Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Always Leave A Little Gas in The Tank When The Writing Day is Done

No one writes a book in a single session. Even the most prolific writers are looking at about a month at the very least to complete a project (I'm looking at you, Robert Louis Stevenson), but most of us will take longer. Like a year or more longer. That means you're going to be spending a lot of sessions plugged-in to your world, building it one brick at a time. And while it might be tempting to just go all-out every day, it's important to do a little forward planning on this mental road trip you're taking.

To that end, don't end the day when you run out of road. Stop when you know where you need to go tomorrow.

Shit... where do I go from here?

You Need A Little Road To Build Your Speed Back Up

When you come to the end of a day's writing, you need to know where you're going from that point. Not in some vague sense, either. You need a clear direction and destination so you can build at least a little your speed back up the next time you sit down.

For example, let's say you planned out this whole mid-book shootout in your gritty spy novel. Your protagonist runs down an enemy agent, and they have a huge knock-down, drag-out brawl in the rain. Your hero comes out on top, and holds the enemy agent over a steep drop, demanding to know who he works for. You end your session there. Then tomorrow you sit down, open the file, and stare at the screen for an hour and a half.

Why? Well, because you have no idea who hired this guy, or how it connects to your plot. You don't know what your protagonist does from here, or how far he's willing to go to get the answers. And because you're starting from the cliffhanger you left off on, your brain is stalling out.

Oh hey... what's over there?
If you know you're approaching the last of your rope, don't go until you've reached the bitter end. Leave a few handfuls so that when you sit down tomorrow you at least know how to get started. Because once you have the engine revved, and you've built up speed, it's easy to go off in new directions. Just like how you can jump further if you have a dozen yards to sprint, than if you stood at the edge of a cliff and tried to long-jump across the canyon.

Writing a book is hard enough as it is. Don't make it harder on yourself than you have to by going until you're running on fumes, and hoping someone fills your idea tank before you come back tomorrow.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. Sorry for the brevity, but sometimes advice doesn't take 1,000 words to convey. If you'd like to help support me and my blog, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. If you pledge at least $1 a month, then there's a pile of swag waiting as a thank you. Lastly, if you want to keep up-to-date on all my work and projects, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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