Browsing Category

Thoughts on Writing

Characterization, Marketing Your Novel, On Writing, Plot & Structure, Thoughts on Writing

Writers, Keep It (Your Style) Simple

November 2, 2013

Novelists aiming to write popular fiction* need to develop a style that does not call attention to itself. If you’re writing for a wide audience, a straightforward narrative style – bare and spare – lets your story and characters take center stage.

Why? Because you don’t want your reader thinking about your writing style. That jars the reader from the imaginary world of the novel. It slows down the pace of the story.

If your intention is to write a literary novel,** go for it. Polish that style to a fare thee well. But if you’re aiming to write popular fiction, the advice to “keep it simple” applies.

Agents and editors overwhelmingly prefer spare prose. Ask any reader of a slush pile. Writers who “try too hard” in the stylistic department often do so to cover up a yawner plot and cardboard characters.

A good example of good spare prose that lets plot and character shine through is Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Collins’s prose is not yrical. It’s workmanlike. It does its job. It keeps a reader turning pages.

Collins’s readers are turning those pages not because they enjoy how she can bend a gerund, but because her story and her characters are compelling.

Had she written The Hunger Games in a style that made the reader stop every few sentences to wipe away a rhapsodical tear (at the beauty of the words), but ignored honing plot and character The Hunger Games would have languished on bookstore shelves.

It is common for newbie writers who are honestly striving to do their best to think a “literary” voice is the way to go. They may not yet have mastered characterization, plot and structure, but think, “My writing style sings, so I’ll get published.”

Well, no. Agents and editors want simplicity in the writing, and a darn good story, with great characters. Why? Because that’s what readers want too.

So, keep it simple.


* Work that sells like gangbusters today – and may well become a classic in twenty years time. (Time alone decides who becomes tomorrow’s “literary author.” Shakespeare wrote aiming at popular success – and we all know how that turned out.)

** Fiction of the type English majors study in college classes.


Eclectic Musings, Marketing Your Novel, On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

On Luck and Writing

March 4, 2013

4-leaf-clover-jh1I do believe there is such a thing as luck in writing. It happens when . . .

  1. A writer’s manuscript hits an agent’s or an editor’s desk just after the agent/editor has had a fantastic lunch, or just won a freebie trip to Paris, or just scored a date with a dreamboat, or is otherwise in a really good mood.
  2. A writer’s manuscript about XYZ hits an agent’s or an editor’s desk just after the agent/editor has learned, observed, or been informed that books on subject XYZ are so hot they’re melting holes on bookstore shelves.
  3. An author’s book about XYZ is published just when subject XYZ tops a trend, or achieves peak news interest, or scores the #1 position in Google searches.
  4. A celebrity reads an author’s book and sheds tears (sorrow or laughter – your pick) talking it up on a top-rated talk show.
  5. A journalist finds an aspect of the author’s life/book (that will help sell the author’s book if broadcast) fascinating, writes an article about it – and the article is picked up for syndication by Reuters. Or, alternatively, the journalist writes the article for a top tier newspaper (LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) – and second and third tier newspapers take note and cascade their versions of the article.


Lucky instances 1 & 2 can help an author place a book with one of the Big Six Publishers. Lucky instances 3, 4 & 5 can make sure the book has “legs” – i.e., that it jumps off bookshelves and into readers’ arms – hopefully nestling close to their hearts.

But here’s the rub – in all of the above instances, one constant needs to be in play: the manuscript/book in question needs to be a top quality work.

Luck has a way of manisfesting itself on preparation.

Nonfiction books need to be well-written, researched, presented. Fiction books need to – well, look at some of the blog posts on this site about how to write reader-pleasing fiction.

When quality isn’t in place, an agent or editor will look for other options (or extensive revisions) – even if your subject matter is trending wildly. If your book does happen to get published, and it falls short of certain criteria for quality, it will languish on the bookstore shelves or readers may buy it but not be keen to buy your next offering. And for writers serious about making authorship a career, the goal is not one book sale, it’s loyal readers.

The takeaway for writers? Don’t worry too much about lucky breaks. They happen sooner or later to writers who focus on creating a body of excellent work – one book at a time. It may not be your first book, or your fifth, that brings your work to the attention of that larger audience hungry for just the kind of books you write. But it will happen sooner or later.

