Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Write Pressure

13,964 words and counting. If I stopped right now, I'd have a fifty-page short story with no ending. My goal is to reach 20,000 by the end of the month. In Stephen King's "On Writing," he suggests to write a first draft with the door closed, and revise with the door open. In other words, finish a first draft alone, without feedback or criticism (both positive and negative). Only once that draft is finished should it be read by anyone else. He makes a good argument for this: as a writer, you don't want to get hung up on the small things along the way. Keep going, keep plowing through without worrying about that one word in a paragraph toward the beginning.

But prior to this recent venture into fiction, my writing experience was in college--when I got weekly feedback and criticism--and these last three or four years blogging--where I get nourishment from reader comments or simply page views. So for me to take on this big project--a novel--I need similar nourishment, whether it's constructive criticism from my writing group, praise from my mother (who is so unbiased;), or a daily question from my wonderfully supportive boyfriend, "So how much did you write?"

I spent about three hours in a Bruegger's Bagels relishing the pressure not to connect to their free wi-fi. I got a lot finished, freeing me to write this entry. Winning!

By the way: King also suggests writing 2000 words a day. They don't have to be good words, but you should get that much down. I like that in theory. But in practice, it doesn't work for me; I tend to edit as I go. It slows me down, I guess, but hopefully it means I'll spend less time revising.


Tonja said...

Don't give up! Your story is really wonderful.

Everyone has different writing styles and processes. I dump out a chapter or two in a sitting and then have to spend eight times as long editing just one chapter (very painful) and never seem to get it just right. What works (or sort of works) for me won't work for you.

If you can nail it in the first draft, do it!

August said...

Thanks! No, I won't give it up, but I *did* read an interesting NYTimes piece about why writers scrap their works-in-progress. For a lot of them, it was their second project, and the pressure following initial success was too much (Harper Lee, for example). Others, like Stephen King, returned to a discarded project and reworked it years later. Congratulations on finishing your own novel, by the way!