I have very vivid dreams. Last night I got splattered with flesh-eating slime and missed cleaning a bit off my foot. It had eaten through a large portion of my heel before I discovered my mistake. A few nights before that I had a pet native Australian cockroach (something I would like in reality) but this one started trying to burrow into my spine. As I was trying desperately to pull it out of my back without ripping its head off, a friend casually commented that ‘yeah, everyone knows they do that.’
These dreams will not be making it into my stories. In fact I don’t think any of my stories has ever been inspired by a dream. I have heard a lot of writers say their dreams were their inspiration, but I wonder if what they really mean is their day-dreams or fantasies.
All my stories come out of fantasies. I’m not talking about the fifty shades variety, I mean those where you think about all the great things you should have said to that boyfriend ten years ago when he dumped you. Or when you wonder what would happen if the bus you were on was suddenly transported to another planet. Who would you become friends with? Who would you fight with?
I spend at least half an hour each day in fantasy. Sometimes I’m with characters I’ve put on paper, sometimes with others who will never make it out of my head. So if you see me staring out the window with that glazed look, there is a good chance I’m in a whole other dimension.
I wonder if maybe we have it the wrong way around. Is it because writers spend so much time in other worlds that they have such vivid dreams?
I’m loving the working day of writing, or eight-hour week. Twice I’ve sat down to do an hour of writing and ended up doing over two. Amazingly my editing has also improved significantly because on the days when I have commitments in the evening I print off stuff to edit in little blocks of time around my social life.
I think part of the reason for my success so far is that I seem to be planning much better than I have for my other ‘methods’ of writing. Because my definition of writing has expanded to editing I’m actually giving my editing the recognition it deserves and therefore getting more done.
When you just have word targets editing can fall down in the priority list, but there is no point writing 5,000 words a day if you don’t edit them. So now, not only am I starting to finish some stories to first draft status, but I’m actually dragging some of them through to a second draft so I can show them to my beta readers.
So the eight hours across the week compared to one whole day dedicated to writing. Well there is no comparison; I was four times more productive spreading my writing over a full working week than I was with a single day of ‘dedicated’ writing. I think I might be onto something here!
On Monday it was Adelaide Cup Day, yes, the race that doesn’t even stop the capital city after which it was named was on, so we all got to take the day off, most of us unsure if it was Labour Day, the Queen’s Birthday or just a day for us to get to the Fringe before the festival was over.
I decided to treat it like the day I would have if I was writing full time. I let my alarm go off at my usual Monday wake-up time, intending on doing an Alexander McCall Smith and writing for three hours before the rest of the world woke up. Instead I hit snooze faster than I thought my brain could even deduce that it didn’t have to go to work and I went on to sleep in over an hour later than usual.
But then I did get up and write… For an hour and a half. Then everything else became important; the grass needed mowing, the hedge clipping, I hadn’t spent enough quality time with my cat. As I was ploughing through the lawn (I have a push-mower and hadn’t cut the grass for nearly a month, so it really was ploughing) I started thinking about my week off for writers’ week. True I had written nearly 7,000 words in about a week, but nearly all of those were put down in 1.5 hour slots. Maybe word counts aren’t my thing, maybe I need time allocations?
So this coming week instead of word count targets I’m going to trial allocated timeslots for writing. I’m going to aim for one hour a day, with the option of extending by an extra half hour. I know that some days it will be impossible to book out a full hour on some of my evenings, so on those days where I am busy I will break the target into 30 minute slots which I can slip into the bus trip and lunch breaks. Since I have discovered that I edit much better on paper than the screen, editing can be the thing to do in those small slots.
I’ll let you know how I go, but the truly interesting thing will be to compare the output from my “full dedicated day” of writing on Monday to this upcoming week where, if all works out well, I should have about 8 hours of writing, or one full work day equivalent.
As predicted, Adelaide Writers’ Week was as inspirational as always. I have over 3,000 words written as proof that the writing monster has finally awoken, so I hope I can keep leveraging off that motivation.
It was interesting to hear how others approach their craft. Alexander McCall Smith told us all that he wrote 5,000 words a day, no wonder he can manage to publish four books a year! Others seemed to hit on the golden 1,000 words a day, which certainly makes my 300 word goal seem pretty sad in comparison. I do wonder if maybe setting the bar too low leads to less than ideal results.
Again it was interesting to hear how others get their novels written. I’m always amazed to hear how some writers just write the bits they see and then collect it into what they think will be the order of the book, and then they finish off by writing all the joining bits. Hannah Kent even had a folder with dividers marked up for her (at the time estimated) 13 chapters. She just put the bits she had written behind the chapter tab that she thought it might end up in.
Many were write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers, which I’m starting to believe is the most common approach, where you just sit back and see how the story unfolds as you are writing it from start to finish. This does lead to some serious editing work though, so while these writers tend to push out their novels in 3-6 months, they also spend nearly twice as long fixing up the second draft.
Finally it was nice to hear from many authors who did not get published until later in life. I’m sure it is just my own paranoia and selective hearing, but many of the authors I’ve listened to in previous years either got published on their first attempt after they had decided to write a novel, or they were first published under the age of 25. This year there were at least two authors who had started seriously writing in their thirties, but not found success until their forties. So there is hope for me yet.
Adelaide Writers’ Week is so good in that you get to see so many authors from so many backgrounds and writing in forms you may never have read, let alone attempted to write. And it is all free. It is such an injection of inspiration for readers and writers alike and I hope the festival continues long into the future.
Well it is on again, and I’m sure Adelaide Writers’ Week 2014 will be just as informative, inspirational and relaxing as it usually is. Now an annual event, the writers festival is nearly all free (only a few evening events have small cover charges) and it has attracted writers from all over the world, in all sorts of genres and forms.
If you are in Adelaide I’d highly recommend going along, even if you don’t know the authors. You not only get to hear from the authors and sample their work, but if you pay attention you’ll notice that they may be sitting in the audience next to you at the next session as well!
So keep an eye out for me, I’ll be popping in most days and soaking up as much as possible. Can’t wait!