So you’ve got an idea of what you want to write (in the case of my book DADB it’s Cormac McCarthy meets The Breakfast Club. Seriously. We’ll get more into that later) and now it’s time to start breaking it down and getting it done. But before any of that starts, you have to make a solid commitment to writing, and the first step of that commitment is to create a schedule.
I know. Commitment is hard. Especially for guys (just ask my lovely wife). But it’s the absolute key to writing anything, be it a novel, a screenplay, or a short story. I don’t how many times a great novel or story is started, only to be abandoned a week later and never finished. Writing is an everyday job, not just some passing fancy or a dip of the toe into the pool. It’s a commitment, and a huge one at that.
So the key to a commitment to write is to make time to do it every day. Even when you don’t feel like writing, just hammer some nonsense out just so you can check it off your daily to-do list. And that list is extremely important, it’s your daily schedule to write, to be creative, and to flesh things out.
This November is my writing month, as aforementioned I’m taking on a screenplay, a treatment, and finishing DADB in November. It’s a lot of work to do, and with Fallout: New Vegas sitting in my PS3, the NFL on Sunday, and the fall concert season here in Chicago in full swing (Jonsi on Thursday at the Vic Theater!), it’s incredibly important that I set time to write each day, or I guarantee nothing will get finished.
So here’s my schedule for the next month, which is organized by milestones. Every day I will do the following:
- Write a blog post for either Lilith or Deadbeat. This generally takes me 30 minutes every morning. I’ve been writing Lilith ever since February, so it’s become habit. Done.
- Compose 5,000 words per day for DADB. This milestone has to be reached every day before I close the laptop to take a break. It can be absolute garbage, but the point is that it has to be down on paper. Revisions can be done later, but nothing can be revised if it doesn’t exist in the first place.
- Write 5 pages of script for my short-cum-feature film, which I wrote about yesterday.
- Outline two scenes in the treatment for my feature adaptation of Paul Pope’s graphic novel. Once the outline is finished, then i can get into writing the treatment itself. Preparing the outline also includes a lot of research.
So when (not if) I reach all these daily writing milestones, then my writing for the day is finished, and I can devote the rest of the day to working on Lilith. But I have to make the commitment that every day before my head hits the pillow - barring any unfortunate circumstance - I have to finish my writing.
And note that it’s not an unreasonable amount of writing. Set your milestones reasonably and within your ability. I’m a fairly fast writer so 5,000 words is high, but not unreasonable. But it also means not checking my Twitter and Facebook pages every other hour - when I write, I check my network pages twice a day: once in the morning, and once in the evening. That’s also part of the schedule.
Set your schedule and commit to it. Failure to do so will mean failure in your endeavor. I can guarantee that. And it’s not just for writing. In my schedule I also have to commit time to exercise, to clean house and do errands, and to have some downtime with my wife. I can’t emphasize the latter enough. Writing is a solitary pursuit but it’s not meant to be destructive to your life. Make time for your family and friends. It’ll keep you sane, and you won’t fall off the face of the planet.
I know. It sounds like a hell a lot of work. But that’s what writing is - a hell a lot of work. And we have to balance it with our day jobs and everyday lives. But truth be told it’s worth every sacrifice.
So now we have an idea, and we’ve made our commitment. In our early stages, set aside a block of time in your schedule to create an outline of your idea. Some writers just write off the top of their head, and if that works for you then that’s awesome. But creating an outline will make sure you stick to your commitment and that you don’t get sidetracked. We’ll get into the outline process in the next entry.
Lastly, make time today to go out and vote! It’s really, really, incredibly important.
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