Time is of the essence

I’ve been re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing this week because, well, it’s been a while since I last read it and because it’s my favorite book on the subject. I’d forgotten how many gems were in it. This is perhaps my favorite piece of writing advice ever:

Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind—they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new starts to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death.

Mr. King offers the general guideline that writers should finish a first draft within three months for this reason. And while I can’t say that I’ve always abided by this rule, I have to admit that he’s right. If I stop writing for more than a few days, I lose my sense of urgency, and my manuscript loses its sense of urgency too. And then it’s an uphill battle to regain the drive, to get back the flow. It’s always a struggle, and one that wouldn’t have to be if I’d just heeded the advice in the first place.

Write like you’re on fire. It’s as simple as that.

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What do you think? Do you agree with this? Disagree? What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

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7 Responses

  1. Susan says:

    Huh. Interesting and something I’d never considered before. But you know what? There’s a LOT of truth to that. I always try to write my first drafts quickly, but there’s one where that DIDN’T happen, and you know what? The people turned into characters and I had to set the story aside for a while.

    You (and the Stephen King-meister) are so very right: write it now and like you’re on fire. 😀

  2. Holly says:

    I so agree with this. If I don’t really focus on a project and push, push, push through it…forget it. I lose interest, lose focus, whatever, but it doesn’t work. But I hadn’t realized that until I sat down and thought about it. I’m going to have to get this book I do believe. 🙂

  3. Pam Torres says:

    King’s On Writing is probably the most inspiring book about writing I have ever read. I have a bad/good habit of giving my favorite books away. Your post just made me want to read it again, guess I’ll be book shopping tonight.

  4. Great post! I agree. Strike while the iron is hot right? Just don’t use that cliche. LOL. Also, I love that book too!

  5. I can definitely buy this. I’ve found in the past that it can be hard to get back into the mindset of a story once I’ve been away from it for even a short while. I also know that the times I’ve had to try to rewrite something which was somehow lost, that it’s been a very tedious process and never really feels “right.” Maybe that’s connected somehow…

    I think Pam has a good idea. I should break out “On Writing” and give it another read.

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