30.8.11

Doing it 750 Pieces at a Time





I wanted to talk a bit about what I’ve experienced with my recent writing challenge and why I think it’s working for me.


The challenge is simple enough. @sarahreede and I agreed to challenge each other to write a novel. We would commit to 750 words a day, every day, until our works were done. So you don’t need to do the math, that gives me a 100,000 word novel in about 4 ½ months. Well, a first draft anyway. Every Tuesday night we’re supposed to check in and see how we’re each coming along.


The results have been nothing short of amazing. I have hit my 750 words a day, every day for the last 14 days, which puts me at just over 10,000 words or 10% of my supposed goal.


750 words isn’t a lot. I can write it in an hour if I’m motivated and like what I’m putting down, a couple if I am struggling a bit.


But it seems that as I write this novel, 750 words is something more than just a goal. It appears to be the length (almost to the word) I need to do a short scene.


That’s right, as of today, I have written fourteen short scenes in a cohesive story. It’s a good, comfortable length for me. It urges me to begin each scene Medias Res and leave while the leaving’s good. Not only that, I have found that six scenes (so far) make a chapter.


You might ask yourself, “What if you need to do one longer or one shorter? Are you restricting your writing this way?” (You may have already tuned-out to my regurgitation of self discovery…)


Not at this point. I did have one very short scene and right after it (maybe to balance things out?) one longer one.


I think it has something to do with how I became a writer. I started with poetry. The structures of poems (yawn, I know) excite the heck out of me. I love trapping myself in a certain structure based on how I start a poem and then using that structure throughout. It really works both sides of my brain. But more than that, I need that structure to continue. I’ve never been good at free verse works, or at least they haven’t thrilled me as much. I think it’s probably because the accomplishment of meeting those structural requirements wasn’t part of the work.


Also, I wrote for radio for twelve years. In this gig I was required to write fifteen, thirty or sixty seconds of copy for a commercial or promo. This trained my brain to live within the structure of time/word count as I created.


Now I’m here with a task of writing 100,000 words in 750 word chunks each day. It’s actually not surprising that my brain is placing the story in these nice little bite-sized pieces.


But I’m concerned about what it will look like when complete. I’ve already got a list of places where I will have to go back and expound on one thing or another to make the tale more complete or simply more engaging. So the final analysis will not show the strange structure I am working with today.


But will it work? Will my method be too obvious?


One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz. I’m currently reading the second Frankenstein novel he created with Ed Gorman. They are great fun and I believe there is something instantly attractive about a story that takes something that is part of our common lore and writes either a continuation of the events of the original or fictionally purports to know how things really went down. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Chris Moore comes to mind here as well.


When it comes to Mr. Koontz, he is the master of short scenes. In his case, every scene is a chapter and they are short. This novel, which is about 80,000 words, is 80 chapters long.


As writers though, we simply cannot create unless we have found a comfortable skin in which to do our work. For me, structure of word count, structure of scene length, structure of chapter length side-by-side with a flagrant discovery writer’s lack of structure for story including theme, arc and development are for me.


And if it doesn’t work? Well, I’ve learned something then, have I not?


By the way, this post according to Word, is exactly 750 words long.


Cheers,


Casey

12 comments:

  1. Cool idea. I think I can do 750 words a day... Maybe...

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  2. You absolutely could. Its a good length. Of course, I think the most important thing is it's a length you are comfortable with and will do.

    Like birthdays, they tend to add up!

    I can only say that cause I'm 43.

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  3. They say you should walk 10,000 steps a day and I doubt I do, but I'm very sure I talk 10,000 words a day easily.... Writing them into a story would be a major challenge for me, even 750 at a time. So I take my hat off to you, Casey. It may be how you're trained but sticking to it for 4 1/2 months-- WOW. I'll be watching to see how it comes out.

    Hope all's well with you. Happy Labor Day! jj

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  4. Thank you Joanna. I'm curious to see how this turns out as well. :)

    Everything is great. Right back at ya re: Labor Day. :)

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  5. well, am sure you will succeed and things will turn out right...whatever we do teaches us something or the other and what you have been doing displays discipline, i wish i could be so organized :) cheers!

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  6. Thanks Chintan. My discipline comes in spurts. My job is to take advantage of them when they happen. And I firmly believe that in order to become a good writer, one needs to write poorly first and learn from the exercise.

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  7. I have faith in you. Write on my friend and keep plugging away. You'll figure out how to make it work.

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  8. Thanks Jack. I appreciate it. :)

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  9. while structure in poetry is def not why i write it...ha...i like the math to your writing...the quick hit scenes makes for a great pace in a novel...glad to hear you are moving well toward your goal...

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  10. So glad you are writing, however many words or whenever you finish. You have talent and the more you write the better you get.

    About three months ago I did not renew my name and someone snatched it up. Until then, I could be reached at technobabe.com but now it has to be technobabe.blogspot.com. That is the only thing that changed; I have been here all along.

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  11. hey man...thanks for always dropping in...how is the writing going?

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  12. Great blog Casey. I challenged myself with the same goal in mind. 500 words a day. If you do that for a year you have more than 150,000 words of raw material to work with. In YA that's 2 novels (working just ~30 minutes a day). Amazing what small consistent steps will bring you.

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