Saturday, January 21, 2017

Patience: A Writer's Essential Quality

Scott D Parker

To use a sports analogy, writing is never a sprint. If anything, is a marathon. It’s pretty much common wisdom among us writers, but sometimes we just want things to go faster. I want more sales and I want them to come quicker. I want to have written more books and I want that day to arrive sooner. I want to have newer marketing techniques that I want those techniques to be deployed yesterday. But I think we all have to remember that patience is a key to being a long-term successful writer.
The year 2017 will be the year that I experiment with various ways to wrap up and maintain productivity of my writing while I still hold down a full-time a job. After 20 days, I can honestly say that I’m on the right track. I am well into my first book of the year, but something interesting happened earlier this week.

I was chugging along in my first book of the new year when I hit a snag. For the better part of every writing day, I've been smiling as my fingers fly over the keyboard. The story just emerged from my brain and into Scrivener, still my favorite writing tool. For this novel, I have a high-level idea of how this story is going, but that's it. Then, out of the blue, I hit a snag. It was right at the end of my writing hour so I ended up with fewer words written in that session than in others. I showered, got ready for work, all the while mulling over what slowed and stopped my forward progress. It irritated me, to be honest, because it killed my forward momentum and shrank my average hourly word count.  For a writer who has a day job, efficiency of available time and word count is key.

But later that day, I had worked out the snag. It required only a little backtracking and deleting of existing words, but the end result was me back on track. Every subsequent morning of writing went smoothly.

What lessons did I take away from this?  One, sometimes a little backtracking is necessary, up to and including excising text. I always make a note of where a story changed so I can go back and imagine a different type of story. Two, the books don't have to be perfect right out of the gate. Now, I don't necessarily subscribe to the Crappy First Draft school of thought. Doing that only makes subsequent drafts and revisions that much more of a slog. I strive for drafts as clean as possible. It was a happy reminder that patience is an essential quality for a writer. It allows you to overcome the occasional snag.

But most of all was the knowledge that everything I write is making me a better writer. I know that the novel I write in December will be better written than this book I'm writing in January. And this book is better than the book I wrote in 2013. It's all one long process that continually builds on itself. In time—i.e., with patience—you will become a better writer.

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