Scott D. Parker
I want you to keep that number in mind as you read this post. (And yes, it’s a magical number…)
Last week I posed the question about the best way to measure progress in a story. Specifically, if word count was the best way. Every writer differs and every writer has a way to determine progress, as Dana King commented on last week’s post.
Well, for me, I use word count. Always have. And starting on New Year’s Day, I had written at least 1,000 every day.
Until last Friday.
The day job part of last Friday made it feel like a Monday. Lots of meetings, lots of quick turnaround projects. Even though I worked from home, the day just kept consumed by the demands of the day job. Nothing wrong with that at all—better to have a Monday on a Friday than the alternative.
On the days I work in the office (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), lunch is my fiction writing time. I take my Chromebook and write in an empty conference room. On the days I work from home, I use the fact that I have no commute to work in writing before the day job duties start. But last Friday when I woke up, I was still feeling tired so I opted to sleep in (something I rarely do, even on weekends). It was okay, I told myself, I can pick up the writing at the end of the workday. It’s all good.
But it wasn’t. You see, my early morning sleepy self forgot that the wife and I were heading out to see singer/songwriter Jeff Crosby at Houston’s Mucky Duck. The responsibilities of the day job were going to take me up to and a little beyond five o’clock. The show started at seven. Oh, and I also had to write my post for this blog.
What to do?
Well, I wrote the post y’all read last week and got it posted before we departed for the concert. With that done, I opened up my story and started writing some fiction.
I wrote three words. They consisted of two sentences and, after I hit the return key, an entire paragraph.
I looked at the screen, willing some words to make their way from my brain, through my arms and fingers, and onto the screen. They weren’t happening. That tiredness I woke up with was still with me, even more so with the day job’s activities. I knew I would return from the show and want to keep that one-on-one time with the wife, something that remains an important part of daily life. I also knew my 1,000-word writing streak was in jeopardy. The everyday part of the streak remained alive, but would the thousand-word streak?
I chalked up a notch in the main streak and called it a day. There are more important things than getting a daily word count. It was a stumble, but you know what you’re supposed to do after you stumble, right?
The next day I clocked in 1,172 words.
That’s the key takeaway I want to leave you with today. There will always be days in which you won’t or can’t write. A streak might be broken. As irritating as it may be—and after 55 straight days of 1,000+ writing days, it was a bummer—don’t let the break go on longer than a day. Get right back in the groove the next day and start a new streak or habit. Your future self will thank you.
Saturday, March 4, 2023
What the Number Three Meant Last Week
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Magic City Blues: A Conversation with Bobby Mathews
I've known Bobby Mathews for a few years now. Not only have I had the pleasure of editing one of his stories in Rock and a Hard Place (you have have heard we have a new issue out, which you can check out here!) but I've also had the pleasure of having him as a friend. We've drank together, talked shit about football teams together, and we've traded more than a few encouraging texts while in the middle of some tough writing.
Speaking of, Magic City Blues, Bobby's second novel, just dropped last week. Starring a legbreaker turned knight errant, it recalls Parker, Leonard, and Westlake, while also being, undeniably, Bobby Mathews.
To celebrate the release of Magic City Blues, I chatted with Bobby about writing, Birmingham, and lots more. Check it out below, and when you're done, make sure you get Magic City Blues. Look at that, I even gave you a link straight to it, so you definitely don't have an excuse.
Magic City Blues was supposed to be your debut, but Living the Gimmick came first. How long has this story been inside you, and how does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
Magic City Blues started probably in 2018 or so, and I put it away for a while because I couldn't find a way to move the story forward. In 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic raging, I had a lot of time to think about writing, and pulled out Magic City Blues. It was already around 30,000 words ... I thought "I've put too much time into this story to let it die," and then I realized that I needed to inject some life into it, make the setting more believable and relatable. So I began deepening the book's real-world ties with Birmingham.
It feels very good to have the book out in the world, even with the distribution hiccup Shotgun Honey had on launch day. What I feel most, probably, is relief. I was beginning to believe the book was snakebit in some way ... but for better or worse, MCB is here. And so far, folks seem to like it.
Tell me about Kincaid, the main character of Magic City Blues. He’s obviously inspired by a lot of single name PIs, but he’s got his own thing too. How did you find the balance to his character?
Kincaid definitely has a lot in common with the singly named PI, but his outlook is, I think, darker. He's not really an investigator. He's the guy who'll visit you if you get behind on the vig that you owe to your local loan shark, or the guy who intimidates witnesses in order to make sure his bosses don't go to jail. In Magic City Blues, he's forced into being an investigator because he believes it's the best way to serve his client.
I think Kincaid's humor and self-understanding help bring balance to the character. He knows who he is and what he can do — and what he can't. He takes the work he does very seriously, but he doesn't take himself seriously at all. He's also got some undiagnosed (or mis-diagnosed) PTSD, as well. He lives in temporary housing — a crumbling motel rather than a real fixed abode — by choice, because it's easy for him to leave everything and everyone behind if he needs to.