Well, my novel-in-a-week challenge last week went pretty well. I ended up doing just short of 70,000 words, definitely a one week record for me, which is the equivalent word count of a book. However, I didn’t quite finish it — it’s my third run at a young adult fantasy I’m trying to get right — but it’s close. Just a chapter and a half to go.
All in all, I’m glad I did this, as I’ve always found I work well under pressure. It was also helpful to have other writers participating; we had our own virtual writing community, and each night we posted our totals as well as shared our struggles and triumphs. Did we all come away with sellable books? Who knows. In the end, I really ended up writing not much faster than my normal drafting speed; I just put in a lot more hours. The book still needs work. It’s a lot better than the first two drafts, I think, but I’m going to have to go over it chapter by chapter, most of all for setting and sensory details, but also for voice miscues. Still, I feel good about this one. I feel like I know what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it.
Lately, I’ve been gearing myself up to really increase my productivity, and this week helped kicked things off. I’ve been fairly productive the last three years (probably about a quarter of a million words of fiction a year, spread between novels and short stories), but I know I can do better. When it comes down to it, if you want to “make it” as a professional fiction writer — however you define that — the only thing you can really control that has a direct bearing on your chances of success is your production. Of course, you must also strive to get better, studying, learning from others who have walked the road, but none of that matters much if you don’t produce.
So I’m upping my productivity goals. It’s a fine balancing act, what with a full time job, a supportive wife, and a two year old, but it can be done. What I give up — television, mostly — I don’t miss much. What really drives me, and what will continue to drive me no matter how far I go with my writing career, is the desire to become the best storyteller I can be. I get so many rewards from that pursuit that it makes the short term sacrifices worth it.