writing with pen and paper, I know I need to be alone—away from the distractions of my modern life.  Find your own personal fortress of solitude.

Grow Your Targets

Your writing muscle demands growth. After you’ve established a routine, determine a target word-count. 500 words a day may be a good number to start out, but you shouldn’t stay at 500. Stick with your routine and you’ll start to see natural growth over time. There isn’t a set number here that you need to write. It’s up to you. But you might want to build up slowly, gradually. If you rush it, you’ll get burnt out or you’ll feel deflated when you don’t hit your target.

Don’t Look Back

I heard this tip from The Self-Publishing Formula Podcast. A guest writer was talking about how they worked from 2,000 words to 6,000 per day. One of the suggestions he made was to simply write without looking back on what he wrote. He just writes, like an energizer bunny on speed. Edit later, he figures. Write now. I’ve tried this a handful of times, and it seems to work for me. My pace was rocking at about 750 per hour (fairly slow), but with this method I was able to hit 1,000 a few days in a row.

What methods do you use to improve writing?

Writing Challenge: Re-statement

Writing Challenge: Find at least 5 different way to re-state a simple phrase. First make up a phrase, and then the game is afoot! The re-statements must contain the essence of the original, though they don’t require the exact same words.

If you participate, feel free to leave your examples in the comments!

My Examples:

Original Phrase: The house was quiet.

Re-statements:

1. A silence swept through the place.

2. Nothing stirred at the end of McCall lane, and the red brick house that had stood there for over a century remained abandoned, without owner for the better of 13 years, which was a considerable time in light of the property.

3. Silence resounded through the house; and like wind before a storm, it only served to increase the anxiety of Peter’s guests.

4. He tilted his ear towards the door, but heard nothing apart from the grandfather clock.

5. To say the quiet was immense would have been a regrettable understatement. No, the house wasn’t quiet; it was dead.

Writing Challenge: Steve Harvey’s Mustache

Yesterday it happened. It’s the same thing that happens to us all in moments of darkness and despair, those epochs of woefully terrifying boredom. That’s right. I watched daytime TV.

And what I saw was awe inspiring. I tuned in to a man (likely unqualified to do so) giving relationship advice to married couples, which was disturbing albeit slightly humorous. But less disturbing was the host’s image. This man was strong, confident, and witty. He dished out advice as a lunch lady dishes out mystery meat; that is to say, with speed and consistency. And like mystery meat, his advice was wonderful at first, but once settled it gave the listener an upset stomach. This made no difference to the studio audience. And his guests nodded their heads at his wisdom, agreeing to do whatever he said. But why? Was it some sort of Jedi mind trick? Or was it simply the host’s gusto? I watched carefully to find out; and I discovered that more confident than the man was his mustache, for his facial hair was as glorious as the peak of mount kilimanjaro. The man in question: Steve Harvey.

Before you read on you must know that I think Steve Harvey is a truly hilarious comedian. So all of the following is really just an outpouring of jealousy. I’m envious of two things in particular: (1) his ability to be funny and (2) his ablity to grow facial hair.

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His mustache could persuade every world power towards nuclear disarment.

His mustache is actually a black hole, destroying the reasoning abilities of anyone that gazes into its terrible abyss.

His mustache could conquer the world, but right now it’s too busy conquering women’s hearts.

His mustache was once an old punctuation mark that was meant to beget world peace, but instead it chose Steve Harvey’s face to bring about a new age of love.

His mustache grooms itself.

Alas, I could continue, but Steve Harvey’s mustache would sue me for libel. All this talk about Steve Harvey’s mustache did make me think up a prompt for another writing challenge. Check it out.

Writing Challenge: Write about an interaction with a character and an inanimate object.

Writing Challenge: Character’s Job

It’s time to write again! This one is fairly straightforward.

CHALLENGE: Write about how a character makes a living.

Disclaimer:

The example I wrote isn’t great. I can’t peg down what I don’t like about it, but I don’t like it. That’s part of writing. Not everything you come up with is going to be gold (or even silver or bronze). A lot of times your writing may not even place. It may be so bad that you tie a brick to your writing and throw it in a river. But here is some advice from the great and wonderful Stephen King: ” I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild… All I ask is that you do as well as you can.”

My example:

Tom always introduced himself as a pianist, even though he only played at the jazz club every other Thursday. In reality he had spent the past five years working as a part-time shelf-stocker for Walmart. Management continually offered him full-time hours, but he rejected the offer on the grounds that he needed to focus on his music. Tom would often confess, “I’m still looking for my sound.” And at parties he would explain, “It’s a mix between Mozart and Miles Davis. I call it Post-Post Neo-Classical.” When he played for friends, they would say it was great and they enjoyed it. Curiously enough they never purchased his album, nor did they go to his shows.

Writing Challenge: Dialogue between two characters

This summer has afforded me the opportunity to read a bit, write a little, and watch an inordinate amount of TV. I haven’t done as much reading as I would like, but just very recently I came across an old textbook. You may be thinking: “An old textbook! What fun! What sheer joy you must of felt at such a find!” Oh yes. There was joy. I think tears were involved too.

This particular book was (and hopefully still is) a part of some creative writing course. Except I never took a creative writing course, so I’m at a loss as to how this book ended up on my shelf. I picked it up and began rifling through the pages, not thinking much about it until I stumbled across the chapter titled “characters.” This is when I became excited. But not too excited. I’m not a weirdo. It was just the right amount of excitement.

Regardless, whenever I try to write creative fiction, I struggle tremendously with developing characters through dialogue. It’s something I genuinely suck at. Anyways, this book has a few exercises that I thought I might try out. I’m going to post some here, and you (whoever you are) can try them as well. It’s a challenge, yo!

Here is the first prompt:

Write a “dialogue” between two characters, only one of whom can speak. Here is the catch: write only the words of the one, only the appearance and actions of the other. 

Here is my short response:

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” demanded Mr. Figaro.

Jack looked up, scowling. He didn’t look his step-father directly in the eye, which drove the old man into a rage.

Mr. Figaro pounded his fist against the wall, and yelled, “You don’t speak to your mother like that, understand? Honestly… I should cane you. Boys your age don’t talk like that, especially at the dinner table. OK?”

Jack scratched his head and shrugged. Mr. Figaro grunted something about kids. He walked out of Jack’s room, leaving the boy alone to bathe in the tension. But just as quickly as Mr. Figaro had left, he returned.

“Where did you learn that word, anyways?” asked Mr. Figaro cooly.

Jack looked down. He began fumbling with some of his toy blocks in an attempt to ignore the question, but Mr. Figaro wouldn’t have it.

“Well!” shouted Mr. Figaro. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, boy! I have a good mind to give you a caning. That’d teach you, huh?”

Tears came down Jack’s face. He sniffled but remained silent.

“Alright,” said Mr. Figaro. “I’ve been a patient man. This is your last chance. Tell me where you heard that word.”

For the first time Jack stared into Mr. Figaro’s eyes, revealing the source of the forbidden word.