Wednesday, June 08, 2011

#WW - The 4 D's Post 3: Discipline

Welcome back to regular service of #WriterWednesday posts! Today I'm continuing on with the 3rd of the 4 D's - Discipline.

This is probably the hardest of the D's on a day to day basis. It is easier to dream and have the desire to write a cracking story and have it accepted to publication. It's easier to get up each day, determined that it's going to happen. It's even - dare I say it - easier to be dedicated to the pursuit of publication. But when you get right down to brass tacks, Desire, Determination, Dedication - those are the inner resolve you have. Discipline is the practice, and it's a bitch sometimes.

That's not to say the others are easy, not at all, because that resolve and faith in yourself will be challenged often and in difficult ways. But Discipline is the real WORK of writing for publication. Without it all the resolve in the world won't matter because you won't have a product to sell.

You would think that with 19 books written for publication and another in the works, discipline wouldn't be a problem for me. But it is. Every single day. Every time I sit down I make choices. We all know there are a million distractions, keeping us from increasing our word count. There is the internet - the biggest time suck of all. There is the "business" part of this job, there's promotion, there's laundry and a messy house or grass that needs cutting or a great book we're reading. There are less tangible distractions too - like crows of doubt, whispering in our ears that we're going to fail anyway. Fear of failure - heck, fear of success when it comes to that - stand in our way.

And it's no less true for me now than it was before I sold. The only thing now is that I'm on a timeline and so I have to produce more and faster. Believe me, if I want to find an excuse to avoid a particular scene that's not working I'll find one. And that's even though I know that once I stick my head in there it will be better.

I'll let you in on a secret - I'm working on a new project (well, I was, until revisions came and I had to put it aside for a week or so) that scares the hell out of me. It shouldn't. I have nothing to lose at the moment.  I have to keep reminding myself of what Julie Cohen says - WRITE CRAP. At this point, I need to write it so that I have a full manuscript to work with and mold and craft into, hopefully, a good story. But it is testing my discipline because I'm afraid. I find the same with revisions. Sometimes it's easy to "let myself" get distracted because even though I KNOW these are light revisions, I also worry that I'm not doing it right or the way my editor envisions.

So...lots of people need to work on discipline. You can find what works best for you. Do you need to go sit in a coffee shop? Have complete silence? Do you need to turn off your internet connection? Set a timer? Write in chunks? Have a group to be accountable to? Set your own deadline? There are tons of ways to add discipline and a lot of it can come down to a routine. You make a routine and before you know it you'll miss it if you have to skip it. Personally, I get really crabby and antsy if I go too long without writing.

Last spring I used Michelle Styles's Chunk Writing to keep me on task during a tight deadline. 750 words, take a break, another 750...and a minimum of 3 chunks a day. 2200 words a day was a good pace and I finished a few days ahead of time. These days I use twitter to my advantage rather than a distraction. Take a look at the hashtag #1k1hr - the idea is to take an hour of time and try to get 1000 words. Sometimes you manage less, sometimes more. Right now I'm using it as pages revised rather than words. But the real thing is that it's about sitting and focusing for one hour without distractions. Do a couple of those a day and you have words to work with.

You cannot sell a book if you do not have a book finished. You won't finish a book without the discipline of sitting your butt in the chair with your hands on the keyboard. And truthfully - you won't sell more books if you don't get off your blog and get to work. :-)

Have a good one...and get writing!


  1. Great post. If there is one thing that I think keeps me going is that, in this one part of my life, I have discipline. I write a minimun of 45 mins a day (doesn't seem like a lot, but when your day job is demanding and you have a couple of kids...). I always do it, because I think, at 41, this is my time, my dream and I've got no darned time to waste. And the feeling of letting that dream go feels much worse than giving up an hour of mindless TV.

  2. I’m disciplined in that I go to my office each evening to write. Where I have trouble is getting caught up in all the great writers’ craft web sites. This week I’m participating in an online plotting workshop, which takes up most of my evening. I feel pulled in two directions, wanting to learn the craft, and wanting to submit.

  3. Good post. I get distracted a lot. Sometimes laziness, sometimes fear. Sometimes I'm just tired and don't feel like working. But you're right; once the words are there, it all gets better.

    The fear is a normal part of doing something outside your comfort zone and though it doesn't feel like it, believe me, it's a good thing. It will push you. And your new 'project' will be fantastic.