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Writing Every Day

Do you have designated days off from writing, or do you write every day? I’m a hack. If I don’t write every day, the bills don’t get paid. I also wouldn’t have time to work on the things I want to write, as opposed to the things I get paid to write.

That said, I tend to get very little writing done on Mondays. That’s business and accounting day. I’m trying to spend less time writing, and more time reading, on the weekends. If I were more financially stable, I would like to have more normative office hours and take Saturday and Sunday off. That’s not economically feasible for me right now.

Writing Every Day

I need to go back to that distinction I made, too. There is writing that I do strictly for money. It’s not that I don’t do my best, or lack passion for what I’m doing. The choices I make, in terms of both the project I pick and the what I approach the project, are more market-driven than artistically motivated. In short, I work on things that I think will sell, and write them in a way that’s commercially palatable.

The things I write for me are things I’d never find a market for. They’re done purely as acts of artistic expression. I write what I want, the way I want. If I don’t write every day, I won’t even have time to do that writing.

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.


The First Draft is Complete: Learnings

With almost three weeks left to spare, I have reached the first milestone with the novel. The first draft is complete. That said, I kind of hate it and don’t expect much of it to survive revision. What’s important is that I managed to do it at all.

I started writing it on 1 December 2019, giving myself a hard deadline of 29 February 2020. This gave me a fairly easy target of 600 words per day, which fit in with the rest of my life and work. Even so, there were times when I did not think I was going to pull it off. I found it more difficult to work in smaller chunks, and having to switch between projects. I ultimately ended up having one or two days per week when I could just focus on the novel.

A large component of this experiment was writing without a tight outline. My normal process is to plan everything first, then write. It’s a paint-by-numbers process, but it allows me to remain prolific and hit deadlines. With this novel I had a loose idea of the plot and only a vague notion of who my main character was. I wanted to be able to wander, to discover the world and the story as I was writing. What I actually discovered is that this method doesn’t work for me.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The old adage “measure twice, cut once” applies perfectly here. As I was writing, I kept wishing that I’d though of things earlier. Better ideas cropped up, so I kept notes on the things I’d have to go back and fix. Had I spent the last three months outlining and doing research, I feel that I could have written the first draft in a month and been a lot more satisfied with it.

A different metaphor: It felt like jumping in a car and driving off, without any clear idea of where I was going. When I did figure out the destination I had to backtrack a lot, resulting in a lot of wasted time and fuel. This is not within my comfort zone, and I’m not seeing any benefit to it.

The First Draft is Complete

I’m going to set it aside until 1 March, at which point I’ll read it and see if I still hate it. When I begin again I’m going to do a total re-write. I will keep characters and ideas that I like, but the first step will be to do the sort of detailed outline that I’m used to. There’s additional research I want to do as well. I’m also going to be consuming more Gothic novels, to help me to better capture the sort of tone and beats I’m looking for, even though it’s a contemporary novel.

Has it been fun? No.

Has it been rewarding? No, again.

But I think that it will be.


What is Literary Fiction?

If there’s a term more contentious in writing circles, I’m not sure what it might be. People define literary fiction in a number of different ways. Some argue that it’s any work that has literary merit. Hack work cranked out for profit, or things specifically designed to appeal to a mass market, isn’t considered “literary”. Others say that literary writers have to have certain bona fides, degrees in English or a Masters in Fine Arts with an emphasis on writing. A few assert that literary writers have patrons, or support themselves in academia, whereas “genre” writers are able to support themselves through their writing alone.

What most people seem to agree on is that literary fiction actively engages in social commentary. It may be making a point about the present day, relative to the time it is written and released. The novel might be speaking to some universal truth about the human condition. Literary fiction tends to be slower paced, less focused on plot, and willing to experiment with structure and form. The tone tends to be darker, more serious, and driven by the emotional needs of the characters.

What is Literary Fiction?

When I say that my current work-in-progress leans towards literary fiction, I want to be clear about what that means. I’m not an academic, nor am I trying to be pretentious. My intention is to write something that will be considered to be objectively good. I want to be able to take my time in writing it. Concern for the quality of the writing takes precedence over commercial considerations. There are things that I want to say, ideas that I want to explore, that either don’t fit into my typical writing work, or can’t be shoehorned into its limitations.

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