The most important part of writing is having a good chair. It has to have good back support, mobility, armrests and appropriate cushioning. It cannot be too soft or too hard. You should get the feeling that you want to do something productive as soon as you sit in it – like a starship captain’s chair, maybe, but probably nothing like that. Knees and hips and back should all be ergonomically supported in a way that ergonomically inclined people would all agree is ergonomically sound.
I’m only half-kidding. I’ve tried writing in other positions and in less than ideal chair arrangements and while it is still possible to write, it is much more of a chore. When uncomfortable, I find I keep thinking about how I can be done with writing as quickly as possible rather than how I can say what I want to say as well as possible. It’s not the end of the world to write like that, because most of the polished prose comes in during revision anyway, but if you can get it as close to perfect on the first draft then you’re saving yourself some work. And I hate work.
And writing is work. Let no one tell you differently. It’s hard, intimidating, demanding, frustrating, uncomfortable and lonely. The closest thing I can compare it to is exercise. You know you have to do it to achieve the result you’re looking for, but it really sucks while you’re doing it. Even the endorphin rush you get from exercising, which is the only thing that makes it barely tolerable, is akin to the feeling a writer gets from constructing a sentence that is funny, interesting or maybe has some measure of literary merit. And, of course, as with exercise, the best part is when it’s over.
When I decided almost exactly two years ago today that I was going to throw everything I had into being an author, I already knew I could write, I just wasn’t doing enough of it. It had been about the only marketable skill my former bosses could agree that I possessed, but just having an innate proclivity and/or talent towards writing obviously wasn’t going to be enough to build a new career. “Writer’s write,” Billy Crystal admonishes us in Throw Momma from the Train. And he’s correct. No one got rich writing one blog post or clever tweet. It takes many hundreds of thousands of words, or even millions, before a body of work can be put together and given a chance to make some money.
And please don’t mistake me. I’m in this for the money. Would I still be writing if I was independently wealthy? Maybe. Maybe not. I’d probably just play computer games all day. But since I’m not wealthy and am no longer even remotely qualified to re-enter the white collar work force, this is my last shot at meaningful employment. That may sound like a joke to most people, but I’m doing this because I sincerely can’t sing or dance or program. It’s this or pizza delivery. Well, probably both. 😉
So I began making writing a daily task for myself. At first, it was more like a once every three or four days kind of thing, but even on days when I didn’t write, I took notes or went on long walks and forced myself to work out plot problems and imagine the history of my fantasy world. Like exercise, you have to start slow and be patient. First you walk a half mile. The next day you walk a full mile. The next week you jog a quarter mile and then walk a mile on top of it and so on. It was the same thing with my writing. After a year I had Spy for a Dead Empire done and was convinced I could get Troubled King finished in nine months. I believe I did it in seven. This is just the writing and internal revisions, I’m talking about. I’m not including the month of final production I spend with an editor and cover artist.
As of a couple of days ago, I finished the first draft for Spy for a Wayward Daughter. It took about four months of pumping out about one thousand words a day, allowing for the occasional day off for real life to intrude. After another two months of internal revision, the manuscript should be ready for final production. That’s about where I want to be for the Grant Scotland series – around two books a year.
I’m optimistic I can keep that pace up for the foreseeable future. The more I write about Grant’s world, the more I find I want to write about. I’ve also found that it’s become much easier to summon Grant Scotland at will and hear his voice and understand the how and why of him. He is as interesting to me as his world, if not more so. That’s fairly obvious, I guess, since I chose to write in first person, but it’s exciting for me to think about since it means I won’t soon grow tired of him. I’ve got many books still to write and now that my writing muscles are in good shape, I don’t think I’ll slack off. Besides, my chair won’t let me.