Last year was the first year I started tracking, through a simple spreadsheet, my writing progress. Always, the goal has been to write every day. Family, work, and life in general have hampered that goal, but it has always been something to which I aspired. My daily goal is 1000 words – that can be “new words” of a first draft or “revised words” but only on a first revision because that second draft is almost always drastically different, and improved, from the initial draft, and “critiques” through my participation in the Comics Experience online workshop, where my critiquing of others’ scripts involves thinking long and hard about the craft of writing. Those last two may seem like cheats, but I count them as a way to get past the psychological hurdle that kept me from revising stories (because I wasn’t “writing”).
Before I began tracking my writing, I was sitting down at my laptop fairly regularly, but I am certain I was not as responsible about it as I am now. With the spreadsheet looming in front of me, as well as a daily check-in thread at the above-mentioned Comics Experience workshop, I was kept more honest; I couldn’t allow the fickleness of memory to reconfigure the reality of not writing for a succession of days, it was there in front of me. And it did make a difference. I wrote more than I know I ever had before, in the course of a year – roughly 236,000 total words in 2013.
This year, I was even more successful. Writing on a daily basis has truly become a habit for me, one that I do not avoid like I used to (thinking I could do tomorrow what didn’t get done today). There are many days – many, many days – when I’m just too tired at the end of the day to consider sitting down to write. And every one of those days I think it won’t be a bad thing if I just take the one night off. But invariably, I would sit down, and I would write, and I would feel good afterward. I wrote roughly 315,000 words this year. 254,000 of those were “new words,” compared with just under 160,000 last year. I’ve raised the bar pretty high going into 2015, but that’s a good thing.
Number one piece of advice every writer gives to those working to break in: write. It’s just that simple. The more you write, the better you get. Like any other profession, practice and experience is the only thing that can truly help you improve, not reading those self-help/instructional booklets. They deride the muse – those people who believe, erroneously, that one should create art when the “moment” hits you. There’s doing the work. And there’s not. But here’s a little secret. If you are writing (or drawing, or playing music) regularly, preferably at a set time each day, then one’s access to The Muse becomes easier. The habit of sitting down to write at 9:00 pm each night becomes a muscle memory, in the same way taking a hundred swings in the batting cage every day does, and it isn’t such a chore to get into the mood to write. It sounds obvious, in hindsight, but this was something else I learned through this. And it has borne out results for me.
This year was not only my most productive, as far as how much writing I did, but it was also my most successful as far as having stories accepted. I’ve been writing for about fifteen years, but for at least those first ten I was not doing it in any kind of a serious fashion. It was more a hobby that I would dabble in, when I felt like it, expecting that my genius would win out. I didn’t take into account the fact that you have to work at it. The last five years, I’ve been working at it, slowly ramping up my writing production, and it’s shown.
- In 2010 I had 2 stories published
- In 2011 I had 1 story published
- In 2012 I had 1 story published
- In 2013 I had 2 stories published
- In 2014 I had 4 stories accepted – two of which will have been published by year’s end, one that I am certain will be published in 2015, and one that is still up in the air, as the publisher seeks and artist for it.
It’s been a great year. And I hope 2015 will be even better. I’ll continue working at this. Goals include writing 1000 words each day – we’ll see if I can pass 315K next year – finishing and revising the current novel I’m working on, and doubling the number of submissions I send off. This year I achieved my goal of one a week, and actually sent off 53 submission. So next year, I need to have 106, at least. We’ll see. But, for now, Happy New Year! And here’s to 2015.