Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Five minutes a day equals a book

One good thing is about writing a blog is that it makes one – well, me, anyway – more inclined to make public resolutions. But I’m not actually sure how useful a list ever is. When it comes down to it, we all have kind of the same resolutions every year. Basically. Write more books and be a better person, right? Still,  it's always a good idea to look back, and ahead.

2012 was a far, far better year than 2011, THANK GOD. I launched into e publishing and it's the best thing I've ever done. I got my house on the market and I should be out by the end of the month, ready to really start again anywhere I want to, and it's a great feeling. So on the personal front, finding that wonderful place to live is high on my resolutions list.

Next year is already overflowing with projects, but it's all good. I'm STILL not done with my Huntress Moon sequel but am getting closer every day.  And when that's done I'm launching straight into Book 3 of the series, which I'm already making notes on. My paranormal mystery in The Keepers series will be out May 1. I'm revising my Screenwriting Tricks workbook to have a new and improved print copy out (yes, finally, print!) by May, even if I can only spend five minutes a day on it.  But five minutes a day for a year equals a book.

Did you catch that? I’ll say it again. Five minutes of writing a day for a year equals a book.

Which is what I really wanted to write about today, because I don’t think it’s said often enough that you CAN write a novel (or a script, or a TV pilot....) in whatever time you have. Even if that’s only five minutes a day. If you have kids, if you have the day job from hell, if you are clinically depressed – whatever is going on in your life, if you have five minutes a day, as long as you write EVERY DAY, to the best of your ability, you can write a novel that way.

I’ve posted about this here before, but it's a good reminder for a new year. I wrote my first novel, The Harrowing, by writing just five minutes per day.

My day job was screenwriting, at the time, and yes, it was a writing job, but it had turned into the day job from hell. But fury is a wonderful motivator and at the end of the day, every day, I was so pissed off at the producers I was working for that I would make myself write five minutes a day on the novel EVERY NIGHT, just out of spite.

Okay, the trick to this is – that if you write five minutes a day, you will write more than five minutes a day, sometimes a whole hell of a lot more than five minutes a day most days. But it’s the first five minutes that are the hardest. And that often ended up happening. Sometimes I was so tired that all I could manage was a sentence, but I would sit down at my desk and write that one sentence. But some days I’d tell myself all I needed to write was a sentence, and I’d end up writing three pages.

It’s just like the first five minutes of exercise, something I learned a long time ago. As long as I can drag myself to class and endure that first five minutes of the workout, and I give myself permission to leave after five minutes if I want to, I will generally take the whole hour and a half class, and usually end up loving it. (There are these wonderful things called endorphins, you see, and they kick in after a certain amount of exposure to pain...)

The trick to writing, and exercise, is – it is STARTING that is hard.

I have been writing professionally for . . . well, never mind how many years. But even after all those many years—every single day, I have to trick myself into writing. I will do anything – scrub toilets, clean the cat box, do my taxes, do my mother’s taxes – rather than sit down to write. It’s absurd. I mean, what’s so hard about writing, besides everything?

But I know this just like I know it about exercise. If you can just start, and commit to just that five minutes, those five minutes will turn into ten, and those ten minutes will turn into pages, and one page a day for a year is a book.

Think about it.

Or better yet, write for five minutes, right now. 

Happy New Year, everyone!



Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.


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Ellen said...

Good advice, and thank you for knocking me out of the trap I've been in lately--thinking that I absolutely cannot write unless I have some expansive hours in which to do it. To be honest, it is hard to have a thought of my own after spending all day with (wonderful) family, needy (beloved) students, administrators. It feels like when I finally have time to write, it takes two hours just to shake off the muss and fuss of the day. But you are proof positive that it can be done. (Also, the muss and fuss are not antithetical to our creative lives---just feels that way sometimes.)

So thanks for the inspiration!

I love what you say about writing The Harrowing five minutes a day in a spirit of pure spite. Last summer, I had just suffered a particularly stinging rejection and decided my reasons for writing needed an overhaul. "From now on I will only write for the creative outlet and to connect with like-minded people." Immediately after that, I flew to a workshop with a playwright I adore, who said in her opening remarks "Anger is a great reason to write! Vindictiveness, jealousy, competition--those are all great reasons to write! So is fear!"

Resolution: JUST WRITE.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Happy New Year, Ellen!!

Teaching is draining, there's no way around it. But the five minute thing turns off the inner critic. ANYONE can sit down to five minutes, and it's amazing how often five minutes turns into two hours just because there's no pressure to do two hours.

And the anger thing - I wrote Huntress Moon after I heard Denise Mina say, "Write about what makes you angry." It works!

Mary Stella said...

Alex, I reallllllly needed to hear this today.

Thank you!

Happy New Year, my friend!

Happy to hear that you're almost done with the sequel. Need me the second Huntress book!

Von Rupert said...

Excellent advice which I'll be following. And, squee!!!--I'm so excited about the upcoming print version of your book! I've been longing for a print copy. It's hard to dog-ear the kindle. ;)

C.A. said...

Shared your post on my Facebook, really a great motivation and reminder to "apply seat of pants to chair" and just WRITE.

I'm trying to get back to creative writing, after a long, bad spell of...NOT writing.