Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ah, To Be A Pages Person.

Ron and Mary are discussing below how we structure our writing days.

When I first tried to write a book my husband challenged me to write five pages a day. Every time I wrote five pages, I’d get two Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups—the small kind, which I think have a more appealing chocolate-to-peanut-buttery-goo ratio. I wrote five pages pretty much every day. There’s nothing like a little motivation.

I found when I did this my mind was always working on the book in some level, thinking about what would come next. And then as I got toward the end of the book I’d write whole chapters in a day just to see what came next. I seemed to always be living half in the world of my book.

Then I had a baby and my writing time suddenly became conscribed by the hours we had child care, not to mention the piles of laundry and doctor’s appointments and desperately needed midday naps and entire days lost to things like little tyke getting sent home from school for getting handsy with the other toddlers. It's hard to fit in any page goal, what with all the time I have to spend procrastinating.

Right now, I am trying to begin a new book and can’t seem to find the voice. A day of stopping and starting led to little progress. But when I came home from picking up the tyke at school my cat had, helpfully, added eight pages of punctuation marks to the computer document. Do you think she likes Reece's?


  1. Two pages a day. That's what Gary Schmidt says. I'm working on it, but it sure isn't as easy as it sounds. Some days those two pages (and more) fly out of my fingers like a swollen Missouri creek in springtime. Other days, I stare and stare and stare some more, and nothing seems to go anywhere.

    This weekend was the latter experience. Something wasn't working, and I couldn't get past it. At last, I reworked the previous chapter and the dam burst. Last night, magic happened. A new character sparkled onto the scene--life is good! Twenty-two chapters down, three more to the end of the novel. Exhilarating, but very scary.

  2. A writing cat! Please write her into the novel. She sounds like she wants a paragraph at least.
    Writing only while the baby naps is like racing in the derby while eating take out in your car-- very thrilling and messy. I'm happy for four hours a day, it's delicious.
    My process is too much like ironing. I keep starting from the top and working out the snares and wrinkles as I work my way down. Printing out on paper is the only thing that saves me time. Only I don't have access to a printer right now. My characters come the same way my hair grows, I can't help it. Now if only I hadn't missed the semester on plot.

  3. Writing around the kids' schedules has always been a tricky business around here. When my 2nd child was a toddler I used to build a little world around her - blocks, books, goldfish crackers, etc... right next to my desk. I would type away while she played and sang and did her toddler thing. We often spent two hours like this in the morning before heading off to the park etc ... Sometimes I would complete an entire picture book draft, or maybe four or five pages of a longer piece. It varied. I so miss my "writing with Norah" days now. Now she's in fifth grade - children grow up, books will wait. Enjoy those early days - and write around those kids - before long you'll have entire days for writing again. And guess what - I'm often LESS productive now than I was then - everything still tries to get in my way!