A small group of enthusiastic fans equals word of mouth endorsements – the best kind of marketing.

And if your larger audience discovers you when you produce Book Six, guess what happens? That’s right. They go back and buy the other five books you wrote as you built your ouevre.

In short, writers who stick to the basics – writing the best books they can – make their own luck.

On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

Writing Is Rewriting: Two Oddly Inspirational Books for Writers

January 18, 2013
Writing is rewriting.

Writing is rewriting.

I just began reading The History of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. It is a fascinating exploration of the genesis and development of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterwork, The Lord of the Rings. Aspiring writers will find it of interest, among other things, as proof of the often stated truism that “writing is rewriting.”

Few novels spring forth in final format the first go-round. Newbie writers quickly learn that writing a novel truly is not a matter of sitting down, banging at a keyboard, and getting up 10 chapters later with a masterpiece. They may find this frustrating, but in actuality, the need for patience and process in crafting a work of fiction is a blessing in disguise. It means writing is a skill, and a skill is learnable – something that can be exercised, honed and improved. Writers passionate about writing and willing to put in the time and effort will improve.

Which brings me back to The History of the Lord of the Rings. Did you know that in the earliest versions of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn (a.k.a. Strider), the romantic hero of The Lord of the Rings originally was a hobbit – one of the likable but homely and very small folk (with large hairy feet) who provide as much comedy as they do drama in the novel? Only in later revisions did J.R.R. Tolkien transform Aragorn into one of the tall kingly “men of the West” (a Dúnedain). Oh, and his name as a hobbit? It was Trotter. Strider, I think we’ll all agree, is a much cooler nickname for a romantic hero.

Another book aspiring writers will find of interest is John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. Culled from 73 of Agatha Christie’s notebooks, the book provides a glimpse of the process by which Christie – one of the best-selling authors of all time – crafted her meticulously plotted novels.  Readers can pretty much see the authorial wheels grinding in these jotted notes – Christie playing with several ideas, then deciding on the one she’ll use. An example: In her “notes to self” as she prepped to write Murder Made Easy, she jots down, “How about this,” “A good idea would be,” and the age-old questions Curran calls “the essence of detective fiction”: “Who? Why? When? How? Where? Which?”

The notebooks also show how she would think through several variations in plot lines and how she would make a list of suspects to decide on who the murderer would be. In planning for Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, for example, she noodled up nine possible murderers coded 1A, 1B up through 5A, 5B, etc. before settling on 1B.

Again: Writing is rewriting.

Screenwriter Hal Croasmun gave some very good advice on the rewriting/revision process in his article, “Take Control of Your Creative Process.” The advice he offers screenwriters – to go through a minimum of six drafts – applies to novelists as well. Draft 1 is where you get it on paper (after, of course, outlining your story – See “How to Write a Pageturner Novel: Step 3 – Write a ‘Beat Sheet’ “). In drafts 2 through 5, you fine tune different aspects of your work. Draft 6 is where you work to make it perfect.

Diamonds in the rough look like rocks, don’t they? It’s the skill of the diamond cutter that brings out the beauty of a polished gem. So too, a writer needs to apply patience and craft to Draft 1, his “diamond in the rough.”

Happy Writing!

Image: photosteve 101 via Flickr

Characterization, On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

The Eyes Have It: Show Don’t Tell

October 30, 2012

Novels are a visual medium. This is true not only because readers scan pages to follow an author’s narrative flow.

It also is true because good authors paint word pictures for readers – animated word pictures, I might add.

One of my friends told me about his reaction to his first viewing of the classic movie Rebecca (based on Daphne du Maurier’s outstanding novel of the same name. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, run to the library and download the flick. Rebecca, which first saw the light of day in 1938, sets the standard for broody romantic suspense.)

My friend said the movie’s opening scenes, which show the hulking estate of Manderley in which most of the action is set, exactly matched the mental image he’d formed of the estate from the author’s detailed description. His response to the visuals presented by the movie underscore how powerfully du Maurier was able to “paint” her opening scene. sing only 26 letters of the alphabet and black ink on a white page she matched the work of set decorators, and a Hollywood budget. Friends, that’s writing!

