Friday, September 9, 2011

How To Keep Going the Next Day

Richard Moonlight doesn't always know precisely where he's going, but he somehow always gets there.

I'm often asked how is that I'm so prolific?
The answer is simpler than you might imagine. And it came to me not in college or MFA writing school, but instead by reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. It was inside a cold water flat five or six flights above a square in the Montparnasse district of Paris that the would-be Papa wrote some of his first short stories. Stories that would come to change the literary world as we knew it.

He was able to write his stories with confidence day in and day out by following one simple rule. He would write a certain amount of words everyday and then complete the session by ending in a place where he was sure to go on the next day.

While this took severe discipline it was also liberating to know that come the next morning, you wouldn't find yourself staring at a blank piece of paper knowing that the day before you shot your wadd, as it were.

So then, I'm not Ernest Hemingway. But I do write a lot of novels, and the way to do that is not only to sit your butt in the chair and write whether you feel like it or not (this is your job after all), but also to always make sure that you end in a place that will allow you to continue the next day. The best way to do this is to simply make some small notes right on the page below your last sentence. If your character is about to enter an apartment with his ex-girlfriend in order to steal a zip-drive containing secret nuclear information her new boyfriend is about to sell to the Iranians, you might make a note about what route they take in order to get to the apartment, and the steps they take in order to get there without being spotted. That should be enough to get you moving come the next morning. The rest of the chapter should reveal itself organically for you.

Thanks Papa for making my writing life just a little bit easier. I wish I could say the same for writing school.


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