Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Staying sane as a writer

Sticking (sort of) with my resolution to work every day on revising my novels has made one thing very clear: all revisions all the time makes Rebecca one crazy lady.  Doing it while laid up with a bum foot probably doesn't help, as my usual approach to regaining sanity is to go out for a ride or a run.  Instead, I have to think about what can be done beside start another game of Words With Friends (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The thing is, I notice that all the books and articles on writing talk about needing to sit down and write every day.

None of them seem to address what to do when you've finished a draft, and you need to sit down and revise every day.  Completely different job and different piece of the brain, though utterly essential, (as noted here) and if you can't do this part, no matter how good you are at sitting down and writing every day, you aren't a writer and should get a day job.

So how do I keep sane while doing the hard part?  Here are my two main solutions so far:
1.  Set a modest goal every day.  I'm shooting for 25 pages worked over and annotated for further working over.  That's one to two hours, depending on how awful it is, or how much I've changed my mind about where things are going.  If my head or foot starts to throb before I get there, I cut myself some slack and stop at 20 pages.  Today it took me an hour to do 10 pages.  Since I have a report to finish and some other work, I may stop there.  Maybe I can do more later in the day.  Rules are made to be broken.

2.  What else?  Start a new book.  That short story I posted last week about Halitor the Hero?  Yeah, him.  He's bouncing around in my head asking to get out.  So I'm letting him out.  Finish the revisions for the day, and I get to write a few pages, for an hour or until my hand wears out and I get cramps in my shoulder from writing on the couch with my foot higher than my head (this will improve.  My foot will heal.  My hand will probably never adapt to writing for long periods).

This means I am now working on three projects simultaneously.   Well, I read multiple books at once. Maybe I can also write them that way.

This also means I'm back to struggling with another on-going debate: hand-written vs. drafted on the computer.  That's my next blog post.


  1. Sometimes I think you need to get away from a work and not force things. It's not an on-deadline piece of journalism. I think your subconscious works on things when you don't know it is. I've had some works that, really, took me 30 years to complete. Some times, you shouldn't force things, but back off. It's not laziness. It's your inner self talking to you. Fiction isn't a manufacturing production line.

  2. Randy, I agree to some degree. But I also think that if a writer isn't writing, she's not improving, either. And when it comes to revisions. . . I have to have some kind of structure, because frankly it's work, and not work I enjoy all that much (I like writing the lousy first drafts). If I don't insist on a schedule, I'll put it off from day to day. My first (mercifully unprinted) novel took me about 15 years to write, because it was always last priority (not unreasonably during those years). It wasn't improved by long periods between bursts of writing, as I tended to forget what I was doing, and sustaining a consistent tone was next to impossible, as I wasn't the same woman at 35 that I was at 20.


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