Because that’s hard. It’s too hard, I think.
I wish I could write every day. I know people like that, who can sit down and just consistently get words down on the page. Day in and day out, week after week, month after month.
I can barely sustain that for longer than a week at a time. I’m constantly taking breaks. Constantly letting those breaks drag on into months or years, which is why I have more abandoned novels than I do finished ones. I’ve probably written 300,000 words total stretched over thirteen or fifteen different novels that are in extremely different states of completion. Some never get more than 1,000 words before my attention or time gets pulled away for the day. And then I don’t find the time to get back there until months and months later, by which time I know I’m probably never doing anything with those words.
Those are the good kind of abandoned novels.
But I have one that’s over 130,000 words. A few others that are around 30,000 words. Novels where I’ve put in 50%-90% of the work and something happened that caused me to just never get back into it.
All of those abandoned novels still kind of eat at me, though. I convince myself a few times a year that I’m going to go back and finish this one or that one.
It never happens.
My lack of discipline is why I write fast. It works for me. If I can knock out a novel in a week or maybe even just over a weekend, I know it’ll work out. Some of my best work’s been written over extremely short time periods. Because if I take a day off, I’ll probably never get back to it.
Of course, this current novel has been plagued by breaks. I’ve tried to be very workmanlike about it. Sit down and pound out a couple thousand words a day. Maybe just 2,000 because that’s not so much. It’s very doable. If you write 2,000 words a day for a month, you end up with a 60,000 word novel by the end of the month!
It’s easy! You should be able to write a novel every month!
There’s a reason most of us aren’t that productive. And a lot of it just goes into the individuality of the creative process.
Even those writers I know who write every day, most of them are lucky to finish a novel every year, which, in the grand scheme of things, is more or less the same rate I go at it. The difference is that I usually only put about a week of solid work in that year to writing the novel. The rest of the year is spent doing whatever it is I’m doing when I’m not writing.
But I think about how fast I can write a novel a lot. Because it should not be difficult for me to write, like, six short novels a year. If I spent a week every other month writing a novel, this would be how it happens. And it’s not lack of ideas! For every novel I’ve written or abandoned, I have a dozen more novels I hope to some day write.
The problem is a bit of laziness, a bit of procrastination, but also just the way I’m wired, I think.
A novel is draining. Whether it takes you six months or six days. It takes a lot out of you. It’s full of ecstasy and agony. It consumes bits of your life and exhausts you. But when you finish or when you finally get that scene written just right–it’s glory. You’re full of beauty and perfection.
I’ve tried to write every day. Often.
It never works for me. I’ve had to be the most persistent with this current novel. I mean, I’ve been working on it since January (kind of), which is a staggering amount of time to me. Even if we just put the start date at May, which is when I really started putting words down, that’s still five months of writing.
Some people will roll their eyes at that and say something flippant like, Five months is nothing! I’ve been working on my novel for five years!
Those people are dicks.
Thing is, five months is an eternity for me. If I averaged out the lengths it’s taken me to finish every novel that I have finished, I’d probably come out around six days. So me going into my sixth month of writing the same novel is a huge jump.
Imagine you’ve written several novels. Let’s say more than five. Each novel has taken you about six months, give or take a few months. Now imagine you start a novel today and don’t finish it until 2021.
It would feel like a big deal, probably.
And so even though I haven’t written every day of these five or six or twelve months (depending on how you count), there have been stretches where I have. Like, month long stretches. But then I look at last month. I wrote 120,000 words and probably took off at least two days of every week.
That’s just how things work for me.
I don’t know. I don’t have a real point here. I’m just thinking about something J David Osborne and I talked about recently. About productivity.
My novel is, at this moment, at 270,000 words. Most of my novels are between 40,000 and 50,000 words. This novel, by itself, represents the work of five novels. By the time it’s finished, it’ll be more like six or seven novels. But instead it’s only one.
I remember when I challenged myself to write 52 stories in a year (this was 2013). I ended up writing probably 70 stories that year, but it still felt like a really unproductive year. Partly because I didn’t know what to do with them. My short stories are not great (in my opinion) and so I had a bunch of little nothings finished, but no whole of something.
Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but it felt like I had a year’s worth of fragments with no complete project. Forget that I wrote a novel, three poetry collections, and two graphic novels that year as well.
The novel was too weird. Too…everything. The poetry collections are–well, I simply don’t know what to do with them. No one really wants a poetry collection written by me. Or at least I assume as much. And then the graphic novels will never see the light of day because of reasons that are strange to explain. But they just won’t.
So even though I had a lot of content, it felt like a year where I had done nothing.
Oddly, this year is the year I feel best about the work I’ve done. When I finish this big giant stupid novel, I’m going to be ecstatic! I’m already so excited to share it with people that I have to keep fighting the urge to send it to friends. But when I have a complete draft that I’m happy with, I’m going to be reaching out for readers.
The first draft should be finished this month. I have a hard time believing it won’t be. But then I need to add a few scenes to Part Two, a lot of scenes to Part Three, and who knows what Part Four will need.
I passed 1,000 pages today. I think the novel will end up being fewer than 1,200, but not by much, and possibly more than that. At this point it’s kind of silly for me to guess, because I’ve been consistently wrong on every prediction going back to before I even started writing it.
I thought I was going to write a trilogy! The first book (this one) would be around 80,000 words. The second book would be around 30,000 words. And the third would be around 80,000 words.
I still plan on writing those other two books, but it’s just ridiculous that this book is already bigger than what I thought the entire trilogy would be.
I think the second book will still be around 30,000 words, but the third book is probably more like 140,000 words. Unless, you know, they both balloon on me.
Anyrate, just some nightly rambling.