As writers, daily writing is absolutely vital to our success as artists.
I’ve discussed the merits and strategies of daily writing before. There’s not much sense doing it again.
Instead, I’m going to share my new outlook on daily writing with you: focus on writing for a set period of time each day rather than a specific word count.
Why? Because it works.
I used to believe in making word count every day. The number varied from 500 to 2000 words, depending on my project at the time, and I made sure to reach that word count no matter what happened each day.
Or at least, I tried to.
The problem with writing to reach a certain word count is that life happens. For people like Stephen King, whose entire lives revolve around and are dedicated to the craft of writing, it’s easy to sit down and pound out 2000 words or more each day. For the common man or woman, however, this feat is far from easy.
I now write for half an hour each and every day. I don’t necessarily have to add anything new to my manuscript, but that time must be spent doing something related to my current project. For example, if I’m busy, I might spend this half an hour working on my characters or doing some research. That way, I’m still getting work done, but I’m not killing myself over it. I’m not stressing out about reaching some number.
Time limits are flexible. Time limits understand. Time limits help you focus without losing your mind; allowing you to write without taking away the fun of writing.
If you’re feeling overworked, why not drop the word count? Try setting a timer for thirty minutes instead.
What do you think about writing for a set time? What are your thoughts on reaching word count?
I heard about Allison Blanchard from one of her sorority sisters. “There’s this girl in my sorority who writes,” she’d told me. “She just published her first book. You need to get in touch with her.”
Just like that, I shot off an email. I began talking to Allison and discovered, in no time at all, that she is one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth young women I’ve ever met. Allison attends a liberal arts college as a double major in French and creative writing. Four years ago, she started writing a book. On April 6, 2012, Allison’s book got published. Her debut novel, Forget Me Not, is a young adult paranormal romance that is difficult to put down.
Recently, I interviewed Allison for this blog. I wanted to know all about her process, what writing means to her, and how she uses her writing to glorify God. Warning: this interview may cause you to fall in love with Allison.
B: What made you decide that you wanted to become a writer?
A: I was eleven when I had finally realized the answer to the dreaded question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I decided being a writer was what was going to make me happy and fulfilled. It was after I had read a series of books by my favorite author, Marianne Curley. She is an Australian young adult novelist whose books helped me through a dark time in my life. I am forever grateful to her because without her books, I don’t think I would have ever written one word of fiction.
B: Describe your writing process. How often do you write? Do you outline? How do you stay organized? Do you have a target word count?
A: I try to write every day, but things often come up or I get distracted, especially when I am in school. But several times a week, at least. I outline very little, but I find with a trilogy it is needed to make sure I don’t forget certain subplots that need to be resolved by the final book. However, I don’t like to be too detail oriented with my outlines. I like the writing process to be more organic. I like being shocked and surprised when a character does something completely different or not what I was expecting. That’s what I love about writing – being able to see how my characters change and grow and become their own people.
I usually try to stay organized by writing out ideas as they come to me. Basic plot points and different character motivations are written out as the ideas are born. I don’t usually have a word count, but a typical novel that a publisher will publish is 60,000 to 100,000 words. Usually, I keep my books around 75,000 – 85,000. I try to hit a certain word count each time I write, but now I tend to just say to myself, “Let’s write this scene out and see how long it goes.” Like I said before, it’s very organic.
B: How do you react when someone tells you that they’ve read your book?
A: I have a minor panic/happy attack inside – usually I’m dancing in my head, but try to remain calm. It is still really surreal to think that people are reading my book. Like right now. People I don’t know. It’s super humbling.
B: Is the relationship between Cole and Adeline based on a real romantic relationship? If so, which one? If not, where did the dynamic come from?
A: If Cole and Adeline’s romantic relationship was based on something in my own life, I’d be living it, not writing it. Haha! No, this relationship is fictional and comes from my brain. As a writer, I do put a little bit of myself into all of my characters. I honestly find myself more like Cole than Adeline, which a lot of people don’t expect. The dynamic, again, sort of wrote itself. Both characters are shy, but Adeline is way more insecure. Cole is embarrassed by his family (like most teenagers), but the two of them find a lot of common ground. I think that’s why they are drawn to each other. They’ve finally met someone who understands them.
B: What are your top five favorite books?
A: Ah! What a tough question! But here are my top five favorite books!
