I needed a break from full length novels so I entered a period where I worked on a lot of short stories. I fell in love with the short form all over again, even getting a few of my pieces placed for publication (see my Stories page for more details).
I started to question myself, though. (Isn’t that the way we keep our writer cards? Questioning ourselves?)
Could I return to full-length novel work? I mean, short stories and flash fiction are moments of light, flashbulbs of inspiration. Different from novels in so many ways.
Looking ahead to tackling another novel started to feel like looking up at a mountain I had climbed before but wasn’t sure I had the stamina to climb again.
But I had a new, great idea burning a hole in my mind. It needed to come out.
I thought about the movie Hoosiers, the scene where the team arrives to the State Championship game and is immediately awed by how big the gym is. Winning the game feels more daunting to the small-town boys than ever, a huge mountain to scale.
To allay their fears, Coach Norman Dale puts the upcoming challenge in perspective by reminding his team that the dimensions at the State Championship are the same as their tiny gym back in Hickory.
“Strap, put Ollie on your shoulders.”
To show the mountain could be overcome, Gene Hackman merely had to break it down into its component pieces, demonstrating that those very pieces were no bigger than the ones they were already accustomed to, the things they already did every day.
When I was writing flash fiction, I tried to keep my stories under 1,000 words. 1K.
A novel is around 90,000 words. I could tackle it approximately one scene at a time, one mini-story at a time. 1K at a time.
1K A DAY
It even rhymes. One thousand words, every day, bar none.
(Okay, okay….mostly bar none: the day Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, I didn’t write. Because it was a HOLIDAY, dammit.)
1K A DAY has become the answer to many questions other writers ask me.
I’ve only ever written short stories, how do you tackle a novel?
“1K A DAY.”
How do you fit writing into your schedule?
“1K A DAY.”
There’s another facet to this, something I’ve gotten much better at this time around (so far, anyway – I’m about 1/3 into the first draft of this new project): you need to be able to write anytime, anywhere.
So, I’ve really been writing 1K A DAY, every day (except for that Avengers holiday) for about a month now.
This doesn’t mean I’ve locked myself away in a tower, never to be heard from again. Rather, I’ve been doing everything I always do, meeting all my work and personal commitments. But, because I’m dedicated to that 1K A DAY (it only takes me an hour or two, depending on the day), I always fit it in.
1. The other day, I was writing on my lap in the car, constantly shifting my MacBook around the steering wheel, air conditioning blasting on me as I waited for a meeting, because I still needed a couple hundred words to reach my goal.
2. Last weekend, I went with family and friends to a lake in distant north Georgia, almost North Carolina. I enjoyed the day fully, participated in all the activities. But I also made sure to bring my laptop and get agreement that there were a couple of hours in the middle of things when I could sneak off and meet my goal.
Guys, it’s so easy for there to be a different excuse every day NOT TO WRITE.
Instead, put Ollie on your shoulders and see that, if you keep your goals small and manageable, stay dedicated to them, you can keep your promise to yourself.
And you can put together a 90,000 word first draft in about 3 months.
Then, revision. But let’s not talk about that right now.
UPDATE: Later in the day I posted this blog, completely by happenstance, I ran across this quote:
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – MARK TWAIN
So, yeah, me and Mark Twain. Same wavelength.