Du Maurier’s detailed description of Manderley still works. One reason it does is the exquisite writing. Another reason is that the place itself is almost a character in the novel, as are all the other artifacts on which the hero’s dead wife left her imprint. I don’t think novelists today would want to nudge a reader’s patience with equally lengthy descriptive passages. That’s because leaders today have little patience with long-delays before the action of the novel starts. And that brings me to the point of this post: the need for “show – don’t tell” in characterization.

It’s fine to occasionally employ a tangential character to tell us the hero or heroine is selfless, or reckless, or courageous. But it’s best to show us what they are made of, by virtue of their actions.

Actions always speak louder than words. They especially do so in novels.

And actions are infinitely more interesting than character vouchers popped off by “friends of” the hero/heroine.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss boldly steps forward to volunteer herself as a gladiator in order to save her younger sister Prim from this ugly fate. To say, “Katniss was a loving and selfless older sibling,” might mean she gives her younger sister a larger portion of the pie. Nice – but not heroic. When she saves Prim, you need say no more. We visualize the scene and are in awe of her courage.

The same is true in The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo steps forward and volunteers to take the Ring of Power to Mordor. The Ring is an evil artifact that can only be destroyed in the volcanic fires of Mordor which lie in the heart of a demonic overlord’s kingdom – Frodo is risking everything by undertaking this mission.

And what about Frodo’s friend, Sam Gamgee? Sam refuses to let Frodo take on this dangerous mission alone. It’s one thing to say, “Sam was loyal and reliable.” But Sam sticking to Frodo’s side as he sets off on what may well be a suicidal mission becomes a moving visual portrayal of loyalty – one we not only grasp with our minds, but also feel in heart and gut.

So, whenever you can, opt to show us what your characters are all about by showing us what they do.

Happy writing!

On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

On Rejection & Persistence: Edward Hopper

October 10, 2012

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), one of my favorite painters, struggled mightily to find an audience. He was 29 before he sold his first painting (in 1911) for $250. It would be ten years before he sold his next painting – this time for $100, much less than his first exhilirating sale.

In 1924, at the age of 42, Hopper visited an art dealer who represented a fellow artist. He hoped the dealer would represent his work as well. The dealer turned him down. But, in a one-man show held the same year, Hopper sold all his works.

In 1927, the artist sold a painting for $1,500 (an immense sum at that time and the highest price any painting of his had ever fetched).

By 1931, when he was 49, major museums across the U.S. were paying sums in the thousands for his work, and Hopper achieved financial security. Hopper lived another 35 years – doing the work he loved.

In 2006, one of his paintings, Hotel Window (1925), sold for $26.89 million.

What is the takeaway for artists (both painters and writers)? Simply this: one dealer/critic/client is simply one dealer/critic/client. His/her opinion is simply that. If you are good at what you do, you will find an audience. But to find that audience, you must persist.

Happy writing (and painting)!

Watch Jessica Hatchigan’s video tutorial – “How Bestselling Authors Create Pageturner Novels: Plot & Structure ” instantly on your PC, Mac, compatible TV or device via’s instant video


Eclectic Musings, On Writing, Plot & Structure, Thoughts on Writing

Workarounds (in Fiction & in Life)

October 6, 2012

I  love the word “workaround.” It is a word of fairly recent vintage. When software program users discover that a program has “bugs” – errors in coding that stop the program from functioning as it is meant to do – they create “workarounds.” Workarounds are fixes that don’t eliminate the coding errors, but that allow the program to work as it is meant to do despite the program’s hitting a wall. They are exercises in creativity and resourcefulness.

As a novelist works to shape a pageturner story – one that present readers with a resourceful hero facing a series of truly disastrous situations, the novelist actually needs to arrange for the hero to hit one or more walls. In a pageturner, a hero needs to face an impossible situation – a situation so dangerous or deadly situation he appears doomed.

In fact, readers love to see a hero in this situation. That is, of course, because they want to see how the hero will get himself out of it. It is exactly these “hit a wall” situations that glue readers to a book, and keep them turning pages.

But once a writer has placed his hero into a perilous apparent dead end, how does a writer get his hero out of his fix?

All the obvious saves are closed to the hero. (Or else the reader would have thought of the solution – and stopped reading.)

Enter the workaround – i.e., the resourcefulness of the hero.  A hero’s workaround might appear to bend logic and defy gravity – but it makes the story’s “program” work!

A hero’s workarounds are limited only by the author’s imagination.

