Write Every Day
A novel has a beginning, a middle, an end, and a point, or theme. All of the events and reactions in it are tailored to make one basic point, such as Love Conquers All, say, or We’re All Part of the Same Gestalt, etc.
But daily thoughts are more random. It’s easy to veer away from the trajectory our thoughts were taking yesterday. What was so clear to us now seems amorphous. Other ideas, some of them downright incompatible with our original concept, introduce themselves into our minds and cloud our points of view, and before you know it, Love Doesn’t Conquer All, and instead of a focused narrative, all you’ve got is a hot mess.
Think of Bella in Stephanie Meyers’ ginormous bestseller Twilight. Her steadfast love for the sexy-but-sensitive vampire Edward is the basis for the Forbidden Love theme that makes the novel irresistible to so many readers. Now, if this were real life (okay, you have to try to imagine vampires existing in real life), Edward would probably do something gross or lame at some point during their relationship, and Bella, being a normal girl, would probably find him at least momentarily skivey. Suddenly her love is not steadfast, but wavering. Her image of him would change from Perfect Lover to Creepy Dude. That happens in real life, BUT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN NOVELS. Not to protagonists, anyway.
Bella loves Edward ALL THE TIME, no matter what. Edward is ALWAYS noble and loving. That sort of tweaking of real life is what makes novels more interesting than real life. It’s what makes the worlds we create in novels better places than the world we live in. It’s why people read fiction.
So stick with your story. What I’m saying is, if you don’t write every day, you’re likely to lose your thread and wander off in a direction that will weaken your novel.
But what if somewhere along the line you realize, just absolutely KNOW, that your story is wrong in some fundamental way and must be changed?
Then you’re walking into deepest, darkest do-do. I mention this possibility only because it has happened to me, and I should tell you that it’s very hard to correct. Whatever you do, don’t just start writing what you think ought to happen, because a big change on page 16 is going to create changes throughout the book. If you find yourself in this situation, you’d better be prepared to rewrite your outline, so that you can anticipate the future changes that this will create.
That was a digression, so I don’t want to go any farther into it.
IF POSSIBLE, WRITE AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY, AND USE ALL YOUR WRITING TIME FOR WRITING
Ideally, this should be at the time when your brain is working at its best. Young people tend to think best at night -- ask any college student if he/she would rather have a class at 8 AM or PM. I, alas, am no longer in that category. I wake up early, drink coffee in bed or on the patio, and think about what I’m going to write THAT MORNING. I might make some notes, picture a scene I my mind, and otherwise get myself ready. And then I sit down at my desk and start writing.
Yes. I start writing the second I sit down.
Those movies that show writers THINKING in front of a blank page are silly and dangerous for us. If you’re writing every day, you’re thinking every day. And if you’re working from an outline (which you should be, honestly), then you know what you’re going to write. Those first few minutes (up to 60, but no more) before you start to write are for pinpointing EXACTLY what you’re going to write that day.
Let me offer an example: Say you want to develop the relationship between your protagonist, Rosemary, and the sexalicious bad boy Drummond. So you want to put them together. But how, exactly? This is what you should be thinking of before you ever sit down to write. The first sentence might be, “Rosemary woke up wishing she hadn’t invited Drummond to visit her at work.” This sets up a scene in which Rosemary, flustered about seeing Drummond again, drops things, feels foolish, maybe gets yelled at by her boss at the video store where she works. When Drummond finally does come in, Rosemary is so flummoxed that she almost doesn’t notice that he’s put two new DVDs in the seat of his pants. Rosemary is torn between telling her boss (keeping her job) and pleasing Drummond, but the scene is resolved when Drummond looks at her with his cruel, steel-blue eyes and whispers with a smirk, “you’re beautiful, baby.” With that one sentence, Rosemary enters his world.
That scene will take a while to write – maybe the whole day – and it will set you up nicely for the next scene, in which Drummond might give Rosemary the first in a series of tasks that will seal her fate as his accomplice in crime.
Just a thought. My point is, by planning exactly what you’re going to write, you avoid any of that dreaded staring-at-a-blank-screen time.
It may take you a while to get into the habit of writing as soon as your rear hits the chair, but once it’s an incorporated part of your routine, you’ll never go back. Promise.