Early last year, I started writing everyday. All in all, in 2018 I wrote about 200,000 words and ended up with about 20,000 in useable prose. The wheat from the chaff and all that, but who’d think it’d be 90% chaff? Not me, if I’m honest. I was hoping for the reverse of those numbers.
I’ve kept up the habit, and I’ve found out a few things over these many months, sometimes writing in a heady euphoria and others in a teeth grinding slog but mostly just writing as best I can and if not sweating it out, then at least with a certain glow to my ever expanding forehead.
I used to write every week or so at least. In my twenties and thirties, I toyed with writing, but I never got serious about it. I noticed though, in the way that you might notice hair growing in strange and myriad places, that I was writing more often.
I also noticed I felt better when I wrote. Like I’d accomplished something. Even if the release of mental steam was just that, even if writing didn’t mean much and didn’t, in fact, lend any sort of meaning to life, it still felt like it meant something and that, I’d say, is pretty much the same thing.
About July I realized that I’d never get any thing finished if I worked on three or four novels at a time. Plus the whole process was beginning to feel a little cautious. Like I was scared to finish anything because then I’d have to publish, and if I published then I’d have to look at my sale numbers and they would be abysmal and throw me into a psychological tailspin. As it turns out, they are but they didn’t, at least not yet.
So I decided in that delightfully hot and sticky month that I’d better turn to short stories for those, at least, were short. I could finish one of those, couldn’t I? Yep. I finished about 30 between summer and the end of last year. Of those, I picked out about a dozen to actually second draft and of those I think at least seven or eight turned out pretty good.
I submitted these short stories to about 40 or 50 literary magazines, put three of them on Kindle and set about writing more. I’m hoping that in 2019 I can produce a lot more. I’d like at least half of what I put down on the page to survive the editing axe. A good part of that increase is practice, but a larger part is in applying my writing to the right project. I no longer like the notion of simply pounding out 500 words unconnected to any other writing I’m doing. A writer friend of my likes to say ‘that’s just typing, not writing’. Then again, who the hell asked him?
Part of the problem is that it’s easier to start something new than it is to pull apart what you’ve already written. It’s hard cram something crucial you missed in the first draft into the narrative you’ve laid out. You find plot holes and you realize you can’t have Clara killed Mr. Pembragast on page 57 because Pembragast left for the South Pacific on page 30 and Clara’s broke so there’s no way she can afford a ticket and who decided this novel should take place on three continents anyway? Not me. Or was it me? I can’t remember anymore.
So this next year is about writing it right the first time. Less chaff, more wheat, more finished projects. Wish me luck. I’ll need it.