Headlights of my long trip-cum-honeymoon.
– Dangling my legs off a cliff in Yosemite, and seeing a real life wolf walking in front of our car. Time spent waiting for car park > hiking time. It was Memorial Weekend.
This is a personal experience piece, not a writing guide. Just want to make the distinction clear here.
My Own Binge Writing Experience (Plus Updates)
Okay, things have been a bit weird lately. I’ll go on a writing binge on Monday and in a half-trance, cough up over 3,000 words (plus another thousand over words on other stuff), then the very next day, wake up feeling very lethargic and braindead to a very ineffective writing session. I’m just writing Mark of Child for now, which started as a rewrite of another story, though I intend to re-look Alone In The Crowd in future.
Mark of Child isn’t proving itself to be popular, but whatever, I’m enjoying myself. Up to 7,000 words now with large chunks of rewriting. I already know the major plot points, it’s the minor ones in between that I need to work out. You won’t be able to see much from what I’ve posted, but these two stories are some of my most complete start-to-end stories in that I already know what I want for both of them. If nothing else, I enjoyed myself writing them. Alone gave me a lot of trouble as I tried to play with the tenses, but it got me going and I’m getting the hang of present tense now, even preferring it. But we’ll see, I’m still learning the ropes. There’s more to the writing then I initially though.
For Mark of Child, as long as it goes swimmingly and I don’t suddenly hit a dead end, I should be good to go the distance for a mini-novella at 20,000 – 25,000 words with a hard limit of 30,000 I’ve set myself. I don’t like horror fiction that goes on forever, since well, horror plots tends to be pretty thin. Should be done in 3 weeks so please forgive me if I ignore my blog for a while. That is usually a good sign however as it means I’m doing something more productive.
Is Binge Writing Acceptable?
Then again, I ask myself if this famine or feast approach to my work is acceptable. Going back to the topic my previous article on Write Habits, I asked the question of how do most writers write. That is a question I’ve been asking myself, since lately, I’ve been questioning my own dedication to just sit down and write. For example, a very popular writing boot camp, NaNoWriMo advocates a sort of disciplined approach to getting out that first novel. 1,667 words per day for a month and you get a 50,000 word novel. That methods works for a lot of people since the time factor forces them to ‘just do it’ and realise the writer in them.
Lindaghill seems to be a prime example of someone who found her mojo after taking part in one of these boot camps and has completed the first draft of a 200,000+ epic. She has done something probably less than 0.001% of this world has done. I’ve been giving her a lot of shout outs lately since I am learning a lot from her.
But, like a round hole and a square peg, I just can’t do it. The more I try to adhere to a “write this amount of words,” “sit down from this time to this” approach, my mind just goes blank. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the process, but I seem to be someone who goes with the flow more than the method. So rather than force myself to write, I decided to stick to my approach and try to refine it.
Binge Writing Help
Turn’s out I’m not alone, and what I’m doing isn’t that wrong from a creative perspective. An article from Scriptmag that seems to understand what I am going through, and has some sound advice from seat-of-the-pants writers like me, to balance our style with the discipline of method writers. The motive of trying to achieve this balance is most aptly put by Ernest Hemingway.
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
The article in Scriptmag actually speaks out against writers like me, but in a good way. It tries to teach us to control the force within instead of curbing it altogether. This control is to combat one of the biggest problems people like me face – We write without a plan, we write with the flow, we write to our hearts content, then suddenly brick wall. You look back and you see what you have written and how you can angle it to go forward, but no deal. Eventually you give up, move on and start the whole process over again.
Some useful tips from the article include gems like this:
2. “Leave yourself a rough edge.”
Cory Doctorow says, “When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the ‘hint.’ Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.”
Reading the article, I’ve come to several conclusions
Do not binge write to the point you are writing for the sake of writing Ideas are flowing, but haven’t had time to cook in your imagination. You’re just filling the page with empty words as you try to lead yourself somewhere, meandering through pointless dialogue. Just writing when you run out of ideas is GOOD, but not when you’ve ready gone a couple of thousand words in and refuse to stop.
