In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* A Question for You
* Topic: Practice in Writing
* The Numbers
Quotes of the Day
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour
“Fiction writing can be learned, if one studies diligently and keeps practicing.” James Scott Bell
“I don’t know how to tell if my writing’s any good while I’m writing it.” Greer Macallister
A Question for You
Given today’s topic. I have a question, and I’m serious.
One of the most clichéd sentences in the writing profession is “Everyone’s process is different.”
I personally find this a very strange comment.
I don’t think they’re talking about the process of actually writing. Because that’s only putting your fingertips on the keyboard or the tip of your pen on the paper and adding words to the page.
Since most people follow the traditional “write, edit, rewrite X times, shop to critique groups, polish, and submit or publish,” what do people mean by “process” when they say “Everyone’s process is different”?
If you have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment on this post at the site (https://hestanbrough.comthe-journal-practice-in-writing/).
Topic: Practice in Writing
Frankly, I added the second Quote of the Day above because I found it so ironic. As a bit of an iconoclast, I do love irony. (grin) Especially when the author of the ironic statement doesn’t realize he’s being ironic.
Practice—this is another topic that’s near and dear to my heart, but it’s one you will seldom hear anything about. And you will never, never, never hear about it on the writing boards or from any writers anywhere who are still mired in the myths.
It isn’t that the word “practice” is anathema for them. It’s that it isn’t even in their vocabulary, at least as the word is related to writing fiction.
In every artistic field of endeavor, artists are practitioners. Meaning they practice. They finish a work to the best of their current ability, then they move on to the next work, often with a new technique they’ve learned firmly lodged in the back of their mind. They practice.
Even in fiction writing. And even if that seems to contradict the second paragraph above this one, it doesn’t.
Fiction writers who are artists, who learn and study and strive to improve their craft as storytellers, also practice. Constantly. This, of course, omits those who are busy “preparing” to write, creating outlines and doing character sketches and the like, and it especially omits those who hover rather than practice.
Those who profess to be fiction writers can be separated into two broad groups: those who practice, and those who hover.
Those who practice create one work, then another, then another. That includes almost all prolific professional fiction writers.
Those who hover create one work, then they edit. Then they rewrite the work (X number of times). Then they shop it out to critique groups. Then they polish. And finally, finally, they publish. Or more likely, they begin shopping the poor, frazzled, over-kneaded work around to literary agents. Who most often require more rewrites and more polishing.
Which of course is fine with me. All they’re doing is removing themselves, for an extended period of time, from the competition for readers.
Think about it. While a “traditional” writer is slowly moving through their extended process of editing and rewriting and polishing all the originality off their work, I and other prolific professionals are writing the next work and the next.
Even if the hovering writer’s process from beginning to end takes only three months, chances are in that time I’ve written at least three novels, and maybe four, five, or even six. And chances are they’re better than the one that’s being hovered over because they still have my original voice and I’ve practiced.
One solid Stage 2/3 writer I know hovers. A lot. She is considered by many to be prolific because she manages two novels per year, like clockwork. One novel every six months. Of course, that takes into account her own hovering process, complete with rewrites, critique groups and all the rest.
In that same six months, I turn out at least six novels, and I’m capable of turning out 8 or 10 or even 12 in that time. (My average over the past almost 7 years has been 8+ novels per year.)
Understand, I’m not disrespecting this writer, and I won’t tell you her name even if you ask. I’m only stating facts. And her process is far, far more typical than mine is. So if you’re looking to learn what “most” would-be writers and Stage 1-3 writers do, copy her. The truth is, most writers don’t spend a lot of time actually writing. Even I only spend 4-7 hours out of every 24-hour period actually writing.
This particular writer’s novels typically come in at around 60,000 words. So if you do the math, two 60,000 word novels in a year equals 120,000 words per year or 10,000 words per month (333 words per day).
So from November 1 2020 through January 31 2021, while that writer ostensibly practiced her craft by writing 30,000 words of fiction (based on her average), I practiced mine by writing 302,670 words of fiction, an average of slightly less than 101,000 words per month. That’s a lot of practice.
But please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about speed at all. It’s about the value of practice. When you practice any skill, you get better at it. It stands to reason that the more you practice, the better you get.
To practice, you learn something new and/or focus on a technique in the back of your mind, then you write. Which is to say, you practice.
You can learn everything there is to know about writing fiction, but if you don’t write, if you don’t practice putting what you’ve learned into a story, all the learning does no good.
Talk with you again soon.
See “26 Themed Calls for Submissions” at https://www.authorspublish.com/26-themed-submission-calls-for-writers-in-february-2021/.
See “How to Reach Your Writing Zone, Part 3” at https://mystorydoctor.com/how-to-reach-your-writing-zone-part-3/. An alternative take.
See “A Science Fiction Author’s Pointers for Worldbuilding with Negative Space” at https://crimereads.com/a-science-fiction-authors-pointers-for-worldbuilding-with-negative-space/.
See “Want to Talk to a Kill Zone Author?” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/02/want-to-talk-to-a-kill-zone-author.html. I posted this because I thought it would be irresponsible of me not to.
See “Publishing Has A New York Problem” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/publishing-has-a-new-york-problem/. See PG’s take specifically. Here’s a little of that:
“PG just checked Barnes & Noble’s online store and found a prominent display of six ‘Now Trending’ books.
Only one title out of the six had any reviews. For that single book (publication date: 05/11/2021) there were two reviews. One of the reviews just said, ‘BUY IT NOW!’ and the second review began, ‘i still have yet to read it but from the previews’ – both were five-star reviews. (PG didn’t notice if either review ended with, ‘Love, Your Mom’)”
See “All the Things I Don’t Know” at https://writerunboxed.com/2021/02/01/all-the-things-i-dont-know/. The beginning of a laundry list of why some of us write into the dark.
See “Amazon Faces Alabama Union Election” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/amazon-faces-alabama-union-election/. Again, see PG’s take.
The Journal…………………………………… 1180 words
Writing of The Journey Home: Part 6 (novel)
Day 1…… 1628 words. Total words to date…… 1628
Day 2…… 2011 words. Total words to date…… 3639
Day 3…… 4722 words. Total words to date…… 8361
Day 4…… 3766 words. Total words to date…… 12127
Day 5…… 5161 words. Total words to date…… 17288
Day 6…… 6572 words. Total words to date…… 23860
Day 7…… 4680 words. Total words to date…… 28540
Day 8…… 5834 words. Total words to date…… 34374
Day 9…… 3157 words. Total words to date…… 37531
Total fiction words for January……… 97477
Total fiction words for February……… 3157
Total fiction words for the year………… 100634
Total nonfiction words for February… 1800
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 27130
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 127764
Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 55
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 215
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
4 thoughts on “The Journal: Practice in Writing”
It seems to me that the process being discussed is not the “writing process” but the mechanics of the method writers use before, during, and after their fingers touch the keyboard.
It’s my personal observation of writers I know that the process is, as you say, the same for everyone but the mechanics of getting to that point are different.
Just an old man ruminating, which you have always inspired me to do, Harvey!
Duke! Long time no hear! Thanks for commenting. I agree. Maybe it’s a terminology thing. I suppose it annoys me so much because I used to do exactly the same thing.
I heard all about process when I was on the writing message boards. I thought it meant we all had different approaches to our writing. You, some people outlined, some people didn’t. Some needed to know how the story ended, others needed in-depth character worksheets. Some talked about identifying the character arc or the story question.
What it actually meant: How do you outline? My best guess is that they all found comfort in everyone’s process being the same, like it was confirmation they were doing writing correctly.
Thanks for the comment, Linda. Sounds right to me.
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