One thing that has become abundantly clear to me over my years as a writer is that the key to producing high daily word counts is planning. Whenever I start a day’s work knowing where a scene or story is going to go, the words come swiftly. Now, I still don’t often get 2 or 3 thousand words out of such a day, but a thousand is generally a breeze.
Unfortunately, I don’t often know where I’m going on a story at the start of a day. At least not exactly. Part of this is the nature of how I have to write due to my day job. Some of my work, like my classes, are predictable. I can schedule around those, and around the grading that results. It still means, though, that at periods like mid-term and finals I can’t maintain the continuity of daily writing.
Another work related issue is that much of my academic work load is not predictable. The research committee that I’m chair of can go 2 or 3 weeks with no submissions, then suddenly get 6 in a single week that have to be turned around. And I generally cannot predict when research and grant opportunities might arise that I need to take advantage of as part of the scholarship requirement for my job. These kinds of things mean that I’ve never written a book that didn’t have at least one long break somewhere in it, and by long break I mean at least 2 months and oftentimes 6 or more. At times when I’ve ended up taking a break of a month or more, any plan that I had previously developed for the work starts to feel very stale and unexciting, probably because I’ve just thought about it too much and every nagging little issue has come to my awareness.
The other issue for me, though, is that I seem to have an aversion to planning a story out too far in advance. This is also about the “staleness” issue. If I know exactly what is going to happen, I just don’t care as much about the trip to get there. And since I know breaks will have to happen due to my work, some of my lack of planning is really self defense.
Some of my reluctance to plan, too, I’ve come to realize, is that I’m still more of a reader than I am a writer. Who wants to read a story where you know everything that is going to happen and can predict every twist and turn? I started out writing, not with any thought to publication, but to tell myself the stories that were bursting in my head. For the most part, that is still exactly how I feel today. I don’t want to know what comes next too far ahead. I want that joy of discovery. How about you?