Do not binge write trying to squeeze every last possible idea This is the reason why I binge write. One idea comes, leading to another, then another. OMG! I need to put all this down, then you start writing and writing until you’re drained. Turns out the next morning, you don’t know where to begin. Refer to the Ernest Hemingway quote above.
Do not binge write and expect the same results every single day This is one of the biggest killers for me. I’ve wrote 3000 words on Monday, why can’t I do it again? A good day tends to set us up for failure especially if you try to hold yourself to the lofty standard of one day. It’s better to look at the average over say a week, since binge writing takes the energy away from the very next day.
Declare yourself satisfied with your work I like this idea from the article and used it for a while. You have a goal in mind for today’s writing. You hit it, STOP! You have some other ideas in your head, make some notes, put down the key points, move on. This links to the second point about letting ideas stew for a while. You realise you end your writing on a high and eager to go the next day, instead of drained and fatigued.
To conclude, since I’ve done it again, and written another thousand word post. Let me just say find a method that works for you, learn it, explore it, question it. But more importantly enjoy it. This applies to the bigger world as well, not just writing. There is no just thing as black and white, right or wrong. Be it 250,000 essays on bondage or 20 word haikus. But not trying to learn more about your craft is a deadly sin. I will always keep questioning and learning, until the day I die.
I’m alone in here, surrounded by people who used to know me and the clink of wine glasses. A mindless drone reverberates through the party, idle chitchat punctuated by overly enthusiastic greetings whenever another so and so arrives on the scene. People who never bothered to keep in touch were hugging one another and calling each other out like old friends. High school reunion, nostalgia, whatever. The spirit of good cheer that tries to seep inside me takes one look at the toxic goop inside my soul and dies without even trying.
I stand in the corner, entertaining myself with a beer, watching and waiting for that something bad that inevitably happens at such parties. Maybe the drunken banker gets pushed off the balcony by a jealous rival, or maybe the blonde in the short skirt ends up with that dickhead leering at her across the room.
Whatever it is, I can feel it in my bones. Somewhere in this room lies my latest muse. What needs to happen tonight will happen. The writer in me wills it.
Sure enough, as soon as that thought filtered through my mind, two bitches on the dance floor start grabbing each other by the hair.
They screamed and they fought. Carefully manicured nails transformed into demon claws as they ripped into one another over the bemused man in the middle. I watch them from my little corner, more aroused than fascinated, and secretly hope that one of them will snatch out the other one’s eye.
It doesn’t happen. Like the high school brats they once were, they are pulled away kicking and swearing. The music starts up again and small talk resumes. An hour passes and nothing else happens. This party sucks, and so does the story. I need to come up with something better.
Maybe I shouldn’t start by portraying myself as a depraved writer in a room full of people ignoring him. Quick change of the script, and done.
I see her looking at me from across the room. Perhaps it’s the dim lighting, or maybe it’s the booze, either way it has to be something that makes people do stupid things since she’s waving at me now. I shuffled deeper into the little corner, trying hard to ignore the female protagonist appearing in my story. I was never very good at romantic fiction.
“Hey!” she says, walking up beside me.
“Hey,” I said back, what else was I supposed to say.
I look at her with bewildered eyes. Long black hair, porcelain skin, white fleshy thighs… if I have seen her before, it’s probably in one of the movies of my private collection.
She looked at me strangely, “It’s me Lyla, you’re Peter right?”
I tried to smile. “Yes,” at least I used to be Peter. I go by my pen name now, Borris Black. Peter Pendleton just doesn’t inspire the same vibe when you tell people you’re a horror writer.
“Wow, it is you. It’s been so long, how have you been!” She said, tucking her luscious mane behind her ear. “Heard from the grapevine you’re famous now eh. ”
“A little,” I answered to Ms Obvious here. Apparently I need to be reminded that I’m the only best selling author to ever graduate from Glendale Springs. But for the life of me, I cannot recall ever meeting a Lyla there.
“You don’t remember me do you?” she giggled, “Braces, black glasses, dorky hair, ninth grade?”
