Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing Advice from Allison Knight

When I had been writing for awhile, I met an author who could write a book in three or four weeks. But even though I tried to write that fast, I discovered I couldn't do it.

I wasted more time trying to write and everything I put on paper was garbage. I put myself under a lot of pressure and ruined my voice. When I lowered expectations I found my own achievable goal. For me, five pages each day, five days a week gives me a 80,000 word complete novel in four months. I can live with that. I don't need to write a book in three or four weeks, not if I want the novel to be any good. If I decide to write more, or also on Saturday and Sunday, I reach my goal sooner, but I don't have to. I can take the day off and start fresh on Monday. This works - for me. And I can write two novels in a year.

Since I'm a plotter, I have to plan time to research. When I have my outline, my research notes, my character interviews,  I  find I often write more than five pages, but the important thing for me is, I've met my goal for the day, there's no guilt, no let down feeling and I know in four months I'll have a finished novel, ready for revisions.

I'm told pantsers do better with a timer. Yep, one of those kitchen timers you can buy for a dollar or two at a big box store. Ten, or fifteen minutes of writing time twice a day will net about the same number of pages as my five. If you're a pantser, try it. Set the timer and start to write. Most of us can find ten or fifteen minutes a couple of times a day to bang away at a typewriter or computer.

But, don't let my goals determine yours. If you can only do three pages or seven minutes, it might take a little longer, but you'll finish. Setting too big a goal will defeat you faster than anything. I have a couple of incomplete books that stink, to prove it. And the old slogan of 'practice makes perfect' applies here as well. If you start with three pages or seven minutes, and keep at it, you'll soon find you can do more time or more pages.

But beware. There are traps lurking out there. One is saying you don't have time, (you can sacrifice ten minutes of your lunch hour, or wait to start dinner or do the dishes for ten minutes.)  Another is finding something else you just have to do, (like sharpening pencils, feeding the cat, looking through a cookbook for a recipe for dinner tonight), or the big one, reading twitter, or e-mails. Even editing what you wrote last will eat up more time than you think and no, you really aren't writing, you're editing.

When you return to your writing, limit yourself. Read only the last paragraph you wrote. When you finish the novel you can always go back and cut or trim as you need. And here's a trick I learned a long time ago. If I can't think of the exact word I want I'll substitute symbols for the word, the dollar sign or star. When I have my five pages or a couple of minutes, I'll use the find key and look for my symbols. Maybe I won't even want the sentence or scene.

Set realistic goals and go for it. Remember the fable of the turtle and the hare. The turtle won because he kept plodding along. It works. I know for I have eighteen books and two short stories published. And I hope more to come at just five minutes a day.

Heart-warming Romance with a Sensual Touch
Allison Knight (


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Excellent advice, Allison. It's easy to lose your focus when you don't portion your time and stay in the moment.

Ute Carbone said...

Great advice, Allison. I'm with you it takes me a while to write a book--and its better if I can break it down into small chunks.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I love that post, Allison - it's so full of wisdom and good advice! I do admire your way of working and, although I'm a panster, I often wonder if I should try outlining first.

Cathy Coburn said...

I enjoyed your article Allison, I try to do the same thing but need more discipline, you encourage me to re-group! Thanks

Paula Martin said...

Great article, Alison. I do try to write every day but don't set myself targets so some days I might do 200 words, another day 2000. I like your idea of synbols for a word you can't think of immediately. Searching for that elusive word really slows me down at times so I'll start using that idea now - thanks!

Allison said...

Thanks for the compliments. I can't take the credit. I've learned from all the authors before me who were willing to give advice. Authors are wonderful people, quick to help and willing to give good advice. Note the word 'good!' So I have the credit them.

Liz Flaherty said...

Great advice, Allison. I've discovered in day-job-retirement that my writing schedule requires occasional changing up or it ends up not working. But even as a pantser, I always have a work plan!