Good morning writers! Today we have with us return guest author Harrison Demchick to talk with us about how to make time for writing. Because, as we all know, it's not an easy task. However, it's a necessary one if you want to realize your writing dreams, right? So, without further adieu, here's his words on...
Why You Can’t Make the Draft Without Making the Time
by guest author Harrison Demchick
A couple weeks ago, my friend Jen finished her first draft.
I was there when it happened. Since August of 2013, my friends and I have been meeting every Sunday for what we’ve come to call Write Club. Write Club, as our matching T-shirts indicate—yes, we have matching T-shirts—is a time for writing, and nothing but. It’s a four-hour window during which the only priority is each of us developing our own individual projects.
Jen, also the designer of the aforementioned T-shirts, had spent the preceding several months almost finished her first novel. Any Sunday in that span could have been the day, but then there was always something else that had to be written, and logic issues to hurdle, and all of the other things that make finishing a draft so frustrating. The end, somehow, seemed to move further and further away.
Until it didn’t.
Jen didn’t have to say anything when she finished her draft. I knew. I could see it in the look on her face as she stared at her laptop screen. I expect I looked much the same early this year when I finished the first draft of my screenplay Ape Canyon. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, the warmth tiptoeing its way across your neck and down your arms, into the fingers that have devoted hours, days, months, years to the completion of that one magical story completely and entirely your own. Your heart pounds, and the tension floats away like misty rain on a summer night. The world becomes a pretty spectacular place to be.
I’d already been working on Ape Canyon for a couple years when we started Write Club. Though actually, working is a strong word. I’d started Ape Canyon, for sure, and I’d written some pages, and by the summer we began Write Club I was trying to devote time every weekend to writing. I’ve always been a disciplined writer, and moreover a writer who works best in solitude, so I was confident I could maintain that routine and, simultaneously, skeptical that the writing group friends had proposed from time to time would be of any use. I didn’t need it, and if I was going to spend time with friends, I wanted to spend it having fun, not working quietly on my own projects.
But the truth is that the day we started Write Club is the day I began to build momentum on Ape Canyon. I completed in five months what I’d been tinkering with on and off for two years. It was amazing, and it felt amazing. And I knew that it would never have happened had I not forced into my schedule at least four hours every week to devote to writing. The existence of a group kept me accountable. It kept us all accountable. It became the highlight of my week, and it’s the reason that I’ve never been more productive as a writer than I am today.
Now if there’s anyone who shouldn’t have the time to devote to writing, it’s Jen. Jen is one of the most absurdly talented and driven people I’ve ever met, but these attributes also make her extraordinarily busy pretty much at all times. She works in publishing during the days. She works on her art around the clock (which you can see for yourself at http://herchenroeder.see.me/). She works in architecture and design when she can. Her obligations have obligations.
And yet she still makes the time nearly every week to come to Write Club and work. This devotion of time and energy is the reason she was able to experience the unmatchable high of completing the first draft of a manuscript on which she’d worked seven years.
Jen has finished any number of amazing projects in the interval. And I wasn’t being idle either while Ape Canyon was in progress. I wrote a couple work-for-hire screenplays. I wrote songs. I was creative. But neither Jen nor I was devoting the time to writing until we started Write Club and made that effort every single week.
Another thing Jen and I have in common is a background in publishing, which means that our expectations are realistic. That is to say, Jen may have completed that first draft, but the next step is editing and revision, and this, too, will take a lot of time and a lot of energy. It was the same for me when I finished the first draft of my novel, The Listeners, and for that matter I don’t imagine that I’m entirely finished with Ape Canyon. The end of the first draft is not the end. In a lot of ways, the end of the first draft is just the beginning.
But it’s a pretty incredible benchmark. It’s a tremendous accomplishment to reach it. It’s the first part of the whole process during which you can sit back and say, I’ve done this. I wrote a book. I’m a writer.
And writers write. They take the time, and if there isn’t time, they make it. That time doesn’t need to be four hours on Sunday. It can be a half hour every morning or a writing binge at midnight every Thursday. That time doesn’t need to be with a writing group, either. But if it weren’t for attending Write Club and making the time to write, Jen wouldn’t have a completed draft of her novel, and I wouldn’t have Ape Canyon. If you don’t take the time to write, you will never know that feeling Jen experienced on a very important Sunday just a couple weeks ago.
It’s worth it.
Harrison Demchick came up in the world of small press publishing, working along the way on more than three dozen published novels and memoirs, several of which have been optioned for film. An expert in manuscripts as diverse as young adult, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, literary fiction, women's fiction, memoir, and everything in-between, Harrison is known for quite possibly the most detailed and informative editorial letters in the industry—if not the entire universe.
Harrison is also an award-winning, twice-optioned screenwriter, and the author of literary horror novel The Listeners (Bancroft Press, 2012). He's currently accepting new clients in fiction and memoir at Ambitious Enterprises (http://ambitiousenterprises.com).