Confessions of A Binge Writer
A popular trend these days is binge-watching TV shows. Back when the medium was invented, you had to wait a whole week or even an entire summer to see the latest episode of your favorite show. Today, with DVDs and streaming video, you can sit for hours on end and become totally immersed in your favorite fictional universe.
While we don’t use our streaming video to its fullest, my wife and I have 3-4 TV series on DVD and tend to cycle through them when a new season comes out. The most intense experience we ever had was when we watched all of 24 in one summer. It was the definition of obsession.
For better or worse, my writing career has been defined by such binges. I greatly admire how NoNoWriMo encourages more people to write the book they've always wanted to, but there are some downsides to this race-to-the-deadline approach.
I learned how to write quickly when I was in college and worked as a reporter. These skills have been helpful as I typically have only the summer to write anything longer than a blog post or short story.
Over the last 17 years, I have written 4 manuscripts during the few summers when I wasn’t working or teaching. While I have streamlined the process with better outlining, my basic procedure remains the same: I sit down in the morning and write until I hit my word goal, which is usually 2,000 words. Some days I am under, while other days (especially toward the end) I have written up to 5,000 words in a day. This summer I wrote more than 60,000 words in seven weeks, with days off here and there to actually get outside and enjoy other humans.
While this was an immensely rewarding experience, I am not planning to repeat the process if I can at all avoid it. I imagine it’s like being on a movie set for weeks on end and you are in every scene. It becomes all-consuming.
I’m not going to lie and say I wrote every minute of every day. Sometimes my “research” time was spent discovering what my friends were saying about each other on Facebook.
Today, I have a completed manuscript, along with several notes for changes I need to make. I also have gained a few extra pounds and my tailbone really isn’t my best friend these days. We won’t even talk about what may or may not have happened to my vision during this process.
I spent most of my waking hours thinking about my story and, while I’m told things happened in the world this summer, the time has passed by in a blur.
All in all, although I love writing, there has to be some happy medium between writing for an hour a day and devoting every hour you can to the process.
When you figure out what it is, would you please let me know?
Olympics Lessons for Everyday Life
Among the many things my wife and I have in common is our love for the Olympic Games. The pageantry, athletic skill and raw energy, plus a latent desire to travel the world, all capture our attention. While it is easy to reduce the Games to a medal count and a highlight reel of celebrations and crashes, there are universal lessons that shine as brightly as the Olympic Flame.
First, the key to success is preparation. Several vignettes and even commercials emphasize the years of practice, sacrifice and determination it takes for athletes to reach the top of their sport. When I think how the characters in my book have been “maturing” for the last 15-20 years, I get a small sense of the focus needed to strive for greatness.
Second, the support of friends and family is vital. When you hear about parents and siblings who gave up countless evenings and weekends while the athletes trained and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to travel to events around the world, the crucial nature of communal support becomes apparent. I know I am so thankful for the friends who write positive reviews at Amazon or Goodreads, encourage their friends in person or on Facebook to purchase Chasing Deception or even buy copies to give away. The vast majority of any success I have achieved is because of their effort.
Third, the Games are about more than winning medals. People come from all over the world, often at great expense economically, politically and physically, to do the best they can in their chosen sport. Most of them will go home without a medal, but they still will be filled with the satisfaction they were part of something greater than themselves. In my own writing, I am not expecting to “medal”, but each time someone picks up my book I hope they will be entertained for a while and, if I’m fortunate, discover how some of the larger themes I address might be applicable to their own lives.
And like the Olympic Flame, I hope the power of those lessons never fade away.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.