Sunday, November 10, 2013

Writing (with) Discipline

Talent. Discipline. Which of these is more important to a writer?

I once read a great quote about this topic. Regrettably, I can't find it again, and I don't want to incorrectly attribute it, so as a compromise, I'll paraphrase it: There are plenty of very talented writers with little discipline who aren't published because they have drawers full of partial manuscripts, while there are lots of "less" talented writers who have discipline and are published.

If you have the ability to string words together to form good sentences, then paragraphs, then pages, then chapters, and you can construct a story that grabs a reader's attention, getting their buy in, then you can probably say you have some talent in writing. But are you writing enough to make progress toward a completed manuscript?

When I first started writing Operation Devil's Fire (ODF)  in January of 2004, I was an undisciplined writer. There were times I would go days and weeks without writing a single word. A year and three months later (15 months), I was just a little over a third the way done. 

Then, I started writing a new novel, a modern day thriller. I applied a new energy and discipline to the writing of that book, which I finished in just 10 months. Not bad for guy with a full time day job.

Fast forward and return to writing ODF on 1 June 2006. By 7 October 2006, only four months later, the first draft was completed (128 days). What was different? How could I write the remaining 2/3 of the book in 25% of the time? Wait for it. Yes, discipline.

Writing the modern day thriller, which was never published and just sits on my computer, taught me how to apply discipline.

But then the question arises, what the heck do you mean by that? I mean writing when you don't feel like it. Writing every day, or at least on a schedule. I use a daily word count goal of 700 words (about two book pages), with the latitude of just making sure I hit 4,200 for the week (six days). Sometimes it's already 9:00 PM and I haven't started for the day. I don't want to write. I'd rather watch some more TV. But at 9:05 PM I start to write and the next thing I know it's 10:15 and I've written my 700 words.

I use Excel to track my word count and my progress toward the final goal of about 100,000 words

You'll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you apply discipline and set goals.

Best of luck.

Real-time Earth and Moon phase