It’s late morning in Lithia, Florida, on Friday, April 7, 2023. As the second movement (allegro sostenuto) from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor plays in my Amazon Music app, I am, once again, thinking about finding a workable balance between writing, reading, and leisure time.
As it stands, I spend most of my daytime hours writing. Partly because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m a writer, and if I don’t write x words a day every day, I have no right – in my mind, at least – to call myself one.
The other reason I spend most of my productive time writing is this: I am not the world’s fastest typist. Not the slowest, mind you, but unless I write a haiku, it usually takes me an average of 90 minutes to two hours to write a “basic” blog post (such as this one). Reviews and political opinions pieces take me longer; I often must do at least some research (especially on “op-ed” pieces) to make sure that the blog posts are based on fact (or, in the case of book reviews that feature brief excerpts, that the quotes from the book I critique match what’s on the printed page).
Add to that the facts that I start writing in the late morning hours (after I eat breakfast and have at least two cups of coffee), and that sometimes I don’t have a particular topic chosen when I sit down at my desk, open my Microsoft Word program, and create a new document file for the daily blog post.
Of course, this means that the more time I spend writing, the less time I have during the day to read. And, as any writer worth his or her weight in bestsellers will tell you, you can’t be a good writer unless you are a constant reader. You simply can’t. As Stephen King states in his marvelous On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
A case in point.
As you know, I recently started writing a new story. I don’t want to give anything away by revealing the story’s working title, or the main character’s name, or even the basic idea behind the narrative, so when I refer to it here, I call it Project X.
As of today, Project X is still in an embryonic state. I seriously doubt that what I have written in the .doc file I set aside for it contains more than 500 words. I don’t even have a good opening line; just an exchange between the main character (MC) and his co-star.
The dialogue and basic setup for their first meeting is, I think, decent, even good in some places. The problematic part is the venue for their meeting. It’s a nice place for them to interact with each other, but it is far too noisy for them to converse easily without shouting, and the dialogue I have written so far does not lend itself to be depicted as “he yelled” or “she shouted.”
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
So, now I must rethink where I could set this “first meet” (in the movie biz, it might even be called a “meet-cute”) scene without changing the dialogue or the direction in which I want the story to go. And as much as I love the original location for my two co-leads to have their first tete-a-tete, I definitely need to “kill that darling” and choose a more realistic meeting place and save the noisier one for later.
If I read more fiction, or even if I read more non-fiction pieces about places such as New York City, restaurants/night clubs/bars/coffee houses, I would not be having this much trouble with this scene in Project X. But I have made a train wreck out of my daily routine, and after, oh, 13 years or so, it’s hard to go back to at least some of my old, established reading habits.
Still, I am happy that I have some words down in that Project X .docx file on Word.
I just wish that adding more words to the ones I’ve already written wasn’t as hard as squeezing blood from a stone.
3 thoughts on “On Writing & Storytelling: Carving Out Reading Time in Order to Write (Better) – The Saga Continues”
“I just wish that adding more words to the ones I’ve already written wasn’t as hard as squeezing blood from a stone.” Oh, I hear you, brother. After keeping track of my word count for the year to date, I find that, even between my never-ending novel and various short stories, my word count average is about 280 words a day. That’s after sitting and banging away for hours a day six days a week. It’s so low because I spend so much time editing and so much time rewriting and sending all those words into the cornfield. So yeah. It hurts.
A couple tricks I employ: An outline of where I want to go, which I’m free to later ignore: write scenes out of order. Write the ending when I get stuck.
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Writing is not for the fainthearted.
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