In a series of posts, I’ll share both Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel and what I learn from it, and I’ll show you what the writing life is like for me.
John Steinbeck wrote every weekday, and sometimes on the weekends. He wrote one page, maybe two. It doesn’t sound like much. Maybe he mulled over each word extensively before he committed it to paper. I’ll admit when I read about his “page a day,” I was somewhat amused. I would have expect more production from a writer of his ilk.
One way or the other, I also write every weekday, and sometimes on the weekend. I’m not always advancing a novel or a short story; sometimes it’s a blog post, an essay, or a promotional piece.
I ran out of time yesterday to get a Journal of a Novel post onto this blog. It was an exceptionally busy day. I’m auditing a fiction-writing class and yesterday was the first meeting. In addition, I had my normal amount of work to accomplish. Nevertheless, I got some creative writing done. Our “homework” is to make like Steinbeck and write every day. One page. We’re to work on short stories and turn in five pages every Friday. (Ramping up at top speed, we were assigned three pages for this week even though it’s a short “class week.”) This is called the “Page Count” part of the coursework.
Instead of sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike, we’re to get into the habit of writing every day. It creates a discipline, and keeps the brain engaged in the work-in-progress. In addition to the requirement that we write a page a day, we were charged with writing NO MORE than a page a day, even if our brain is buzzing with ideas. Ending the work day with something still to be written means we’ll be up and running the next day. So now I understand Steinbeck’s work habits better. He may have employed this very same practice.
So even though I am engaged in getting two novels out in the next five months, plus finish a short story and a poem slated for submission, I started a new short story to meet the course requirement. By the end of the semester we’re to have crafted three short stories. At least one should be heroic fantasy and one should be urban fantasy. Those familiar with The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam know that I have a LOT of novel-length heroic fantasy under my belt, so I thought for my first outing I’d give urban fantasy a whirl. I’ve been writing magical realism lately; you can read my short story Blackwing in the Magic Unveiled anthology when it launches in October. My class project is also magical realism in a contemporary setting. At the rate of five pages a week, I’ll have the first draft done in three weeks.