Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Day After The Weekend Before

Now that the dust has settled after Paddy's Weekend (I could still hear shouts, whistles and the whine of sirens at 4 am) I parked myself in front of my laptop and forced out 1300 words, which is my target for this week. By tomorrow I should have reached the total word count for this story, but it isn't over yet - I need to edit what I've written as I've started from scratch.

I'm trying not to feel guilty this week about everything but it is difficult. I tend to write non stop over several hours - I wrote today's word count in two and a half hours without a break, after which my head clouded and I couldn't produce any more. Sometimes it takes me three or four hours, but by early afternoon I'm only good for thinking about what should come next or ideas on rewriting what I've produced earlier.

I've always worked like this. Before the novel writing I was a copy writer and editor for a pharmaceutical magazine and later I designed and wrote web-based training for companies. I would spend the morning writing and the afternoon doing mindless administration duties or coming up with ideas for the next day. Guilt didn't rear its head then as I was meeting my deadlines and my boss was happy with my work.

I don't have any administration duties now so I tend to just read in the afternoon or do housework. But I can't shake the nagging feeling that I should be writing all day, or at least editing in the afternoon. I'm not sure if I'm just being too hard on myself, or if I really am being lazy and can push myself a little harder.

So I'm wondering how you work? Do you prefer to work for hours without a break, and then do other things? Or do you work in short bursts? Does the afternoon sluggishness sound like an excuse or are you also an early bird?

9 comments:

HelenMH said...

I tend to intersperse writing with other stuff throughout the day. If you're doing that amount in solid chunks then it sounds like you're doing really well. And sadly, housework etc does need doing from time to time! In fact the most useful thing I've done so far today is to unblock a drain! My life is so glamorous ...

Cal said...

I just read an interview with a published writer who also writes for Doctor Who and other TV programmes and he said that rather than set himself a certain amount of time to write each day he sets a word count he needs to meet. So if he writes his 1,300 words in the morning. As he says "in what other profession could you complete your work and then go and spend the afternoon in the cinema or having a long lunch?" I think I've paraphrased him badly but I see his point. Do your writing and then either a) enjoy yourself or b) do your other household jobs etc.

I'm VERY bad at knowing when to stop writing. I might do my work count for the day and then return to my computer and do a bit more and a bit more and a bit more until it gets to bedtime and I realise I haven't really stopped (no wonder I get so exhausted!). For me it doesn't help that my desk is in the living room so, even when I should be watching TV and relaxing I can see the laptop out of the corner of my eye and feel guilty that I'm relaxing when I could do a bit more writing.

When I start writing novel #2 I'm going to try and be more disciplined (I may also move the desk back to the bedroom) and tell myself that I need to write X number of words per day and that's it. I'm not ALLOWED to write any more. Relaxing and thinking time is just as important as writing time (it's just taken me a while to realise that!)

Yvonne said...

Helen, thanks. The housework is a pain alright!

Cal, I wish I had your problem! I'm constantly thinking about my novel but it's rare that I just keep writing, the quality just goes down after a while and I need a break. I'm so impressed that you get so much done!

jen said...

I'm with you on this one - and used to be in a similar line of work with the editing/writing. I'm much better off getting lots of creative/cognitive tasks done in the morning, even though I'm not an early bird by nature... Because I can guarantee that somewhere between 2pm and 3pm I'll hit the wall and suddenly become incapable of anything except the most mundane, routine admin tasks.

I usually deal with it by getting up and annoying other people to give myself a break or wandering off to get a cup of tea. It's amazing what great ideas sometimes surface when you toddle away from the computer. Or, if no light bulbs go 'ping' then at least I've had a break from my desk :-)

Funnily enough, I usually get a second wind around 4pm and can at least wrap things up in a coherent way for the day. That's the theory, at least!

Was it Anthony Trollope who would get up, hit his word count for the day and then walk away from it, regardless of where he was in the writing process/what fantastic idea sprang to mind? Blimey, wish I could do that!

beth said...

I can only write before lunch or after dinner. The afternoon is strictly for admin, chores or errands. I like to think of it as a perk of the job - although sometimes I question my own wisdom when I'm still staring at my laptop at 1am! ;)

Yvonne said...

Jen, your workday sounds so familiar! I do miss having people around to bounce off and spend time with when I need a break. And you're absolutely right, getting away from the computer can be useful for ideas.

I sounds very like Anthony Trollope actually, quite jealous of my word count!

Beth, wow after dinner, that's pretty amazing. I'm usually winding down then.

Debs said...

I find that having a word count to reach gives me the incentive to start with the writing and then when I get into it - unless I'm interrupted - I'll carry on for hours until something disturbs me and I snap out of it and drag myself away.

I definately think it helps having my writing space away from everything else though. I wouldn't find it so hard to get so involved if I had other things happening around me.

Yvonne said...

Debs, having a word count is a great initial motivator, and like you when I'm on a roll I just keep going until I keel over! I think after a rusty start I'm warming up...and I have the apartment to myself so I don't really have any distractions.

JJ said...

I have to write in the morning. I'm a complete waste of space in the afternoon. Sometimes I might get a second wind, but it can't be guaranteed.
JJx