by Chris McMahon
Having talked about breaking down the ‘approach ramp’ to writing into smaller lumps to build on successes, I am now contemplating the exact opposite end of that extreme. I have signed up for an intensive retreat called The Rabbit Hole, where we are setting ourselves the target of writing 30,000 words in three days – working ten hours a day.
So if you do the math, this is 1000 words an hour. No problem! Well . . . When I first drafted Calvanni way back when, I did indeed average over 1000 words an hour. These days it is closer to 300. So this is starting to look like a very ambitious target.
Why should my word output have actually decreased over time? Surely after twenty years I am a more experienced writer, and it should be easier right?
Well there a couple of factors that come into play. The first is that when I wrote the first draft of the Calvanni I was in a 3 month break between jobs (the only time I have not been working since I graduated engineering in the 80s – more’s the pity). So I could write a solid five to six hours a day in one big block. At the time I had no idea how hard it would be to get that sort of flow in my later life.
If I cut my sleep – which only ever works short term before a crash – I might be able to write for a two hour block, of which the first half an hour is ‘tuning in’. Realistically, I have more success fitting in an hour most days of the week. This turns into some bizarre form of torture, with me really only hitting the flow about ten minutes before I have shut down and run for the bus. Life is cruel.
The other thing is that I tend to think about so many damn elements at the same time. How will this work with that? How will this work later in the book? How does it tally with this? Then there are the craft elements: have I used this expression earlier? is that a cliché? etc etc. It slows things down.
So when was the last time you signed up for a big writing goal? How many words an hour can you manage when you push yourself? Do you take sugar with your big writing lumps or are you sweet enough? I like biscuits.
I’ll be sure to let you know next week how I actually went:) With a bit of luck, I might have been able to finish the first draft of my current project, which is a Koontzian near-future SF thriller.
All the best. . .