“Old Magic” by Marianne Curley
I think most people know about my unhealthy obsession for this author and her work, but she of course made it to the top of my list. I absolutely adore this novel. It is a young adult paranormal romance that deals with time travel and history. It is so good in every way. If you haven’t read it, then you are missing out. Go buy it now. No, but really. Do it.
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
I am a hardcore Austen fan and I am not ashamed. I love everything about this book and often reread again and again. Austen does a romance justice and I aspire to be like her. Oh, Jane. If only you were alive today for me stalk.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini
Oh. My. Gosh. This novel literally punched me in the face. It was so good. No, but really. This book is insanely well written that I laughed, cried, laughed again, and cried even more. If you haven’t read this beautiful book, then you haven’t lived life.
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
I love both of the Bronte sisters, but this novel is one of my absolute favorites. It is so beautiful and tragic. It is one of those novels I can read again and again. LOVE!
“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers
I think it’s clear that I love Jesus and therefore would like to fall in love with a man who does too. This romance novel showed me that it is possible. Francine Rivers’ words and truth of the Gospel changed my perception of true love and what it is all about. I cried throughout this novel, loving the characters and seeing myself in them. This book is a must read for any follower of Christ who is looking for a man to lead her closer to God. Although it is fiction this love story will ignite of flame to know Christ more intimately so that you will be able to perceive the right man from the wrong man. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.
B: What websites or resources have been the most helpful for you as a writer?
A: Writersmarket.com was absolutely HUGE in my quest to find a publisher. I paid a small fee each month to gain access to contact information to literary agents and publishers. That and reading. If you want to be a serious writer, then you need to be a serious reader. Read anything and everything. It will help you grow as a writer and learn what you like to read, which more than likely will be what you love to write.
B: What would you like to do after graduating from college?
A: I would love to continue writing and also become an editor in a publishing company. Since being published, I have really fallen in love with the process. I would love to help an author see his or her work go from the computer to the hands of a fan.
B: How do you feel Christian writers can use their gifts to glorify God, as you have with your writing?
A: I think Christian writers need to remember why/how they write. Because God has given you the gift and talent to write. I always pray before/during the writing process. I want my work to glorify Him and I want Him to lead me in what I am supposed to write. Therefore, I would encourage other Christian writers to continue to lean on Him, trust Him, and write to glorify Him.
B: What was the most difficult part of the publication process?
A: Getting someone who would actually read the full manuscript. Many would only ask for a few chapters or only 75 pages and make a decision based on those pages alone. I was always thrilled whenever someone asked to read the full manuscript. And even more excited when someone actually sent me a contract!
B: If you go back to before writing Forget Me Not, what kind of advice would you give yourself about writing, publication, or the process as a whole?
A: To trust God and this process, no matter how long it takes. Don’t freak out or get discouraged when someone says no. Like my mom constantly told me, you don’t need a 100 yeses, you need only one. And that one yes will come.
As you can see, Allison Blanchard is a wonderful woman with a passion for writing and also for God. If you’d like to learn more about her, check out her blog. Her first novel, Forget Me Not, is available through Amazon.
Whenever I come up with story ideas, I usually have a mental image of the story’s characters as well. For example, my characters are usually famous people. In the novel I’m working on now, my protagonist would be played by Mila Kunis, and my antagonist would be Johnny Depp.
Why bother casting a novel if it hasn’t been made into a movie yet? Because visualizing your characters as they would actually appear in reality is fantastic.
Take a minute to calm your mind. Breathe in and out. Focus.
Now, I want you to imagine the world of your novel. Unravel the setting, the landscape, and the time frame. See the buildings, trees, and streets in your mind’s eye. Next, move on to your characters. Imagine them going about their everyday lives. Who do they look like? Pretened you’re watching a movie adaptation. Which actors come automatically to mind?
Once you’ve come up with some famous names, do a Google image search to find some photos of them. You can save them to your computer for reference if you want. Now, whenever you get stuck on a difficult scene, imagine the actor in your character’s predicament. Picture him or her in as much detail as you can. What does he or she do in that same situation? What does he or she look like? What does he or she say?
This exercise has proven useful to me, but it might not work for everyone. It’s been my experience that visual learners and writers with a more visual sort of memory have a better time with this technique, but feel free to give it a shot, no matter what your style.