One Word at a Time

I'm a fairly intelligent woman. I understand how a calendar works. I know that Wednesday comes every week. Right after Tuesday and right before Thursday. And yet, I still can't seem to get myself organized enough to get these Writing Wednesday posts up earlier in the day. But I will keep trying and eventually I'll find a system that works for me. Until then...happy Writing Wednesday evening!


My theme for today is One Word at a Time. This is a deep dark secret about writing that I wish someone had told me when I first started writing novels. My writing adventure began with short stories and poems. That was my forte. My first published book was a memoir which was basically me telling a lot of stories about my life as a Marine wife. From there I did freelance work, mostly blog posts and web content, but I wrote thousands of words a day to keep up with my deadlines.


So when I decided to write a novel, I wasn't overly concerned. I had a whole pack of writing credits by then, I was used to churning out words, how different could a novel be?


This is the part where current me goes back in time to smack past me.


I was unprepared. It was like when I had my second child. I had a daughter then I had a son. How different could two babies be? Oh. My. Goodness. Night and day, east and west, solid and squishy, take your pick of opposites. They were different. So different. The same was true with my first novel.


Sitting down to write a novel is not the same as writing a blog post or an article or a poem. There is something about the sheer scope of the project that makes it different. I noticed it this week when I was working on a devotional that is going to be free to my newsletter subscribers (hint, hint...go sign up for my newsletter and you'll get a free book in April). The book is a 30 day devotional and I'm writing it in one day increments. It doesn't feel like a novel...it feels like a series of articles. I have been averaging 2,000 words a day which is something I almost never do when writing a novel. Why? Why is a novel so much harder?


Maybe it's the idea of a writing an entire novel, maybe it's the word count, maybe it's the responsibility of the story. I'm not sure what it is, but the word novel carries heft. It carries weight. And that weight can be overwhelming.


The idea of sitting down to write a novel can be intimidating. How can I get from one blank page to three hundred or so pages filled with words that makes sense? What happens in the middle? How do I fill the space? Tackling something that big can seem impossible. And that impossibility can make it hard to start and even harder to finish.


So here's my philosophy. You write a novel one word at a time. Sounds overly simple, right? It probably is. But if you sit down to write one word isn't that a lot easier than sitting down to write a novel? And if you write one word isn't it likely that since you're already there and the file is open you might write more than one word? Maybe two words? Or even a sentence? Dare we hope for a paragraph? If we stop thinking about writing a novel and focus on writing one word instead, doesn't that take the pressure off a bit? But if you string enough of those words together, you'll end up with a novel.


My friends, it's ok to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself some grace. We live in a world that is rush-rush-rush. Hurry up and produce and move on to something else you can hurry up and produce. Move, move, move or you'll miss your chance! Everything moves so fast t creates a sense of urgency, as if we'll miss the boat, miss our shot, miss our chance. But your writing doesn't have an expiration date. There is no need to rush through. Enjoy the story you want to tell. Savor it. Relish the characters you've created, the world you've built. This rush-rush world will wait for the book you're writing. There is no time limit, no deadline on your writing career.


When you start to feel overwhelmed, when the task seems hopeless, sit down and write one word. Just one. And see what happens.

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