I’ve been an Enigma fan since the late 90’s, and they’re still one of my favorite musical artists. Sexy, dreamy, dark, gothic, world, New Age—the label people slap them with is irrelevant. When I listen to them, I’m transported to some silky, unmade bed inside an open-air pagan temple atop a mountain during a sunset. That music was made for the bedroom, the twilight, the hypnagogic state between waking and sleep. It’s like entering a pre-coital trance, sans drugs; I can almost feel my pupils dilating. It’s no surprise then that I listen to Enigma whenever I’m writing dark, sensual, or transcendental (or all of those at once) material. Enigma could form the soundtrack to my Meridian stories, that dank metropolis adrift in the Styx. My favorite Enigma album is A Posteriori, with tracks such as ‘Dancing With Mephisto’ being the ultimate gothic seduction music (think cobwebs, wet leather, guttering braziers, red wine, and a blindfold). Other tracks, like ‘Dreaming of Andromeda’ or ‘Hello and Welcome’ sound like great gulfs of existential sadness and longing. The song ‘In the Shadow, in the Light’ from the Voyageur album, pines with a desperation that for me is profound. But the one song that grabs me the most is ‘Beyond the Invisible’ from the Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! album. That one is like the piercing of the veil, the opening of an inner eye. So needless to say, despite my rational nature, Enigma brings out my hedonistic, mystic side. With plenty of bared flesh.
Keep tongue firmly in cheek, folks. Reposted from my Tumblr blog.
Are you still squirming before your desk in your underwear, tearing the wing off of that annoying fly, sobbing over the latest arrow to your writer’s heart? Come now, wipe the snot away, put that nineteenth piece of chocolate chip comfort food down, and pay attention. Here’s how to really understand what a rejection is telling you:
The Form Rejection (forma rejectio)
Dear [poor stupid and talentless sap], thank you for sending [OMFG you call this drivel a story?] our way, but I’m afraid it’s not for us [holy shit reading this was like sticking a hot poker into my eye]. Please submit more work in the future [please stop torturing me with your lame ass trunk stories that you workshopped three years ago].
If you get a personal rejection, it could be interpreted like this:
The Personal Rejection (propirus rejectio)
Dear [wanna-be bestseller], thank you for sending [WTF, you call this a title?] our way. While I found the setting descriptions interesting [geez, your worldbuilding is more self-indulgent and derivative than Robert Jordan’s], and the prose is solid [Hemmingway used more adjectives than you], I’m having trouble understanding your main character’s motivation [I couldn’t pronounce your character’s name, so I got bored]. Plus, I fear there was too much telling and not enough showing [Not enough exposition, too much set-dressing; I wanted to experience what your character felt but not REALLY go into detail]. I look forward to your next submission [LMAO because it might be worthy enough for me to wipe my ass on it next time].
Now dim the lights, listen to some gothic metal, wear your least flattering shirt, then guzzle down a few shots of whiskey, until you’re grinning so much it hurts your face. Then reply to that editor. In ALL CAPS, of course.
Repeat as necessary, and I guarantee you will soon be rejection free! Not to mention blacklisted. No one said this was going to be easy…
Wordcount is something most writers don’t talk about. I hear far more about plot, characterization, prose, voice, style, revising, and all the other things you can find in a ‘how to write well’ sort of book. True, wordcount is low on the list of literary importance. You don’t need a mammoth wordcount to tell a good story, and it isn’t necessary for a writer to bang out 3,000 words or more every day to be successful. Each writer has his or her own pace, a ‘satisfaction point’—but can this thinking lower a writer’s productivity? Does it engender laziness?
We all wish we had more time to write. Those of us who have secondary jobs, or have yet to make any significant earnings from their writing, still has to put food on the table, pay the bills. Plus we all have family and friends we don’t want to shun (well, maybe a few we’d like to shun). These and other factors limit just how much time an author has to write on any given day. Sure, we can avoid social media and the internet, shut off our phones and the television, shut the bedroom door—all to seclude ourselves from the outside world while we write.
