Our guest blogger, Marjorie Asturias, is knee-deep in writing a novel. Today, she explains how she stays on track during the writing process.
First, let me dispel any notions you may have about my so-called “expertise” as a writer/entrepreneur successfully juggling many projects. Like most people, I struggle with determining priorities, managing them and then actually executing them.
Still, I need to write. I get jittery and start picking my nails till they bleed if I don’t write at least once a day. I hear my characters whining somewhere above my head, particularly my lead character, a stubborn medical doctor who thinks that it’s my responsibility that I get him out of World War II alive. He’s an otherwise pleasant fellow, but when I don’t open that manuscript at least a few times a week he can get very testy. War does that to you, I guess.
I can’t claim to know the secrets of successful writing. For that I refer you to Stephen King, John Gardner, Natalie Goldberg, and Naomi Wolf, all of whom have written now-classic books on the discipline of being a writer. I can only share with you some habits I’ve developed over the years to help me get through what is often a rather painful, yet fulfilling period of writing.
I write every day.
It’s not that I’m disciplined, but rather because I’m undisciplined that I must write every single day. Consistency is key, and if all I produce that day is a single, terrible paragraph, I still get a tremendous feeling of accomplishment seeing that completed paragraph fill the page.
I write in the morning.
Once upon a time, I tried writing in the late evening, but by then my mind was so weakened from the day’s mental exercises that I could give only a half-hearted attempt at my computer. Now I get up an hour earlier than everyone else and click away at my laptop. My mind is fresh and uncluttered, the perfect launch pad for a writing session.
I write with music.
Some writers insist on total silence while working, but I like to crank up the classic station on Pandora.com. Rachmaninov seems to be the perfect soundtrack to a war novel, by the way.
I write first, then edit later.
Some writers agonize over every line they write before they can move on to the next one. I admire the tenacity of that practice, but it’s never worked for me. I follow the National Novel Writing Month technique of writing with little thought for grammar, punctuation, syntax, or even the pesky details of character and storyline consistency. Good storytellers understand the importance of the meaningful pause in their narration, but I, like many writers, find relief and release in the mad dash to the end of the sentence, paragraph or chapter.
Writing isn’t called a discipline for nothing. You need talent, of course, but without sustained effort, hard work and a lot of focus, you can only dream of being a writer.
About the Author
Marjorie R. Asturias is the president of Blue Volcano Media, an Internet marketing, content and search engine optimization (SEO) firm based in Dallas, Texas. She previously worked as a freelance writer and newspaper columnist, and has published articles and essays in national, regional and local magazines and newspapers. She’s currently hard at work finishing her first novel.
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