Limit.

Aug. 23rd, 2013 10:25 am
coniferous_you: (Stop! Lizard ahead!)
[personal profile] coniferous_you
The other day a friend of mine asked me what I thought was the best method of finishing a big writing project. She has a friend who has trouble finishing things, but "wants to write."

I told her that having some kind of quota was important, but that I thought a word quota was the best.

"But why?" she asked.

Well, the writers I know seem to use one of four different kinds of quota:

There's the time quota. The people I notice using this are either super-busy, or just getting into writing. Kind of like how people just getting into running aim for time, not distance. The problem is that it's very easily cheated, especially by people who haven't yet become self-motivated in writing. It isn't that hard to "wait out the buzzer" and sit in a haze for the last thirty-minute stretch of your two-hour writing quota and feel accomplished.

Some people use the page quota. I'm not even sure where this comes from, as it's even more easily cheated than the time quota. It's easy enough to aim for, say, ten pages a day and then write nothing but stuff like:

"She came into the room and said, 'I love you.'

He replied with something inaudible.

Then, silence."


Another one I've seen is the milestone quota, whereby the writer sets a daily limit of one plot point/chapter/significant block of text. I actually think this is a great method. My only problem with it is that it's really sort of the master class of quotas, and probably best attempted by people who actually plan their manuscript in advance.

The word quota seems most logical because it is accessible and difficult to cheat. Sure you can write "I don't want to write this" over and over to fill the quota, but that ultimately gets old pretty fast. You're still going to be stuck with words that you can mostly use, if only to scaffold later drafts.


Because no writing is ever wasted.

Date: 2013-08-23 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apiphile.livejournal.com
I like to combine the milestone and word quota methods, and it gets things done quite quickly.

Date: 2013-08-24 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apiphile.livejournal.com
To take the current novel as an example: I give myself a goal of 1 unit of storytelling per day (which is a chapter, or in this book a six month period in the narrative), during which X number of plot points will occur (the plot points are the outline for the day's writing) and in order to reach the end goal within the time period I want to write for I have to write X words in that day's writing session: so currently, about 4,200 words a day, for a six month period in the timeline of the narrative, which will contain roughly one to three major plot or character development points.

Also I thought of you recently - I started reading "Hard Core Roadshow" and Noel S Baker described Michael Turner's work as sparse and suggestive and almost poetic and basically made me howl with laughter and shout CANADIAN LITERATURE, for which I have you to thank. ;)

Date: 2013-08-25 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apiphile.livejournal.com
Nah, this is the stage magicians thing, the gay hollywood story is on the back burner for the time being (meaning I'll get back to trying to schlub the plot into place sometime in November, I hope).

It turns out that by my calculations of word count I need only 25 days to finish the main plot and can then devote the remaining five to idling through the framing device, so I'm THEORETICALLY happy. If I can write it at all.

Ongoing reading of the book (it's about the production of a Canadian film) is leaving me deeply amused by the incestuousness of media in Canada. And people complain about the BBC!

Date: 2013-08-26 03:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apiphile.livejournal.com
Mais oui!

... True. I suppose whatever else you can say, I do finish things.

Hah, the writer was really intimidated at first (this was the mid-nineties, when Crash and Lilies and stuff were winning big) but it didn't seem like anyone else was.

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