Friday, July 02, 2010

The Daily Deed

As we head into what promises to be a lovely and exciting holiday weekend (at least around here in God's Country, a.k.a. New Jersey), I find myself with something I'm not too accustomed to having much of: free time. Like now, for example. The wife just left for an appoinment and the girls are getting drowsy as Bert and Ernie sing about words starting with the letter "l."

Now, a conscientious writer would head into the current work in progress (or two as the case may be) and continue where he left off. I, on the other hand, am squeezing in a moment to post a blog, maybe check up on Facebook (where I'll likely post a link to this on the Elephant's Bookshelf page -- feel free to follow me there, too!), and check out a writing site or two, like Agent Query.

These are not unimportant things, but they are distractions from the primary task at hand, which is to prepare my manuscripts for heading out into the big blue world of publishing. Their first stop, presumably, will be an agent. I don't know who that will be yet, but sites like Agent Query certainly help me get closer to answering that question. Yet, if the manuscript isn't written and as polished as I can make it, then searching for an agent is wasted time.

That brings me to a question: Do you write every day? And perhaps more importantly, does writing that isn't directly related to your manuscript count?

For example, I don't work every day on my manuscript. Try as I might, I just can't guarantee that I'll have the time and access between my workaday life and my home-with-babies demands. But my workaday life is a writing life. Does that count?

The other aspect of this question is, who is asking? I ask it of myself all the time. I ruminate over the lives of my characters often. What would Bonnie do, for example, if she never were able to return to Antarctica? Could she handle returning if Taylor had died in a helicopter crash? Is that what the death of her parents prepared her for? Or is their death meant to spring her into thinking about love and her future? Those are questions that can only be answered fully by writing and revising. Because her life isn't just about her — there are several characters moving across the pages — and I'll only pull back the veil on her life by allowing her to live it in combination with those characters.

But if a non-writing friend is asking how my novel is going, I'm going to say, "It's going well. I'm making progress every day." I might even offer a word count, because that can be impressive to people, even though I've done enough of this to know that 57,000 words now means nothing until after I've gotten through the first draft and started reshaping that collection of words, removing thousands of the wrong ones and adding hundreds if not thousands of others.

I write every day. Just not always with a pen or computer.


Jemi Fraser said...

I completely agree! As long as you're thinking about it, you're working on it. I also consider working on the query or synopsis as writing. Otherwise, I'd feel a lot of guilt! :)

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks Jemi. That's kinda what I was thinking, too. And I feel enough guilt in my life already, I don't need more.

Brian James said...

When I'm working on a manuscript, in the first draft, I write every day. Even on the days that I spend most of the day thinking about problems in the story, or how to present certain situations, I always make sure I at least work on actually writing for about an hour so. I get very nervous about leaving off a day and losing the rhythm and momentum. But voice is such a major part of my writing style, that I feel it necessary to inhabit it everyday.

Matt Sinclair said...

That's an excellent point, Brian. I find it difficult to maintain voice if I leave a story too often. And momentum, rhythm -- the whole pacing thing -- have so much to do with voice in my work.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Your closing sentiment is perfect. I write every day. Just not with words. Sometimes it's an idea I muddle over, a character I ponder on or the imaginary exchange of dialogue in my head. This ultimately affects my ability to pen the words into something solid--like a word count.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks Cat. I so rarely do anything perfectly, I appreciate when someone says that something I did fits that bill.

I was thinking of this post tonight on my torturous commute home (train was standing room only, so once again, I couldn't write), so I had the chance to think of my people. I don't know whether I accomplished anything, but it's worth spending the time.