On The Write Track: Some Accountability, Please!

That’s me talking to me, by the way. In the title, I mean.

Recently I re-did my About Me page, and I realized something.

When I decided to start blogging here at Ms. Bookish, it was with two goals in mind: to read regularly and to write regularly. In On Writing, Stephen King wrote:

Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.

I’m passing the reading part of the requirements with flying colors. The writing part? Well, I am writing a lot each day, but as in the past, it’s not necessarily the kind of writing I want to be doing.

So it’s time to get On the Write Track. With heavy-duty doses of accountability.

33,493 Words: NaNoWriMo 2008

Last November, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I didn’t reach the 50,000 word goal, but I was very satisfied with my 33,493 words.

There was only one glitch.

During the last week of that month, I found myself second guessing everything I was writing. The story was flat; the characters more dead than alive; the writing was really really bad.

I thought, I can’t go on with this. It’s really terrible.

And I stopped working on it.

In On Writing, King suggests writing the first draft without stopping to read what you’ve written; when you do that, you keep the flow of creating your world going. That has always sounded like a good plan to me, so that’s the way I write.

So I had never read my NaNoWriMo novel – until a little while ago when, on a whim, I decided to print it all out. All 33,493 of my words.

And then I sat down to read it.

I was very surprised.

No, it wasn’t in a state to win an Edgar (it’s a mystery). But it was interesting – even to me, and I knew who did it, and why, and how. Reading through it, I tried to see which parts were the really terrible parts I could remember writing: the parts where the story was flat, the characters more dead than alive, the writing really really bad (yes, you’ve heard this before).

But the writing was consistent. Not beautifully polished prose, but still, consistently solid. I couldn’t point to any particular section and say to myself, ah, yes, that’s where I had that one bad session, where the writing just didn’t flow.

I couldn’t tell the parts that flowed out of me, that were a pure joy to write, from the parts that were so agonizing, where I felt the writing just stank.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.

And when I reached the last page, I was very sorry that I hadn’t written more.

Now For the Accountability

I’ve decided it’s time to stop prancing around, stop being a dilettante about the one thing in the world that has always, for as long as I can remember, been so much a part of me.

I’m not going for the four hours. I have to work for a living after all. And I want to read all the lovely books in my TBR piles. I want to keep blogging (which is, after all, writing and perhaps should count for something).

So here’s the accountability part: I am gong to write (fiction) for half an hour a day.

Yes, it’s baby steps. But I also discovered during NaNoWriMo that I average just under 2,000 words in an hour. Half an hour would give me 1,000 words.

Let me adjust my commitment: half an hour a day, or 1,000 words. Per day. My choice.

I might fudge a bit and give myself a day off here and there. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Anyone want to join me? Some company on this journey would be fun …

14 thoughts on “On The Write Track: Some Accountability, Please!

  1. Meghan

    I love your goal! I don’t think I’m ready to commit to 1000 words per day. I’ve lost the need to write except at certain times – I loved it when I was a kid, but a series of incidents since I was 16 more or less killed my confidence. I know I need to write to get that back, but I don’t know if I would be capable!

    I’m planning on Nanowrimo this fall, though. It will be my first November out of any kind of school and while I will hopefully be employed, I will also not feel pressured during out of work hours to continue working and may then feel like I’m free to write. I think I need the push of never reading what I’m writing!

    Meghan’s last blog post..Review: Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

  2. Beth F

    I love your goals. I hate writing, so that is not a goal of mine. I’ll let others get the words on paper (screen) and then I’ll have my go at it. I don’t always get 4 hours of pleasure reading in, but I try (go audio!)

    Beth F’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday (May 27)

  3. gaby317

    This sounds tough, but I guess you have to set the goals first and then work towards them. I’d like to give it a try. I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo but haven’t tried any literary writing, just legal stuff these last few years. Do you have an outline that you’re following? Or does the planning part count towards the time alloted per day?

    gaby317’s last blog post..Book Review: A Dog About Town by J.F. Englert

  4. Belle Post author

    Meghan, a similar thing happened to me. I’d written this creepy little short story when I was in university, and my (now ex-!) husband read it and said, “you’re just trying to be smart”. It took me a while to get over that one. Nanowrimo will be fun, and will probably get your confidence back.

    Kathy, Beth: I don’t read four hours every day! But I do read fiction every day now (yes, to audio too!), and that’s made a huge difference to me.

    Gaby, I use a program called Liquid Story Binder and it’s been very helpful. I use the planner to jot down all the scenes that I can think of, and then I just write based on the scenes. The program lets me move the scenes around easily, including any writing attached to the scenes. I don’t outline, although in the case of the Nanowrimo novel, I do know how everything ends.

    I would love to have the planning part count towards the time allotted per day, but I have never had problems with the planning part. I have a whole backlog of novels I’ve already partially planned out. It’s getting myself to sit down and actually write everything that’s the challenge for me.

  5. Dorte H

    What a great resolution!
    Yes, I am with you – not promising to write a definite number of words per day, but promising to write!
    Right now I am on a writing course, and I have begun posting some of my very short exercises on my blog, which is a major step forward for me. And after the course, I am going to take a critical look at my crime manuscript again. As I said to my daughter some time ago, I don´t want anyone to write on my tombstone that I didn´t try :)

    Dorte H’s last blog post..DJ’s Bait in the Box # 19

  6. Belle Post author

    Nicole, I also noticed that I tend to write long-ish posts. So far (after one day LOL) the 1000 word mark has been manageable.

    Dorte, I’ve been reading your writing exercises – I keep thinking about taking part. I’ve never been good with writing exercises, even though I have stacks of books about them. I really should start, I think.

  7. Belle Post author

    Diane, thanks for your cheering and support.

    Margot, it’s wonderful to have you here on this writing journey – I’ll be your cheerleader, too!

  8. Pingback: What’s Up Saturday – May 30 - Ms. Bookish

  9. Belle Post author

    Melanie – So glad to have you on board for this one! I’m hoping we’ll all be able to motivate each other. Happy writing!


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