It took me six months of hard work to find my own best Practices. And even longer to get to the beginning of that road. I had fancied myself a Fantasy Novelist in high school, but never finished that book. It sat waiting to be written. Ten years later, I found myself in a job with an hour commute to, and then from work, an additional hour of breaks, and an extra hour alone before my wife arrived home. For one month straight I wrote four hours a day, and punched out 100K words. I wrote the novel.
It was terrible.
I thought back to that month of writing often. It was a benchmark for something I wanted to achieve again. I made excuses for 8 years. I wrote a bit. But it wasn’t much. And I worried if my writing was any good. But I didn’t write. It wasn’t until I discovered the Writing Excuses podcast that I began to journey out of that dark valley. If you know the podcast, you know each episode ends with he phrase “You’re out of Excuses, now go write.” I had about twenty thousand words in the latest manuscript I had found time to write. I began listening to the podcast, and worked my way through each and every season over the course of one year. Every episode I finished, I did have an excuse. I had the next episode to listen to. It was basically my crash course in a Master Level set of classes, and I absorbed everything. I came near the end, and the itch got to me. I started outlining. I started prepping. I was most ready. But I worried about the daunting task of what looked like what was going to be a 200k word manuscript. (It’s what I wanted to write. But also a huge elephant to start taking bites out of.)
Unfortunately, a huge event in my life happened that stopped my in my tracks, but also acted as the spark that started me on that journey. My grandfather was dying, and at the same time I had this desire to start writing. So, as a means of escaping the reality of his passing, I wrote a series of five short stories. I hammered through them, writing three thousand words a day for two weeks. I edited them over several months, an through that analyzed what I was capable of in a short amount of time. The day came, on Easter Day of 2017, when I felt the sudden need to go out and begin the marathon I had been preparing myself for. I wrote 140k words in six-weeks. It was a triumph of accomplishment. I couldn’t believe I had done it. And once again, I had a huge benchmark to look back upon, and desire to reach again.
Through the process of writing that draft, and looking back at how I had done it, I discovered several very important things about myself.
- When I sit down to write and have a path forward, I can put out a huge amount of words.
- In general, I have a Beat Length of about 1000 words, meaning that about every thousand words I write, a new scene starts.
- At the time, I was capable of carving out 2-4 hours a day to write. A bit in the morning, a bit in the afternoon, and a bit in the evening if I hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do that morning.
- I’m an Outliner, not a Pantser.
I had discovered what works best for me. And like any author, I continued to go and enter that “Workshop.”
In the next post we’ll begin looking at how to build your Workshop, and then finish up the series talking about how to arrive at that workshop in the first place. How about you? Have you discovered anything about yourself that you can put a finger on? Let me know in the comments below.