Write more; read less

For all my prodigious output as a blogger, reviewer, commenter, etc., the amount of fiction I produce is rather pathetic. Some of that is sheer laziness. Some of it is flailing around trying to figure out what I’m good at and what I enjoy. Some of that is the simple (most likely critic-inspired) fact that I’m a better reviser than drafter. But some of that is the way my life is organized and how I work as a writer — I really need an uninterrupted half hour (or even better full hour) in order to crank out a major chunk of text (for me that equals 250 words or more). That just doesn’t happen very often.

Lately, I’ve been writing more. Still at a snail’s pace — 300-500 words once or twice  a week. But that’s huge for me. So what happened?

  1. I bought a huge pack of mini legal pads at Costco. I devote one pad to each story or essay.
  2. I decided that even if I am a discovery writer, I need a brief outline. It’s an obvious conclusion to come to, but it was Dan Wells (another discovery writer) that really convinced me to give it a try.
  3. I bought a Uniball 207 that allows me, a left-hander, to write smoothly and without smudging while on the bus.

These three factors mean that one morning or two per week, I write during my commute. Here’s the proof — one mini legal pad with the outline taped to the front and about 2/3 filled:

Mini Legal Pad

What this means, though, is that less of my bus time will be devoted to reading. For all the gung-ho writers out there this may seem like not such a big deal. Besides, I still have the ride home, which means at least 45 minutes of reading per work day. That’s a lot for most people. But it still feels like a sacrifice to me. Instead of three books a week, it’ll be one, which is probably why I’m still fighting this system and not writing every single morning.

So here’s my point: figure out where you have time and what you physically need to be able to write. I’ve tried writing on the bus before. But my other systems led to juggling too much paper and illegible handwriting (or waiting until I can spend money on a netbook or other device). The actual mundane system seems pretty lame when it’s put in words, but who cares — so far it’s working.

And here’s my other point: write more; read less.

8 thoughts on “Write more; read less”

  1. I too, have failed so far to take advantage of “small units of time” (anything less than an hour). It seems to take me at least an hour to get back into the story and warmed up – with best results coming in the second hour and beyond. How often do I get 2+ hours to write? Once or twice a week, tops. I’m about ready to join you in the return to paper, too, at least for first drafts. Computers have their own set of distractions.


  2. The last time I got laid off I decided that, much as I love The Diane Rehm show and Radio West while I’m working around the yard, etc., I could listen to audio books instead. (I’m closing in on 150).

    I try also to listen to all the standard works once a year. About a year ago I was called to teach in the Daily Dose program–conversational & practical English classes about two evenings a week at the chapel.

    The fact that one of the other teachers heard Daily Dos and puzzled over two of what will tell you that all the students speak Spanish originally, so I thought I should learn some. I’ve been downloading book by book of Antiguo Testament from lds.org onto my camera/mp3 player and following along in La Santa Biblia my wife got me for Christmas (the first non-English LDS Bible edition–great news).

    And where is the best place to do this? On the bus. I can do 10-12 pages a day–though, since I’m only finishing up Josue just now, I’ll need to do 14-15 or do some weekend reading to finish by the end of the year.

    Which means I don’t write much on the bus, and it’s a bit too bumpy anyway, but lunch in my present job is 1 hour, so I have about 1/2 hour that I can write. I’m working on a review right now of Stephen Carter’s What of the Night. (Really nice book.)

    250-300 words a day man not seem like much, but in a year that’s a novel’s worth. Not that I write that much every day–this is 310–but I do write a fair amount at church, taking notes on people’s talks and Sunny schoodle and priesthood lessons–I’ve gotten some good poems from it. I also do a lot of oral composition, talking things out to myself while I’m walking or biking somewhere.

  3. I took the internet off the computer I write on. So much for distractions, though it does require me to move rooms for research. Still helpful. It may be a luxury others don’t have.

  4. When I started writing novels, I used my husband’s ancient laptop that was so archaic it couldn’t handle modern internet connections. I wrote five novels in one year.
    The laptop died.
    I bought a new one, with internet connections, of course.
    One novel in one year.

    Coincidence? Nope.

  5. This is why eventually I would like to get a netbook but not also get a wireless router at home.

  6. I wrote more when I was in school and working graveyards in a convenience store.

    But…I know my process well enough that I never sweat it when I’m not writing.

  7. I’m a great believer in trying out various things and figuring out what works for you as a writer. I’ve posted here at great length about my own discovery process writing my first novel. Now I have to figure out if it’s replicable, and what might or might not be different for another book. Is it like a child, where you think you’ve figured out something with the first one, only to discover with the next that you have to throw out everything you thought you had learned and start more or less from scratch? I hope not…

    I’ve become a great believer in forcing myself away from the computer and writing by hand in a spiral notebook. Part of it is that separation-from-the-Internet thing. Part is simply the change of scenery (since I spend most of each day in front of my computer). I have, however, decided that spiral notebooks with perforated pages are evil. EVIL!

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