By Cynthia Behunin, Bluegrass Writers Studio
Last spring, Derek Nikitas challenged his Novel Workshop students to write 715 words every day. At this rate of creation, each of us could write a novel without losing years of our lives. Several of my peers thrived and were able to embrace consistently writing their novels and the structure this practice provided.
The first half of the semester, I did as directed, but simply put words on the page, not long thoughts or full-fledged ideas. I felt disconnected to my novel and struggled with motivation to write it at all. By mid-semester my writing stopped completely due to my pregnancy and family issues.
At the end of the semester, my 15,000 word deadline was approaching and I had to complete it. I spent twelve to fifteen hours straight writing (it was dubbed ultra-marathon writing). Finally, I felt connected to my manuscript. When I wasn’t writing I completed research, interviews, and planning.
What I learned is that we are individuals. If we don’t try out all of our options we won’t know which writing methods and styles work for us. For my novels I find that writing two or three times a week for about two hours or more works the best. I am able to really get a sense of my world and the characters in it, alternating that with the real world and the “characters” I am invested in there.
For shorter pieces I utilize Derek’s challenge of writing 700-750 words per day. This keeps me writing and productive in the short term without the pressure of a larger universe looming, whether fictional or actual. Different projects require different styles and being open to the different ideologies is essential to continued writing success. This has been the value of the MFA for me: being challenged to master my own fine art of writing, as well as my own process to the product.
As it has been said, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
Published on March 17, 2014