It occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea to do an after-action-review of sorts as I finish a project. Look at what I was trying to accomplish and compare it to what I did accomplish. Figure out ways I could have done things better.
A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the More Odds Than Ends writing prompt challenges. I’ve looked at different sources of writing prompts before, but as I said, it can be overwhelming. /r/WritingPrompts is a good example. In 15 hours one day, the subreddit had 193 prompts. Many of those go unanswered, buried in the landslide of new posts. The ones that do draw responses tend to have some really amazing writing posted. I end up getting overwhelmed by the choices and intimidated by the other writers, so even though I still skim the subreddit, it’s really not my best choice for prompts.
The beauty of More Odds Than Ends is that it’s a directed prompt. They assigned one to me (and assigned the prompt I came up with to someone else). I always hated those in high school, before I discovered how much fun it was to run your own world. I had a terrifically difficult time doing anything good with directed writing. I think part of my problem though stemmed from those directed prompts usually being expository writing. Granted, I do that with my blog posts now, but back in my teens, I hated it. And we never, as I recall, did any real fiction writing, at least not in high school.
As I got older though, the idea of writing prompts kind of grew on me, albeit slowly. I still struggled with the dislike cultivated in high school. Later though, one of my favorite exercises from the first writing class I ever took was the postcard drill. Mike Harden had you choose a postcard from a deck, then gave you ten minutes to write a descriptive passage. I did just over 340 words in that time, and I worked my butt off for those words.
The same thing happened with “Substitution.” It took me a day to get going, but I wrote a 6,000-word story in four days. I wrote over half on the last day. I think the deadline—I had a week to write the story of whatever length I wanted—was a huge help. It was a clear deadline even if there weren’t any clear consequences for not meeting it. But the idea at MOTE is that everyone posts their story on, or at least by, Tuesday (new prompts come out on Wednesday). I could have posted it any time Tuesday, I suppose, but it went up just after midnight.
So I apparently work better with a clear objective and a fixed deadline. Not a huge surprise, really. Most people do.
The problem with a fixed deadline for an indie writer is that there aren’t any real consequences to missing that deadline, unless I’ve put something up for preorder at Amazon. If you miss your preorder date, you lose the ability to set preorders for a year. I’m not ready to go that route yet because I don’t have the process quite settled. I’ve got an editor and a cover artist, and I’ve got at least a couple of beta readers. Still need to work out the process and the timeline though.
For that matter, I’m still working on figuring out my writing speed. For “Substitution,” I averaged 1,500 words a day. That means an 80k novel would take me about eight weeks to draft. Can I maintain that speed? I should be able to, but can I? I know of plenty of writers who do that in an hour or less, and draft 80,000 words in two weeks. That’s something of a distant goal for me, I think. We’ll see.
Have a great week.
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