This week we’re blogging about series vs. stand-alones, but I already weighed in on series a couple of weeks ago (they’re awesome). Last week we were writing about time management; marketing vs. writing time vs. real life. I started mine in the afternoon, and then went off to teach my last writing class up at the Willow Bridge Book Store in Oakhurst, and then came back and worked away on the blog into the night. When I went to publish, I realized I’d written the entire blog on everything I’ve learned about how to manage my time efficiently so I can write, and nothing about marketing. This pretty much sums up what I know about marketing. I thought I’d finish it on Thursday, but on Thursday I still didn’t know anything about marketing, so I went back to work on the preview I was making for Summoning.
I have a Livejournal, which two people read. I have a website, a twitter account, and two facebook accounts. I have two because when I tried to get back on to Facebook one time, I inadvertently created a second account instead. I have two sets of friends . . . I’m one of them, just for ease of going from one Facebook account to the other, without getting lost again.
So, about time management and writing efficiently (a week late). When I was in eighth grade, my German teacher liked to say that if we wrote for five minutes a day, we’d complete a novel in a year. The idea, at thirteen, of completing a whole novel was sufficiently impressive that I’ve remembered his advice all these years. About the same time I read Alex Haley’s advice to prospective writers, to write two pages a day, without fail, for two years. So I did that every day for about thirty years. (I missed a couple of days in that time; the night I was delirious from flu; the time I had surgery). The first gift of writing two pages a day is that by the time you’ve done it for two years, the physical act of writing becomes unconscious. You write as easily as you think. The second gift was to teach me to do my headwork before I sat down to write.
.Whether you do your thinking while you write, by writing everything over and over, or before you write, you still have to do it. In order to get two pages done, every day, without fail – and still get some sleep! – I learned to work on whatever I was writing all through the day. So, waking up, getting dressed, commuting to work, walking to lunch, driving, standing in the bank line . . . whenever I did something mindless, I worked on the writing. Thus, when I actually had time to sit down and write, I had something ready to write down. There are always periods where you stare at the paper, figuring out how best to say something, and of course things change once you actually get in to a scene, but hitches are minimized when you’ve already worked out what you are trying to write.
The one thing that you can’t do, and also be working on the writing at the same time, is interact with people. Teaching, socializing, sparring; those events where you have to stay in the here-and-now, acting and reacting; at those times the writing has to go to the back-burner. Fortunately, putting the writing on the back-burner doesn’t slow the process down much. Situations organize themselves, characters develop, plot problems solve themselves while you’re thinking about something else.
In the interest of efficiency, when I first committed to writing, I decided to write my first drafts by hand. This was so I wouldn’t need to have a typewriter nearby, when I wanted to write. (Yes, I said a typewriter. And a manual typewriter at that). For many years I wrote on a clipboard, kept stacked with college-ruled writing paper. Consequently I have a blue copy, a hand-written copy in ink, of the first draft, and major rewrite, of everything I wrote up until my first laptop.
As I learned to write multi-layered plot lines, I found that the time it took to do headwork for a project lengthened to about ten hours of thinking per hour of writing, or two years per play or book. In order to have something to work on every day, I kept the projects lined up one after another, so as soon as a draft of one was finished, I had another ready to go.
Why do all this work? Come on! Why create something out of nothing? Out of air, out of the very air, and alter it into a form where people as far away as Maryland will read it, and laugh, and enjoy it? What can be more intoxicating?
So, now for the first time I have a novel on the shelves, and I have a whole bunch of new skills to learn. Marketing. Promotion. I have been instructed to tweet four times a day and to blog once a week. So I do blog, and chitter away on facebook in two directions. And I have tweeted, which feels like standing at a ginormous cocktail party holding the wrong drink and not knowing any of the people who are talking and talking, and adding my mite to the conversation and having it drop like a stone.
Perhaps tweeting will become an art form, like haiku, with equivalent mores about referencing the season, and juxtaposing ideas. Tweetmasters will arise, who can make you see the whole world more profoundly in 120 characters. In all this crowded world is it not strange that only you and I are really here? And now that Twitter has sold its archive of tweets, this makes inevitable the rise of tweety copyright wars.
There is always time for writing if you put it first. There is time for writing if everything else is suborned to that end. As for marketing, ask me in two years.