The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, January 24, 2013

1000 Words A Day

My 2013 plan is to catch up on my book backlog--I have about six of 'em stacked up in my head, and it's crowded in there. To deal with this, I've looked more carefully at what I call "The Machine"--the work-flow leading to finished, published product. Basically:
1) Write
2) Read 10X as much as you write
3) Finish and polish.

I asked myself: how much do I need to write to dig my way out of this hole in, say three years? Without overwhelm or burnout? If there are three different basic components of producing work (as opposed to marketing it, for instance) then research and planning, free reading, rough draft production and re-writing do seem to be the most essential steps. And the pinch point would seem to be the production of new text. Set this number too low (or let the work be intermittent) and there is insufficient production to reach goals, as well as lack of developing the specific "muscles" of production.

If I have to create 1000 words a day, that means reading 10k a day of various fiction and non-fiction works to "feed" my unconscious. It also means that I need to re-write at least every other day. Re-writing occurs at a MUCH faster pace than creation of original rough text, so every other day works fine. That first draft stuff needs to be worked every day optimally, sort of like stretching to keep muscles loose. Or dredging sludge out of a feeder stream.

So the morning schedule is: Up at 5: 45, meditate. Out of bed by 6am, drink my tea and do something kinda no-brainer, like look over emails and check Facebook. See if there's a morning essay (like this one) that begs to be written. Jason's morning ritual starts by 7 am. Afterwards, I have maybe thirty minutes to work out or relax, and then by 8 I have to start on my 1000 words.

This can be production of book text, creation of script (about 5 pages) or conversion of script to book text. Any of these fit the bill. Then a break (if I'm tired, this is a good time for a nap) work out, or begin morning reading. This is Aristotle and Shakespeare (that complete BBC Bard is just phenomenal).

Then...the rest of the day is polishing the text from previous days, and, most importantly, preparing for tomorrow's 1000 words. What do I need to know? What is happening next? What do my characters want? How will their world respond? What themes do I seek to explore? I research, think, plot and plan and even go to bed with such questions in my mind, allowing my "dream time" to work on the problem.

And in the morning? A thousand words feels insufficient. I have enough works and images in my mind to create maybe two thousand words, which makes 1k child's play. I don't create more than that, because testing has suggest that, over time, it can lead to burn-out. And I won't have as much time for re-writing, polishing, and researching. It feels like stress, but not strain.

And stress without strain is what triggers positive growth. I'm enjoying this program, and six months from now, if I've finished two more books, I'll let you know.

Submitted for your approval...

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