Saturday, August 05, 2017

Disciplined writing

I don't appear to have mentioned on this blog that Anthony Trollope's approach to writing always impressed me - though I've never been able to emulate it. From memory, he would rise at some extremely early hour (the kind of hour usually reserved these days for those who are aiming to be Olympic swimming champions) and write until he went to work at 8.00. When he finished one book he would immediately start the next. When he planned his books I'm not sure. Perhaps while he was working at his 'proper' job. He even continued this regime while he was travelling.

It helped him that his servant had to rise even earlier, to get the fire going.

I came across a couple of paragraphs today about Stephen King that I'd put on Evernote in 2013, and I think they're also worth noting. Okay, not everyone is Trollope or King, and not everyone's day can be so ordered as to rise at a certain time and just write. Nevertheless, both Trollope and King show that if we want to be a writer, it requires discipline.

This paragraph originally appeared in Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac pages on King.

Stephen King has published 50 novels, five nonfiction books, and 200 short stories. To keep up this rate, he writes 2,000 words — about 10 pages — every single day. He said: "On some days, those 10 pages come easily; I'm up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning, perky as a rat in liverwurst. More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day's work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I'm still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words."

King doesn't mention how or when he plans his novels. Though I seem to remember reading in his book On Writing, that he basically sits down and begins writing and lets the book find itself. And the only revising he does once the first draft is finished is to reduce the adjectives and adverbs. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, I suspect, and it's more likely he's the sort of writer who edits as he goes. And plans, in his own fashion, when he's out and about doing the errands.

However he does his planning and his editing, the key thing here is that he writes in a disciplined manner. Yes, he's obviously capable of taking a whole day to finish the 2000 words, if necessary, and many other writers may not have that luxury. But we all have more time than we think. Too many of us use it for procrastination rather than writing...



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