Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Here We Go Again by Melissa Clark

Spring is in the air. What a perfect time to talk about new beginnings. Flowers are blooming, farmers markets are overflowing with new harvests, Dancing With The Stars has started up again, and I have begun a new novel.

While technically my two previous novels are still on submission, I've had to let go of that oppressive yet thrilling and consuming daily hope. Not because I don't still hope for a sale, some way, some how, but because I need all that energy to delve into this new story.

I am tackling this piece in an entirely different way.

First, I am writing it directly onto the computer. In the past, I've handwritten everything and then plugged it into the computer at a later date. This time I'm cutting out the middle-man and jumping straight to the source. While I love the process of correcting while I translate, I find the straight-to-computer method simply quicker.

Second, I have set a 500 minimum words-per-day goal. I have NEVER written this way before. In the past, if it flowed, great, if it stalled - oh well. In fact, I never understood people who spoke of their oevres in wordcount speak. I was a page number only girl. But not anymore. The 500 words-per-day method has been a revelation. No more stalling. If I'm not in the mood to write, tough luck, I've got a limit to reach. I so admire people who have set high wordcount goals. I could probably eek out 1,000 per day if held by gunpoint, but you 2-3,000 word-a-day writers are total rock stars. This is so challenging, but as of today I have 18,500 words and I'm not even paying attention to how many pages that is.

And third, I am writing from a vague outline. This is another NEVER HAVE I DONE THIS BEFORE moment. What I love about writing is the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience. I always assumed an outline killed that sensation. But nooooo. This vague outline (that admittedly keeps getting adjusted, recreated, moved around) has been a lifeline.

Lastly, and this is a hard one, I'm not playing the fantasy game. It's burned me too many times in the past. I'm not standing at a podium at the TED conference, nor am I being interviewed by Charlie Rose. I'm not thinking book tour, book festival, book awards...I'm simply telling a story the best way I know how, by putting one word in front of the other and enjoying the ride.

Has your writing process changed throughout the years? How so?

Melissa Clark is the author of Swimming Upstream, Slowly, and teaches literature and writing at Otis College of Art and Design. You can follow her on her blog, Connections Clark.


  1. Sounds like the plan is working for you. Good luck with the new work and who knows...? Maybe TED isn't completely out of the question.

  2. Good for you, Melissa! It sounds like your new plan is working great. I find that every book writes itself differently. My first two I wrote by hand on legal pads and then put into the computer. Then I switched over to writing directly on my laptop. I'm a fan of the word count approach, too, and I'm also working with more of a loose outline this time around than I ever have before. Keep us posted!

  3. It's always great to see someone changing things up. When I started writing, my daily quota was in pages but now it varies. Sometimes pages, sometimes word count, sometimes it's even in scenes or chapters. Btw, I don't know what TED is but please don't tell me. Let it be one more thing I don't have but at least don't know what it is I don't have.

  4. Well, we all do it differently, that's for sure. If you told me I had to write the next book longhand my current novel would be an only child. I couldn't even imagine... But! I'm glad you have a plan Melissa! Sometimes a different approach is the jumpstart we need and then magic! Say, where did I put that legal pad?? (;

  5. Very exciting that you've made so many changes, Melissa! Let us know how it goes. :-)

  6. I went the opposite of you! I used to be very word count heavy... now I take it scene by scene or discovery by discovery. Although it does make it harder to start back up the next day when I have no questions to really ask.

  7. I love this post. My writing shifted when I started treating my writing with the same respect I would treat any job. With this job I use word counts similar to clocking in and clocking out. I have to get x number of words on the page that day. It helps me not to be a lazy cheater pants to know what my word count goals are for the day and the week and to hold me to them. Once I start editing I have to shift to hours per day to stay honest.