One day a Week, One Scene at a Time.
I’ve read that ideally a writer should write each day during a designated period lasting a few hours, if at all possible. And that sounds about right as ideals go, and I don’t doubt that such a regular daily routine hones one’s writing skills and keeps the creative juices flowing. However, the constraints of my particular workaday world have always kept me from being such a steady everyday writer. All I might have time and energy for during the work week is to jot down an idea or two that might strike me as usable later on—and for me, “later on” is Saturday. On occasion, I’ll shift my writing to Sunday, if for some reason Saturday doesn’t work out, but that’s been a pretty rare thing. On Saturdays, I sleep in a bit, but I still get up long before the rest of my family for some initial quiet time, and after a quick breakfast I start writing, and I usually keep on writing until the early afternoon. The first thing I do is read any notes I’ve managed to cobble together during the past week and then make a further note or two as to how I might utilize these ideas. Next, to help prime the pump, I re-read what I wrote the previous Saturday, tweaking where necessary. By the time I’ve done this, I’m usually sufficiently engaged and motivated to pick up where I left off the last time, with the goal in mind of completing at least one new scene before I walk away from the keyboard. After thinking about it, I believe the above-described approach works for me, because when starting a novel, I’ve usually already got the overall story pretty much worked out in my head (albeit sketchily), having also written a few key ideas in a notepad. In writing a murder mystery, normally I determine who the murderer is ahead of time and their motive for murder. However, a couple times I have come up with at least three or more feasible murder suspects, and have then woven the overall plot around them, not deciding “whodunit” till well into the book. (I’ve tried this a time or two, because I’ve read that not getting fixed on one character as the murderer too early on, can give you a certain amount of leeway, while also helping you to keep the guilty party a mystery as you write the story, since you’re not completely sure yet yourself who it is.)
Whether or not I know who the murderer is ahead of time (which I usually do), having at least a rough idea where I’m headed with the story helps me in writing my one scene every Saturday. Some of the ideas that I might jot down during the week usually have to do with character or location descriptions, or possibly a line or two of dialogue. In starting off with each scene, I usually write the place and character descriptions first, and then I write whatever actions take place along with straight dialogue without bothering to add attributions or side comments. I simply focus on the bare bones of what the characters do and say in the scene I’m working on.
After I’ve completed that, I then go back over the scene and polish up the action and dialogue, adding who said what and how, and who did what, when, how and why. When I finish the scene, I leave it be until I can get back to writing the next Saturday. Now sometimes I’ll write a scene and a half, or merely half a scene if it’s a particularly long one. But on average, I write just one scene one day a week. I’ve always been (and still am) a pastime writer. And, since I love to write, I’ve stuck with it as a pastime. Over the years, I’ve written some detective-murder-mystery novels and short stories that have never been published, but were a genuine means of learning how to write the kind of fiction I enjoy. I realize that writing only one scene just one day a week might not work for everyone, but I’m glad it works for me, and I believe it can work for other writers who care to give it a go. Don’t feel confined to writing everyday. Write when and how it works for you. As long as you write.