Social protocol dictates I should have at least some idea now, or at least pretend to remember, by shouting her name while I pointed at her and grinned. But since I honestly can’t remember and don’t give a fuck about what society thinks, I shook my head politely. It’s been a while since I’ve thought about my former life as a Peter.
“It’s ok,” she said, making a good sport out of being forgotten, “Let’s just start over. Hi, my name is Lyla Fisher, I’m a management consultant with Lipper and I just moved back to town to be with my family. Please to meet you Peter!”
“Black, Borris Black,” I corrected her, shaking her extended hand. Peter Pendleton is dead and buried. “Please to meet you too Lyla.”
— END PART 1 —
This is a slightly different writing style that I am trying out. One that fuses words and thoughts together in the first person. Again trying for a more flowing and smooth style in my writing. Really need to cut back on the and/as/the/buts as well.
Let me know if this narrative works for you. I’m trying to fuse together a story about a writer TALKING, THINKING and WRITING about the events of his life into one single narrative. I.e. there shouldn’t be any pure speech or pure story parts.
It was still raining when Eric woke up. Outside, he could still hear thunder booming in the sky. Propping himself up on the bed, he winced as a throbbing pain shot through his forehead. Blood roared behind his ears as he shook his head to clear his vision.
Ripping the catheter out of his forearm, he staggered to his feet and tried to walk. Immediately, he felt his vision swirling from the effort as he fell back onto the bed. His bearings were lost in the tumultuous storm going on inside his head, and he found it hard to remain balanced. Unable to walk, he put his hands to the cold hard floor and slowly dragged himself off the white cotton bed.
“Sir, what are you doing…Sir!”
Damn them, damn them all to hell Eric thought through the sedated dullness of his mind. He was in no mood to deal with anymore of this nonsense. All he wanted was see his wife, and he wanted to see her now. Strong hands grabbed Eric by his arms and pulled him to his feet. He stumbled, but the hands kept him up. A plastic cup was raised to his mouth, forcing liquid into his mouth. He struggled fiercely against it, refusing to be sedated again.
Elly Pearson was wide awake when she heard the shrill of sirens approaching in the distance. Lying on her bed, surrounded by the drone of medical machines, she raised her head as the piercing wail came ever closer. Looking out her third storey window on Mission Hospital, she caught a glimpse of the blinking lights as they flashed by, casting an ominous red glow through her darkened room.
Pushing herself up from the crumpled sheets, she gingerly shuffled her fragile frame until she stood in front of the window. There, in her shapeless hospital gown, she looked on in fascination as two ambulances turned into the hospital, accelerating past the bend in the road before disappearing under the sheltered driveway below.
Out of view, she could hear the ambulances screeching to a halt. A rush of footsteps followed as she imagined the emergency staff scrambling through the doors to assist the exhausted medics. The backs of the ambulances were flung open as stretchers were guided off their supports. Their wheels clattered against the pavement before they were pushed into the bright lights of the emergency room.
All the while, there was a chaotic gaggle of voices directing the action below.
Eric shivered as he woke up. Through heavy eyes, he heard the echo of raindrops falling against the roof and the rumbling of thunder overhead. Reaching down instinctively with his hands, he groped blindly for a blanket that should have been there on his bed. Instead, he felt only the wetness on the dimpled leather of his seat. Remembering where he was now, he opened his eyes and looked through the shattered windscreen.
The dim headlights of the truck and the lightning flashing overhead illuminated the wreck in the rain. From where he sat, Eric could see the full extent of the damage. The bonnet of the Cadillac has been smashed, twisted and crushed under the bumper of the opposing truck. It was close enough that he could reach out and touch the license plate. Inside what remains of the car, the dashboard had been knocked out of place, hanging at an angle diagonal to the seat. The entire front compartment had buckled in as well, pinning his legs to the ground.
“Kyla?” Eric whispered, hearing his own voice crack. The effort needed to utter a single word caused him to sputter and wheeze. He could still smell that damn whiskey on his breath. He remembered everything now, the partying, the drinking, getting drunk. Marie had been the more sober one that night, so she drove them home.