Recently, I finished writing a rough draft of my first ever novella, and I did this in under a month. If that speed does not seem so great, this article may not be for you. To me, writing that volume that fast is a bit of a rarity. Authors often share bits and pieces of what works for them, because more than many professions, we have to try out different methods to see what works for us. These are just a few of the little bits I identified as “working for me,” while writing over the last few weeks, and which I hope to maximize on in the future.
Rituals do not come easily to me. Any of them. Dishes? Every week or two, at best. Laundry, only because I have to do it for work. Vacuuming? Please. Forming any sort of monthly habit, for me, takes a concentrated focus of will that would make Zen masters jealous, so a weekly or daily habit is practically impossible (save the normal ones that were instilled as a child or required by nature).
So when I said, “I am going to write a novella in a month,” I was unsurprised when no one laughed. No one laughed when I did it either. Ok, technically, it is not “done,” but it is “written.” A rough draft counts. And I did that by developing a writing ritual (insert crowd gasp here if audio cues are preferred). I got up before work, did my normal every day stuff, but as soon as it was all done, I went straight into writing. I would average an hour before work and maybe an hour after work. And the pages flew.
Bottom line: Make a time, stick to it, and see what happens. If I can do it, no one has an excuse.
Sounds simple, but entire lifetimes are spent chasing such concepts as happiness. I do not mean to find your happy place and become one with the universe in this case (sorry Zen masters). Instead, find contentment in the every day. Have a job? Most authors do too. Have family? Yes, so do the rest of us. Do they drive you crazy? Definitely. Do people want to read dreary, woe-is-me, depressed drivel? Ok, well, some might, but odds are against it ever becoming mass market, and if the goal is to become a professional author, that is a consideration.
I have not been really happy for the last year or so, for various reasons, the specifics of why are unimportant. The shift from that to being happy is clearer than night and day. My writing has greatly benefited from regaining my independence last month.
Having trouble feeling happy? Not an uncommon issue.
As someone that has a personal hatred of the sun (I am Irish pale), I feel a little strange giving this recommendation: Go outside and soak up some sun. Seriously. The human body needs sunlight. Melanin in your skin absorbs the sun’s rays, which is then used with vitamin D to do a bunch of useful things for the body. I have known people that take melanin pills, and they become happier as a direct result. So save the prescription and get it for free. 15 minutes of sun can have an incredible impact on health and happiness, and those that are outside available for new experiences, which develops…
Without getting out of the house and seeing what exists already, what does an author have to share that someone cannot do already?
Nothing. No one wants to read about someone sitting at a desk in a room alone for hours on end.
The days of the depressed, shut in hermit writing works of great significance are, for the most part, relics of an age long lost. A recluse is easily outnumbered a few million to one, as people are willing to go out and see new sights and tell the tales.
The heart of writing draws on the experiences of the author. Sure, I could write about thermonuclear physics, astrogeology, metaphysical quantum theory, and xenobiology, but for it to really sound good, for it to be authentic, for it to drive home the importance of that scene, I need to go beyond just making stuff up about it. I need to study at least the terminology.
So go to a museum, get some sun on the way. Visit an aquarium, learn about amorphous beings for the next alien romance thriller. Add experience to your life to build the heart for your writing.
If you have enjoyed this segment, worry not, there is more on the way, next month. In the mean time, keep the browser open and waiting for the release of the novella that I mentioned here. Hoping it will be ready by the end of August.
- E. D. Johnson