The only caveats to the pageturner author are as follows:

  • Don’t limit yourself. Think big!


  • At the same time, don’t “jump the shark.” Keep your hero’s workarounds within the scope of possibility – although amped up, hyper possibilities are fine.


Examples of workarounds:

Note: Spoiler warning – do not read the examples below if you haven’t read/viewed Goldfinger, The Hunger Games, Back to the Future, or Hitchcock’s classic 39 Steps.

  • In Goldfinger, James Bond  has been drugged by his nemesis, Goldfinger, and wakes to find himself on a hijacked jet guarded by Goldfinger’s goon, Oddjob. Bond extricates himself by breaking a window on the plane. This depressurizes the plane, sucking Oddjob out. Bond then fights and defeats Goldfinger and forces the crew to land in friendly waters.


  • In The Hunger Games, a murderous gang pursues the heroine Katniss. They finally corner her up a tree. Confident she will have no option but to descend shortly, the gang rests beneath the tree, waiting for Katniss to come down so they can kill her. It appears to be curtains for the heroine, but (alerted by a friend), Katniss notices a tracker jacker (amped up wasps) nest hanging within her reach. She saws the nest from the limb it hangs on, it falls on her pursuers, and they flee in terror.


  • In the Hitchcock classic, 39 Steps, the hero – a Canadian visiting Britain – has been framed for murder by a gang of spies. He believes he has reached a safe haven, the home of a professor who will help him notify the authorities both of his innocence and of an impending threat to Britain. But the professor turns out to be the leader of the gang of spies. The professor shoots the hero point blank and the hero collapses. In the next scene, we find that the bullet has been stopped by a prayerbook in the breast pocket of an overcoat a friend provided to the hero. (In this instance, it is the writer – not the hero – who is resourceful.)

 Note: if Bond’s depressurization “save,” and the “book in the pocket” save now appear familiar, that is because they have been re-used by authors since Fleming and filmmakers since Hitchcock. In their day, these were spectacularly fresh. (In recent decades, the “book in the pocket” has been replaced by the bulletproof vest – as in Back to the Future.)

Somebody once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Workarounds (resourceful and surprising solutions) often save the day in real life. In pageturner fiction, they are a must.

Happy writing!


On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

Inviting the ‘Muse’: Some Practical Considerations

July 4, 2012

What can a writer can do to make the most of the time he or she finds to actually write?

The answers to that question are as various as are writers themselves.

Here are some of the things I’ve found work for me:

  • Structure/PlanningHaving written both as a “pantser” (a writer who chiefly depends on inspiration) and as a “plotter” (a writer who pre-plans story and structure), I’ve found that both ways work, but that pre-planning saves a lot of wheel spinning. Interestingly, plotting also helps counter writer’s block. If you create a one-sentence summary, a one-page summary, a beat sheet, etc. – see previous posts – you’ve created a map with a path marked out on it for yourself. When you’re done with one scene, you don’t need to pause and think a bit about what to do next; you pick up your beat sheet and know what to write next.
  • A quiet place – Optimally, a writer should have a room with a door he or she can close. Personally, I’m not one of those extraordinary writers who do their best work surrounded by distractions. Soft background music (see below) is about the only “noise” that I find conducive to writing. The Sennheiser headphones, at right, also are a real lifesaver. My hubby loves movies and watches more of them than the law should allow. With these wireless headphones, he gets better audio than he would without. More spectacularly, our home resounds with the sounds of silence for little ol’ writer person – me! If you want to sell your co-habitor on the virtues of these headphones, let them know that they also can hear the baseball game or their favorite news pundit while mowing the lawn or doing other errands in a certain radius outside the house.
  • Support/understanding/respect – Family and friends need to respect a writer’s time. When you close the door to your writing place (room or office), they should not barge in and interrupt your train of thought. Some of my writer friends find that their wise counsel, apparently, is needed on a multitudinous variety of subjects. Even “Do Not Disturb” signs don’t work. In this case, a writer may need to rent a small office (if lucky enough to have the funds to do so), or may need to make a quiet carrel at the nearest library serve that purpose.
  • Background music – Some writers like to listen to the sound tracks from suspense movies when composing suspense novels. I’ve heard that Stephen King composed his novels to acid rock. Personally, I know acid rock would never work for me. I’m not a fan of same, and I know I would find strident music and lyrics distracting. Classical music also doesn’t work for me, as it seems to demand too much of my attention. However, for me, New Age music – especially Pandora’s New Age Internet radio station  – is conducive to creative thinking.
  • Guilt – I’d like to say, “setting aside certain hours each day to write.” But I don’t like to abide by a rigid schedule. I’m more likely to find two, three or six hours sometime each day to write. It might be mornings or afternoons or evenings, depending on what else is happening in my life. What does compel me to make time to write each day is a feeling. Call it “guilt” or “discomfort,” or what you will. All I know is that, if I don’t work on my writing for a significant chunk of my day, that feeling kicks in – a sense that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing – that I’m not utilizing the precious gifts I’ve been fortunate enough to receive. Therefore, I make sure to set aside the necessary time as I move through my day.


