Not a Failure, but a Stepping Stone

[Sorry about the lack of updates.]

This month, upon just passing 2,000 words. I stopped writing. My aim was to write 300 words a day. When I didn't for two days in a row, it all fell apart.

Because I wasn't writing, I didn't blog either. I didn't want to tell everyone I wasn't making it again. But I am still confident in my idea, and that the challenge is not a challenge, but something that just requires a little more dilligency than I'm used to. So this month was not a failure, but a stepping stone. It's there, helping me towards next month, where I can start afresh but add to what I have achieved. When I fall away I can reel myself back in the next day. This will be an ongoing process, month after month. Eventually, I'll have a malleable system that will work for me long after Aundes Aura is finished and until the very end of the Válkia Chronicles.

I have to accept that with Year 12 assessments that contribute to which University I can go to, if at all, writing is not the priority this year.

I need to view the project not as an 80,000 word piece, but I need to work towards goals that can be reached in a matter of days or weeks - aiming to reach that next 5,000 word increment.

Until the year is over, this is all I can do. And it's what I'll continue to do, because that's all writing is - a series of stepping stones.

Habitual March: Day 9

My first day with this set-up has been successful!

Today: 410 words.

Funnily enough, this keeps me above my goal line for this month, all thanks to the 1,000+ words I wrote at the start of the month.

Now comes the challenge: Keeping up with this every day. I'm sure I'll veer off track at some point, but hopefully I can at least get a decent chunk done before then.

I could even end up taking this all the way to the end of the novel. [Laughs.] Wouldn't that be nice?

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Habitual March: Day 8

[The Habitual March]

After a somewhat unsurprisingly unsuccessful Habitual January, I have a new angle for March. I may not be able to start until next week, but it's something. Firstly, I'd like to link you to Timothy Hallinan, who has written the most useful piece on consistency, all with the intention of helping you finish your novel.

This is where I got my inspiration for this new angle.

Now, I know I can write 300 words a day. I proved that earlier this month. What I lacked was the discipline to find the time every night.

Hallinan quotes Raymond Chandler as saying: "The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at the least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. . . . But he is not to do any other thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines . . . . Two very simple rules, a: you don’t have to write. b: you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself."

Now, I would just like to quickly quote Hallinan. One of his reasons for writing every day is that "the more time you spend with your story, the more real its world will be to you. If you spend three days away, it will be three times as difficult to get going again. If you spend a month away, you're practically going to have to start over. You want the momentum and the familiarity with the world of your book that only comes when you enter that world regularly."

So this is the challenge I'm setting myself.

From 5:00pm until 6:00pm, I must have a word document open. I can't do anything other than write. That means no internet, except for Write or Die (I'll be buying that program as soon as possible). Now, I don't have to write anything in that time-frame, but I'm not allowed to do anything else. No reading, no internet, no chatting, no making chai lattes or coffees or getting snacks. Although, I will allow myself to prepare those things before the session begins. But at 5:00:01, I'm in the chair and hopefully about to start planning a WorD Splurge.

If I pass 300 words, then great! I can stop. But I generally write more by the time the half-hour of my Splurge is up -- and you never know when you'll clunk out that 450! And when you're writing more than 300 words each day, it adds up very quickly, and after a few days you've got yourself more than 1,000 words, and was it really that hard? Not if you can keep to your schedule.

But I've been over this! Schedules always get ruined by Real Life! So it has to be adaptable. If there's something ON at 5:00, I'll have to move my schedule for that day to perhaps 8:00 - 9:00.

And the all-important lesson I learnt the hard way: If you miss a day, don't you dare think you have to make up for it the next day along with that day's words. No. Continue as if you hadn't missed the day before. Write your 300 words for today. And the next day, write for that day. Your conscience will be thankful. There's nothing more self-destructive than thinking you have to write more to make up for something. It forces an illusion of failure on you.

Keep it manageable, and keep it consistent.

If you've been having troubles finishing your novel, or need help finishing any novel or short story, or you just want to be more productive, I highly recommend you read more of Timothy Hallinan's website and see what you can do for yourself.

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Writers' Tools: The Notepad

When you've been using a computer to type up your manuscript for weeks, months or years, you can get desensitised to the power. You can make it look all pretty and professional, double spacing, page number, novel name and surname at the top right, 1-inch margins. Or maybe you feel like you can write better if what you have in front of you looks like a book. You change the page size and narrow the line-spacing to back to one. You add an italicised title to the top of the page and page numbers to the bottom, change the centring to "justified", format the chapter headings and add acknowledgements, a map, a quote, a copyright page, a title page and a contents page to the front, and an author bio at the back.

I've done most of these things.

But generally I stick to the manuscript style, which I'm sure will come in handy when it comes time for me to enter revisions.

However, all this computerness can become a bit much. There's a little too much power in the works, and you don't get slapped for going back and changing something – and you should get slapped, especially if it means you're working on a single sentence for more than two minutes.

I strongly feel that writing and editing should be kept separate. When you're writing, you should get into a flow and let the scene unfold at your fingertips. Stopping to edit each sentence will stop this flow. Now, this probably isn't a problem for everyone, but if you're a pedant like me, and want to get the sentence just right before moving on – then you need help. I'm going to refer you to Dr. Wicked. For more on his program, see my post here.

Enter the notepad.

The point of this nifty little thing is to get you away from all that unnecessary power. With great power comes great responsibility. I know I'm not responsible enough to stop myself from going back to edit sentences and paragraphs when I should be getting into the flow. That's not so easy when you can't just backspace and write it again. It actually takes physical effort to cross something out, and that means when you do go back and edit something on your notepad, you probably actually need to. And of course, the point here isn't to be neat and prettyful. You want to get into a flow, and you can help yourself to do that by taking out a notepad and getting rid of those obstacles and the resposibility that comes with power. Save the colours for when you type out what you wrote.

Also, notepads make you feel all writerly!

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

Here at The Dark Corner, Real Life is both our best friend and our worst enemy. Look to him for inspiration, but don't let him get in the way too much.

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