I don’t know about you, but I’m the sort of dude who can’t shake an idea once it worms its way into my brain. Take last year for instance, when I had the totally insane idea of going back into the Army. I’d hit the Twinkies a little too hard after getting discharged and had packed on some chubbiness as a result (in Army-Speak they call it being a “fat body”). Those pounds meant I was way outside weight standards so I needed to get back into fighting trim if I wanted to re-enlist. So, I made a decision to burn the fatness and set out to do the deal.
Zip forward about five months from that point–I’d lost seventy pounds, was hitting the gym seven days a week, and could run eight miles in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Not too shabby, right?
When I decided to write a book in September of 2011 I took to it the same way I did with losing weight. I set down a jam plan to plot for a month, write for three, and have the thing done by January 1, 2012. I broke out the TI-83 (my super awesome calculator) and figured out that I’d need to tap out about 1,100 words every day to hit my 100,000 word goal. Totally doable, right? You know it. I figured it was going to be easy as lying in Confession.
Well, a couple things happened as a result of my plan. I got the writing done–way to go, me!–but most of it sucked worse than an episode of Ghost Whisperer. See, I had worried so much about my word count tally that I stopped focusing on the quality of what I was putting on the page and just focused on the number of words. I kept telling myself, “Get the thing written and worry about the rest of it later,” but that was so totally stupid. By the time I finished I had a giant manuscript with a crappy plot and more things wrong than I knew how to fix. But can you bet your sweet cakes that thing was done on time. Oh, yeah. I meet my deadlines.
My experience with the first draft showed me that writing a book is something I need to take my time with. That’s not to say I don’t work on it everyday, because I definitely do. But I try to work to time nowadays rather than word count. Setting a goal for how many hours I’m going to work is the method I’m digging right now, and it seems to be working. My pace is slower, but I feel like what I’m putting down is better.
What’s your method? Do you slam out the story as quick as you can and sort the mess later? Or are you the plodder, writing the way my grandpa used to eat a slice of denture-unfriendly pie?