Well, that’s what works for me. What do you find works for you? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

Happy Writing!

Image (top): SearchEnginePeopleBlog via Flickr

On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

Writer’s Block, Flow, and Some Views on ‘the Muse’

July 3, 2012

Writer & His Muse

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention ….” – Wm. Shakespeare, Henry V, Prologue

“Sing through me, Muse, and let me tell the story of that wily man, the wanderer, who endured an age of troubles, after he ravaged Troy’s proud heights.” – Homer’s Invocation to the Muse, The Iliad

“… Whatever kind and sort of book this is, O Muse, let it live for longer than this generation – in fact, eternally.” – Catullus, Carmen

“Muse” – from the Ancient Greek: Μοῦσαι, moũsai: possibly from a proto Indo-European a root word meaning “think”). In Greek mythology, the Muses are the goddesses of inspiration in literature, art, and science, and were considered the source of knowledge and the arts conveyed orally prior to the invention of writing, including lyrics and myths.

Most writers are familiar with the concept of writer’s block – the experience in which a writer finds creative writing difficult or impossible to do. Fewer writers are perhaps familiar with the concept of the Muse as it relates to writer’s block.

As noted above, the concept of the Muse dates back to ancient times. In Greek mythology, there were nine Muses. Each specialized in a branch of the arts – from tragedy to comedy, from history to epic. Back in Homer’s day, it seems, a writer or a poet with “writer’s block” would have felt his Muse had abandoned him.  I am sure that, like blocked writers today, the Muse-less writer would fritter away his time catching up on the latest news and trivia (in the market square – the Google of its day), drowning his sorrows at the local watering hole, or finding a fellow poet/writer and keeping him from working on his latest. (“If I can’t go to my happy place, no one goes to his/her happy place.”)

But let us set aside the ancient concept of the Muse, and pick up a 20th century concept that has much currency today: that of Flow, the mental state “in which,” per the Wikipedia definition, “a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

Flow, clearly, is the opposite of writer’s block. It is the desired state of operation for writers – you sit down at your keyboard and the words and ideas tumble out blissfully and with polished perfection. Ah, flow!

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the researcher who originated the concept of flow, reported that several of the subjects he studied reported that “flow” was like being carried along on water. The idea, in other words, finds you – not vice versa; you are just the conduit. Before Csikszentmihalyi, we used the word “inspiration” to describe this phenomenon.

Here’s what’s useful for writers: Csikszentmihalyi determined that you can create conditions that are conducive to “flow.” Here’s how:

  • Set about a task that has direction and structure; have an activity with a clear set of goals.
  • Have the inner confidence that you have what it takes to meet the challenges of the goals you have set for yourself with this task.
  • Get “clear and immediate” feedback as you work as this enables you to maintain the flow state.

Admittedly, the first two “conducives” are less challenging for writers than the third. (Self-editing, as you go along, needs to be done with a light touch. That’s what second, third and sixth drafts are for.)

Still, Csíkszentmihályi’s insights are useful. At left is a graph he created which illustrates his theories about flow in terms of “challenges set” and “skills mastered.”

Now, with all of the above said, here are my views on the Muse/flow – what I’ve found helpful when bumping up against writer’s block:

Getting the Muse (Flow or Inspiration) to come to you is a bit like being out in the wild woods and hoping a fawn or a deer will approach you. If you sit there anxiously, it’s not gonna happen.

But if you relax and tune in to the stillness and the rhythms of the forest, you change within; you are no longer an intruder – you are part of the scene. The animals sense it; they approach.

