On writing in short bursts
I am often asked by imaginary people how it is I managed to have gotten so much writing done over the years despite working full time and raising two children to their current heights. And the answer is very simple: I am a binge writer.
This fantastic term, which I’m nearly positive I made up, describes my approach perfectly. Given that my schedule does not allow me to get any significant creative writing done during the forty hour work week… or for the hour or two after I’ve gotten home due to dinner preparation… or for 3/4 of the weekend when errands are run, shopping is done, dishes and laundry are dealt with, and football is aired… I have trained myself to write complete works in very short bursts.
All right, I wouldn’t say “trained.” More like the schedule created the process rather than the process happening to fit the schedule. But it works.
An example: the first draft of Immortal, a 97,000 word book, was finished in about four months. That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Except it really took longer than that, because you have to count the year or so before it when I wasn’t writing much of anything.
One of the advantages of binge writing is that the drafts I write tend to be second drafts. That is to say, I don’t have the kind of time to throw a first draft up on the screen knowing it’s crap but that the next pass will clean it up. I self-edit the crap out as I write, so that by the time I reach the end I’ve already edited it once.
(This also led me to think my initial drafts were awesome and perfect and pure. If you are a writer, you’re very familiar with this mistake.)
Sudden free time
It took me a long time to fully appreciate binge writing, because until fairly recently I haven’t had much time to spare. But now the kids are old enough to kill their own food and I’m finding myself with the kind of time that has me sitting around and asking, “why am I not writing anything at this moment?” And if you are a writer you know that the next thought is, “oh my god, maybe I have nothing left to say!”
But I have plenty to say. It just needs to come out all at once. So rather than force the issue I’m sitting back and waiting for that to happen.
Should be any day now.