A good friend of mine once told me, “You can’t be a real writer unless you sit down every day and write.”
We had a good argument about this. We argue about a lot of things. I think that’s why she’s a good friend. This comment of hers has stuck with me for years, though. I’ve asked myself several times: is it true? If I don’t sit my ass down every single day and write, does that mean I’m not a writer? (I know she meant every day you can, not when crap comes up that prevents you from doing so.) But no. I still disagree with her. There are plenty of writers who only manage to write on the weekends, or between cooking meals and changing diapers, or when they have a spare moment on a Weds. I do agree, however, that the more you do it, the better you get, and I’ve found my story flows far better when I stick with it, rather than drifting away from it for days/weeks/months at a time.
I’ve gotten a lot better, thanks to being in a relationship with another writer. N sits down every night, excited to work on her next manuscript, and she’ll work doggedly at it until she gets her thousand words done. In fact, she’s sitting next to me now, typing away, whispering little comments to herself as she works through her next plot point.
I, on the other hand, am sitting here blogging and eating peanut butter ice cream.
My manuscript is waiting until I ‘feel like it’. When will that be? Probably when there’s no more ice cream, chocolate, or crisps left, and I’ve got nothing else to do. Even then, I’ll probably go make a cup of coffee, or fold laundry, or find chin hairs to pluck (which is disturbingly easier with every passing year).
I’ll do just about anything but work on the manuscript. I think it’s because I’m not feeling the plot. I’ve got the characters, but the big story, the chief conflict beyond those of the character’s baggage, is eluding me. And if I’ve learned something about my writing, it’s that I’m plot driven: I want the story, and although the characters who make the story happen matter, I have to have an engaging story line. And if that story line hasn’t found me yet, my manuscript will continue to wait until it does.
That means I’m going to have to do what I tell my authors to do: work it out. Draw the story arc on the wall, if you need to. Build one out of Lego. Use a trillion sticky notes to map it all out. But if the story is going to go anywhere, I’ve got to know what I want to say, and what hell I’d like to put my characters through. Part of the problem is that it’s also the second book in a trilogy, and I’m ultra aware that I don’t want a repeat of the first book, and I need to lead into the third book. This seems to be stifling me, and I need to work around that too.
That’s what I need to do. But what I’m going to do tonight is take a bubble bath and read someone else’s writing.
Q: Do you write everyday? Do you have a particular schedule you write to?