I am not by nature, a highly superstitious person. Oh, I follow the ones that are good common sense, like I don’t break mirrors because glass shards can hurt, but I tend to ignore the silly ones. Black cats in my path are more likely to be pet than avoided and, as you can see from the photo, I believe lucky rabbit’s feet belong on the rabbit editor. However, when it comes to my writing, I tend to be a bit more… let’s just say cautious.
I never check the word count when the writing is going well.
Actually I try not to check the word count in general. The story takes as long as it takes, adding or subtracting words while you’re writing leads to sections that don’t make sense or that scream ‘fluff’ to the reader. Word count is a stress inducer for me. Knowing it gives me a reason to worry when I should be thinking about what happens next in the story.
I dread the 20K word mark.
Twenty-thousand words is the place where good ideas curl up and die. I can write that many words with most any plot. Before I hit the 20K mark I see the promise, the gleaming perfection of how it will all go. After 20K the magic fizzles out. I realize the plot won’t sell, no one else will like it, or it just plain isn’t going anywhere. I admit that once or twice I’ve picked a piece back up and started from word 20,001. Each time it’s been drudgery and I never got the flow. Which leads me too…
I savor the flow when it comes.
The flow is the feeling you get when the writing is coming fast and furious, when the words just fly from your fingertips, and all your ideas are perfect. When you can see everything that’s going to happen in the story and the dialog resounds in your head, you’re in the flow. Some writers chase the flow, trying to capture with drugs and alcohol (I’m looking at you Hemingway and you too, Salinger). I just write around it. When the words aren’t flowing, I write the in-between bits, the passages that take the characters from place to place. When the flow does come I give up everything else (food, drink, conversations with others) and write for as long as it stays. If you’ve ever caught that moment, you know how good it feels. Ride that wave.
I keep a pad and paper by my bed for late night ideas.
The opening words of Deadly Revelations (the third in my new series, coming from Tor in the Spring of 2013) came to me around 11o’clockish at night, after a long day. My first instinct is to repeat the lines over and over again in the hopes that I’ll remember them come morning. Thankfully I’ve lost enough greatness that way to know it wouldn’t work. Instead I keep a pad and a pen by the bed and scribble things down. After the first few years of this my darling spouse got me a click-on LED light that’s bright enough to write by but dim enough not to wake the room.
In the morning you take the pen and paper to your laptop and do your best to recreate the thought from your scribbles or you can leave it by the bed. I tend to leave about half the ideas there, mostly so that I know I’m never completely stumped for something to write. By the way, this process only works if you return the pad to your bedside that night. Last week I amused several people by asking them to try and decipher the scribbles I’d left on my arm the night before. There were six of them, perfectly spaced, but without any actual letters. I’m now considering getting a second pad and stapling it to the wall.
And as I sat here, trying to think about my other superstitious, I broke my own rule and checked the word count. I try to keep all the blogs around 600 words, meaning this one is officially Too Long. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important common-sense superstitions. Feel free to remind me in the comments.