The only time I’ve had success writing each day has been when I’ve made a physical chart, taped it up on my wall, and then filled in a box each day I hit my goal. It’s Jerry Seinfeld’s don’t break the chain idea, and it works remarkably well for me. My current streak (I don’t write on Sundays):
Since this seemed like it might be useful for others, I’ve made daily goal charts, available for free PDF download:
There’s also what I’m calling a “blank” chart, where you can write in the number of words you wrote (or anything else like that):
Charts for 2018 through 2023 are up. (I figure five years is enough for now.)
Update on projects: I’m working on a short story. All of my story drafts of late have turned darker than I’d like, so this one is intentionally not dark. Seems to be going better than the others.
I’m also partway through revising my next picture book. This one is a story (as opposed to The Circle Book, which was just a list of random things) and I’m excited. The urge to design a typeface for it has proven too strong to resist, though, so I’m working on that as well. The typeface is called Golly. I’ll post some screenshots soon (I’m almost done with the lowercase letters).
Sidenote on type design: I built Curves (a Python library for designing type, via exporting to UFO and compiling that to OTF) to see whether designing type in code works. Turns out it doesn’t. Even with easy previews (SVG and @font-face), the cognitive gap between the code and the points seems to be a little too much. I have some other ideas for type design tools that seem more promising, though. More on that later.
And I’m slowly working on the remaining reader’s editions (print/PDF of D&C, Pearl of Great Price, and Words of the Prophets).
Ursula K. Le Guin in Words Are My Matter:
Present-tense narration is now taken for granted by many by many fiction readers because everything they read, from internet news to texting, is in the present tense, but at this great length it can be hard going. Past-tense narration easily implies previous times and extends into the vast misty reaches of the subjunctive, the conditional, the future; but the pretense of a continuous eyewitness account admits little relativity of times, little connection between events. The present tense is a narrow-beam flashlight in the dark, limiting the view to the next step — now, now, now. No past, no future. The world of the infant, of the animal, perhaps of the immortal.
I don’t at all mind present tense, but she does have a point.
Michael Swanwick on how fantasy is not about magic:
So what is the beating heart of fantasy, its sine qua non, its irreducible necessity?
I’ve learned lately that I quickly lose interest in the fiction I’m writing unless it has the following:
- A strong narrative voice. This seems to be more important for me than anything else. I didn’t realize it was so critical until this morning, when the bland porridge of my current WIP grew too boring to continue (because it lacks a strong voice).
- A concept that piques my curiosity. What this means in practice is flexible — it can be about a character, a relationship, the setting, a plot point, a mood. It just needs to be concrete enough that I can think about it.
- A plot that runs on the rails of change. Meaning, dynamic scenes where the world and characters are in a different state at the end than they were at the beginning. Outlining appears to be the best way for me to get there, at least at this point. Dwight Swain’s book has been helpful here.
- Theme, possibly. I sense that I do need it as a unifying force and to help me in scene selection, but I’m not positive it’s a requirement. (I did just read Libbie Hawker’s book on outlining and the theme part resonated with me, so it may just be that, though — an untested resonance.)
These aren’t massive, groundbreaking revelations, of course, but I’d somehow lost sight of them over the years or wasn’t fully aware of them before. Now that I’ve tugged them back into my conscious mind, though, I’m ready to start finishing stories again.
A quick update: I was stuck for a while on the Dagh story, but I’ve started spending my lunch hour working on it, and it’s coming together nicely. I should have a complete first draft done soon. (I’ve got 7,000 words on it so far.)