Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Fiction Chain and ABW

by Scott D. Parker

For the new year, I decided to be Jerry Seinfeld.

No, not really, but I did decide to try something he used to do. As a young comic, Seinfeld knew he needed write everyday in order to get his voice. To reward himself with a visual cue, he purchased a calendar with all the days of the entire year. If he writes on a day, he puts a red “X” on the date. Repeat. After a week, you have a string of seven X’s. The days rolled on and so did the X’s. Soon, he had visual incentive not to skip a day, even if he wanted to because he didn’t want to break the chain.

Okay, I thought just after the new year, why not? It’s a gimmick, really, like most everything we writers do to trick out minds. I started on 4 January and wrote. I made a simple choice: I count fiction. Blogs and other non-fiction don’t count. Period. Fiction equals new content. For fourteen days straight, I wrote fiction. I had two stories going in my head and was preparing them both. Boy, it was intoxicating. I got to where I’d bow out of playing a game or something because I hadn’t “made a link today.” I didn’t want to break the fiction chain. It was great fun, too. Nor was I surprised with the amount of content I was creating. (More on that come 1 February on my blog.)

The third week of January showed the flaw in my effort. I finished Story #1 on a Sunday. I hadn’t mapped everything out for Story #2. The day job got to me that day and I didn’t have my lunch writing hour. Sure, I wrote a “CSI: Miami” recap that night but not fiction. Thus, no “X.” Don’t laugh but it killed me. I wrote the word “blog” on that day but, really, it’s a cheat. Come lunch time on Tuesday, it was so easy to break out the laptop and start writing. I wanted to start the chain again.

When it came time to edit the stories, I decided that editing fiction counted since I was still creating new lines and sentences and working fiction. As Story #1 was submitted and the first draft of Story #2 was completed, I again ran into a problem: what to write next? Thus, a chain was broken. Leading me to my corollary to my Fiction Chain: ABW.

ABW stands for Always Be Writing. That’s my short hand for always, always, have something on which I can write every single day. Some days it may be editing. But I told myself never to let a day arrive where I’m between projects. Thus, on my wall now, a large sheet (18-in. x 48-in.) of paper is taped. It is titled “Story Ideas” and I write them all there. If I’m at a loss, I look up. Simple as that.

This one little trick has allowed me to produce more fiction in twenty-two days (started on 4 January, only blogged on two days, suffered a setback on one day and didn’t produce) than I did all of last year. One Month! It’s a gimmick but it works for me. Every month in 2010 might not be like January’s output but it’s amazing how fast stories pile up when you write every day.


pattinase (abbott) said...

You really do have to do this. On days when I work, I take my flash with me and try to work on my lunch hour. At least a paragraph or two. The only thing the derails me is a day with my grandson. In that case, I know what's more important.

John McFetridge said...

Whatever works.

Dana King said...

I have a similar approach with a calendar and what "counts" as writing. Between drafts and longer projects is when I work on flash pieces and short stories.

Mike Dennis said...

WTG, Scott. If it works for you, go for it. Writing every day should really be the norm anyway.