Welcome to A Novel Approach, a weekly note about writing. Join us and follow us. I’ll post the tip on Twitter at JWLBooks and the full note on Facebook at Jack Woodville London, at the MWSA site, and right here at the blog. Here we go.
Number Six: Be serious about your writing.
Write one thousand words a day. Every day. Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, and instant messaging do not count.
Sit at your word processor and compose a thousand words on the book, novel, story, or report that you are writing. Tomorrow, edit those thousand words, revise them, improve them. Put them in the active voice. Make the subjects and verbs agree in number and tense and eliminate the pronouns that might refer to more than one person, place or thing so that when someone else reads it, he will understand what you intended to say. Revise the sentences so that they do not unintentionally end with a preposition. After you have finished being hard in editing yourself, write your next thousand words.
Then, and only then, may you take up the cudgel of Facebook and e-mail.
Malcolm Gladwell dedicated a chapter of Outliers: The Story of Success to the Beatles, Bill Gates, and your seventh grade violin teacher. The Beatles played over 1,200 sets before anyone Saw Her Standing There. Gates got access to a computer at age 13, then spent most of the next six years doing little else but programming on it. Common denominator: they put in ten thousand hours of work, each of them, before someone recognized their genius. And your music teacher? I don’t know about your personal seventh grade music teacher, of course, but such people as a group tend to exemplify the difference between someone who may have had talent, a great deal of talent, but did not put in ten thousand hours and, regrettably, did not perform in Carnegie Hall.
Composition, whether fiction or non-fiction, is creative and proactive. It deserves thoughtful and undivided attention. Practice, dedicated, serious practice, will take your writing to a higher level. It will take time, but if you are serious, you will make time for it.
Facebook, e-mail, and similar intrusions on your word processing life tend to be reactive replies to the postings of others and to be the quick posting of your own news or musings to which you expect others to react. The attention given to such writing tends to be in much shorter spans than the attention given to a dedicated effort to compose a news report, a work of history, a short story, or even a chapter. Instead of such diversions counting toward the time you practice your craft, they just take up your time.
Will it take you ten thousand hours to become the genius that you can be? There is only one way to find out. Start with a thousand words.
See you next week.
Jack Woodville London is the Military Writers Society of America Author of the Year for his novel French Letters: Engaged in War. Visit him and browse book reviews, blogs, tips, and The Letters Project at http://JWLBOOKS.com