Today’s Q & A Day is brought to you courtesy of a colleague*, who asked me a questions, and as usual, I’m so darn long winded in my answer, it turned into a blog post. Yay!
So the question was: What’s your daily page goal?
The short answer is: Depends on when the book is due.
Though seriously, when I went up to OU last week to talk to the YA Lit class (*wave to Karin, Mark, and Courtney*), one of their questions was about my writing process. And I said, quite honestly, I have a wacky process that I don’t recommend to anyone.
However, I’ll share it with you, because I always hear people post their disciplined, 5, 10, 20 pages a day routine, or their 8 hours of writing, or whatever, and sometimes, if I’m not doing that, I feel like a failure, or an undisciplined hack, or both. Any of which might be true, but there’s no sense in making myself depressed over it. (/sarcasm. I know am not a failure. Though the undisciplined part is arguable.)
Usually when I start a book, I’ll write some chapters (which may or may not be the actual beginning of the book) do some research, write my outline. And then I’ll go into this phase where it doesn’t look like I’m working but I’m thinking about the book all the time. This is my germination period. For instance, before I wrote The Splendor Falls, I watched every ballerina movie I could get my hands on, and re-read my favorite gothic novels, and went and drove around Alabama (not something I always have the luxury of doing.)
This may go on for a couple of weeks, then I’ll usually start back in slowly and, to be honest, go in some wrong directions while I convert the internal process to an external one. Then things will get rolling. (knock on wood.)
During my active phase, my goal is usually "write every day." Sometimes I go on a research tangent, and end up writing one page. Sometimes I do a lot of thinking, running a scene different ways in my head, write barely anything, and then turn around the next day and write 20 pages. (That's what happened yesterday.)
When I do set myself a page/word count goal (which I always eventually do), it's usually because I'm letting myself get distracted when I really need to buckle down and get the story out of my head and on the page. In other words, I don't really NEED more research, but I'm using it as a procrastination tool. Or I'm second guessing myself, and I need to force myself to more forward.
So the moral of this story is… find what works for you, what motivates you, and what keeps you moving forward. For most people, it’s a combination of things. Give yourself germination time, but know when it’s time to turn incubation into perspiration.
I'd love to hear your creative process in the comments, whether it’s for writing or any other activity.
*Colleague is Tess Mallory who's time travel romances are being reissued from Berkley with awesome new beefy Scotsman covers instead of the old-fashioned clinch covers. (You know, with the flowing hair and awkward not-so-romantic grappling poses?) Anyway, I have a sekrit and ridikulous love for a good time travel romance.)