What about wordcount discipline? I’m not talking about writing every day. I’m referring to how much you get done during your specified writing time. Do you set a goal, or just hammer at the keyboard until you run out of time or story? This will differ from person to person, but the question remains: what are your expectations for how many words you can eke out of that imagination in a given period?
Mine are pretty high.
I’ve heard of famous writers who settled for only 500-1,000 words a day. Writers whom I admire. That doesn’t mean you should settle for the same output. These are individuals who don’t work for a living, and have much more time to write than a guy working fifty hours a week. Stephen King, an undisputed master of fiction, claims to write at least 2,000 words a day. Given his output, I believe him. I also believe him, because I’m capable of that too. Are you?
Don’t give me the excuse that “I only wrote 700 words today, but they are good words”. If it’s a first draft, then all of the words are crap until you polish them in the second and at least third drafts. Without exception. Now, if you only had time to write those 700 words, then fine. But most of us writers have more time than that. And writer’s block? I don’t believe it exists, any more than I think there’s a fat guy in red at the North Pole. Either you’re a writer or an excuse factory. Choose.
So now that I’ve stepped on a few author’s toes and riled you all up, you might wonder what my wordcount goals are. Here goes. This isn’t bragging, or creating a yardstick I think others should measure up to.
Once I’ve sat down to write, here’s the wordcount I make myself achieve before I stop:
Flash Fiction: I rarely dabble in this length, but it goes without saying that when I do, I finish it in the same session.
Short Story: At least 2,500 words; usually double that for me, and 99% of the time I complete the story the same day I start it. The other 1% only happens when the power goes out.
Novelette: Most of my novelettes end up being fewer than 10,000 words. 50% of the time I complete these in the same sitting. Otherwise, I write roughly half of the story, then complete the rest the very next day.
Novella: Usually try to finish these in a week. I don’t write many novellas; most fiction markets don’t accept such a high wordcount. If I have a story that needs to be this long, I bump it up into a novel. Then I really have fun.
Novel: Once begun, I always shoot for AT LEAST 3,000 words a day. For me, 3,000 words is the size of my average chapter. So a chapter per day. Usually I work on a novel’s first draft every consecutive day until it’s done. Just blast through it. No excuses. No regrets. No bullshit.
My personal best is 11,000 words in one day. I wrote the first draft of ‘Inheritance’, 97,000 words, in 13 days. I was unemployed at the time, true. But I didn’t stop to watch television, post on Facebook, or allow any other distractions to bother me. And yes, that first draft needed plenty of revising. Yet the overall structure, scene order, and characterization were all there. It wasn’t wasted work.
Oh, and my output with a day job? A 106,000 word novel within a month. How? Because when it came time to write, I did.
Again, this isn’t boasting. All of this work hasn’t made me rich and famous. I state these numbers to make a point: I use my allotted writing time to the upmost. Oh, sometimes I write awful stories, ones I’d never let anyone read. There are plenty of stories, though, that I am proud of. Stories I’ve gotten published. This isn’t a ‘quality vs. quantity’ comparison. It’s about getting the most out of what time you have.
Maybe I’m lucky; who knows. The question is: if I can do it, why can’t you? What’s stopping you from giving a more serious effort? If I ever reach the point where I’m happy with just 700 words a day, then I might as well give up. I have so many stories to tell, and never enough time to write them all.
So the next you time you sit down to write, don’t settle for a trifle. Get out as much as you can. It’s like exercise: this week you can only lift so much weight, but the next week, you’re able to lift a little more. And then a little more. It adds up. Don’t make it a numbers game, don’t focus on it as you write. Let the story flow. Ignore the pressure, learn to love that blank white page on the screen. Why? Because you’re about to fill it with something you think others would want to read.
Now quit reading this blog and write something.