Monday, 27 November 2017

How Many Pages Did You Write Today?

I saw this question posted on Facebook this week. Around 20 writers responded with anything from 3 to 
30 pages, while quite a few bemoaned the fact they hadn't written any - and hated themselves (and the other writers) for it!

Do you agonize over your daily page count?

You really shouldn't.

It's not the page count, or the word count that matters. It's turning up that's important. As long as you're there, writing or intending to write every day, you'll do fine.

Writing success is a long term proposition. If you're a newbie and you want to make a career out of writing, think in terms of five years. From now till then. That's about right.

Writing is actually the easy bit compared to forging a paying lifestyle at it.

I know that in this Internet Age, everyone wants fast results and instant success but deep down we all know that's not how it works.

Success takes commitment. Being able to write for a living requires effort over the long term. Writing every day is a habit you need to foster.

And it's not just the writing.

I find it curious that writers who post their daily word count to the Net seem primarily focussed on new writing - fresh pages as it were. Whereas every seasoned writer knows that every hour spent writing new fiction usually requires anything from 3 to 10 hours revising and editing - the real writer's work.

Most everyone can write - but it takes extra dedication, skill and study of the art to be a writer - as in a real contender for success.

The Internet is an amazing thing, yes. We all have access to information that even just twenty years ago would have taken us an age to find - and use.

But absorbing that information is what takes time. It may take a writer twenty years to accept a simple truth he 'knew' but had refused to believe until the time it dawned on him as 'true'.

I've seen this phenomenon a thousand times.

Sure, I can teach you how to write a novel in 30 days.

Yes, I can teach you how to write a screenplay for Hollywood.

But it's what you do with that information that counts - how you let it change who you are, and how you alter your approach to writing - and constantly improve yourself in the process.

By all means work hard getting pages of writing out every day, but also spend a few moments daily assessing your goals, seeing what you do in context, and making commitments to staying the course.

If you only write 200 words a day, that's about the length of a novel over the course of a year. And that's fine - as long as you take the long view.

There's no hurry for the career writer.

My partner and I write every day. It's not a competition to us. It's just something we do.

Okay, so I wish sometimes there were clones of me that I could set to write this or edit that. Sometimes I wonder about bending time so that more hours were somehow available to me during the day.

But hey, that ain't gonna happen.

I have to take the long view. That if I want a piece of writing to be right and good, it will take time.

And if it takes a day, a week or a year, that's okay.

Doing your best is what matters.

And turning up, as Woody Allen once said, is 99% of success.

Keep writing!

© Rob Parnell

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Have You Tested Your Theme Against Your Plot?

How we usually begin the preparation stage in the writing process is…
 We think of an idea for a story
 We think of a suitable theme
 We plot

Once we come up with a theme and we begin plotting, we have to see how the theme and the plot match up. Sometimes as we plot we find that the theme we had initially chosen won’t do.

For example…

‘Winning The Lottery Makes Your Life Easier’

Plotting with this theme in mind, we have our characters pay off all their debts, go on endless shopping sprees, go on holidays, etc. We find though that this won’t make a very interesting story. So we spice it up, adding to the theme or coming up with a different one.

“Winning The Lottery Makes Your Life Easier But Everything Has Its Price.”

We can show the characters living the life of the rich for a while before they realize that being wealthy has its problems too...

• They now fear for their safety
• Their friends and relatives are constantly harping at their door asking for assistance
• Etc

This second scenario creates more problems for the characters, so it’s more interesting for us readers.


The preparation stage is there to prepare before you write. It’s our workbench where we figure everything out. We test our theme, we test our plot and once everything passes the test, then we begin writing.

You can change the theme as many times as you feel it needs changing, while you are in the preparation stage.

The main thing is to make your story interesting.

It’s not a good idea to keep changing the theme when writing the story because then you will have to keep changing the story. This means rewriting.

Figure everything out then write.

Have you tested your theme against your plot?

© Nick Vernon

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Quotes (4)

 "There will come a day, if you persist, when your pen will move nimbly and you will feel elated, and exclaim to yourself: Now I know that I can write," Arnold Bennett

"Jilly Cooper has been described as 'insecure and ludicrously sensitive': characteristics of any successful writer," Michael Joseph

"Writing is a dog's life, but the only one worth living," Gustave Flaubert

"If you write from the heart, you are writing at the very best of your ability," Bernie Ross

"I can't write a sex scene. In my first book there was one four-letter word, and my mother saw it and told me off about it. I wrote a sex scene and when Doubleday (publishers) saw it they just laughed at me. They said, 'You don't need it. You are a story-teller,'" Jeffrey Archer

"When I was ten, my dad bought me a second-hand typewriter and I typed out these little tales and stitched them in a folder with a hand-painted title. When I was twelve I submitted one - about a little horse, I think - to something called The Children's Mag and it was actually published. I have never stopped writing since," Barbara Taylor Bradford

"Write hard and clear about what hurts," Ernest Hemingway

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath," F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Don't allow yourself to get fussed over how to begin. Don't sit staring at a blank screen," Donna Levin

"Raising questions and then supplying plausible, yet unexpected answers, this is the job of the storyteller," David Gerrold

"Fiction fatigue - expect it, and don't let it ruin your story," Ansen Dibble

"I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope," Stanley Elkin

"Give the readers a book with people they care about and they will queue up to shake the author's hand," Norman Cousins

"An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke," F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Always remember your reader, or else you are talking to yourself," Nigel Watts

"I don't have much time for a playwright that can't write a book, because I don't think they can. A play is a piece of cake to write, it you can write dialogue, and you can plot. They get much lauded, everyone from Tennesse Williams to Pinter and Stoppard. I'd like to see them write a novel. They couldn't in my opinion." Roald Dhal

"I've never had a short story published. So, in a way, I didn't really achieve my ambition. In that sense I'm still a failure." Joseph Wambaugh

"When in doubt, cut." Ford Madox Ford

"Too much polishing weakens rather than improves a work." Pliny the Younger

"An even battle is more fun to watch." Ansen Dibell

"The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself." Patricia Highsmith

"Most authors would consider it undesirable to approach a publisher in a dirty incoherent condition. But that is, in effect, what they do when they submit a dirty and dilapidated manuscript." Stanley Unwin

"First, find out what the hero wants and then just follow him/her." Ray Bradbury

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." Samuel Johnson

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." HG Wells

"It took me 15 years to discover I had no talent for writing. But I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous." Robert Benchley

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” Ray Bradbury