Personally, I’ve found that the first five or ten minutes in the “woods” of writing is the most difficult – painful even – but that, if I just start, and then perservere, the wave of flow does come along to carry me into the creative work. (Yes, some days the “wave” is stronger than on others, but it is reliably there.)

Following are two quotes often invoked when starting creative endeavors. Read them with the Muse/flow in mind, and they make all the sense in the world:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” – Goethe

“Leap… and the net will appear.” – Zen saying


Happy Writing!

Image: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry. 1842


On Writing, Plot & Structure, Thoughts on Writing

What Novelists Need to Know about ‘Plotting’ Versus ‘Pantsing’

June 20, 2012

At left is a triptych I painted yesterday in a class in Beginning Watercolors. I am not posting this art work to “show it off” (although I am proud of it as a first effort). I’m posting it because it illustrates a point I’d like to make about Plotting versus Pantsing.

If you have attended writers conferences those terms – plotting and pantsing – will be familiar to you. If not, here’s what they mean: writers who plot their novels carefully and then begin writing are called Plotters; writers who “just sit down and write” are called Pantsers (because they are writing “by the seat of their pants” – i.e., “by feel or instinct, without formal guidelines“).

If you’ve read my earlier post on the role of inspiration in writing, you’ll recognize that Pantsers better fulfill the romantic vision of how a writer works. And Pantsing is a perfectly acceptable way to write.

But there is one great drawback to Pantsing: it’s inefficient.

It’s very easy for a writer to write herself into a corner when Pantsing. At some point, several Scenes or Chapters in, she reads what she’s written so far and realizes the Story is not working. And more often than not, the Story is not working because  the Structure is faulty – resulting in a lack of Story tension and pacing, faulty Story logic, etc. That means lots of wasted effort and lots of rewriting – until the Story “feels” right.

Again, it’s fine to work this way. But it’s much more efficient to be a Plotter. (See previous posts on Step One, Two, Three, etc.)

Nor does being a Plotter mean that you eschew Inspiration – and that exhilirating feeling of entering a story world that takes on a life of its own. I’ve found that, once I start writing, even following my beat sheet outline, the Story and the Characters constantly surprise me. But I also find that, having the Beat Sheet to work from, speeds my trajectory to the completion of that all-important solid first draft.

So where do my watercolors fit in? Well, I knew a little bit about watercoloring before I took the class in which I painted the triptych. But I never would have known how to produce the paintings above. In that first 3-hour class, the instructor made that possible by showing us the techniques involved: how to paint a wash; how to use a flat brush, a round brush, a rigging brush, and a palette knife to get certain effects; how to paint wet on wet, wet on dry, and dry on dry; how to blend color; how to create tree and boulder and sunset effects; and, for the large painting, how to sketch tree trunks.

We then sketched and painted original compositions. I know I never would have painted three (to me, pleasing) drawings in three hours without this knowledge of technique. Like Plotting, technique in watercolor not only speeds up creativity, it allows you to create effects you might otherwise never be able to achieve.

Happy Writing!


On Writing, Plot & Structure, Thoughts on Writing

Think in Terms of Completing Scenes, not Pages

June 17, 2012

Aim to complete Scenes, not pages.

When I first began writing, I aimed to complete between five and 10 manuscript pages a day (1,250 to 2,500 words) on a given project.

Today, I think in terms of completing Scenes. The average Scene is 1,000 words or four manuscript pages – and can be much longer or much shorter. I aim to complete one or two Scenes a day, depending on the length.

I find thinking in terms of completing Scenes seems to make the task of writing more attractive – always a plus. (Procrastination is, to my mind, one of the biggest bugaboos we writers face.)

Since the average novel contains about 60 Scenes, you can finish the First Draft of your Novel in two months or less writing this way.

Note: Aiming to complete Scenes versus aiming to complete word counts or pages works best when you’ve completed Steps One through Three. See earlier posts. (It is particularly handy to have a completed Beat Sheet.)

Tip: Before stopping work for the day, also write the opening sentences of the next Scene you need to complete. Don’t ask me why, but this also makes returning to the work more enticing. Perhaps it sets the subconscious to work for us, so that we’re eager to complete what we started when we “pick up the stitches” once more.

Happy Writing!


Image: Erin Kohlenberg via Flickr


%d bloggers like this: