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Balancing Fiction Writing With The Rest Of Your Life

by Terry Carroll

Screen-writing guru Robert McKee, in his outstanding book STORY, insists that the talented fiction writer must write full-time. But who has the luxury?

And is full-time as essential as he says?

If the aspiring fiction writer had eight hours a day, five days a week, would he or she use that time effectively?

It's worth remembering that a master storyteller like John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice And Men, usually wrote in the mornings, and devoted himself to hobbies like woodworking in the afternoons.

All of us, from time to time, or because we have a deadline looming, will write for an eight-hour stretch or longer. But by the end of that time, we're wobbly-legged and head-spun. It's like being on drugs, a little too much.

And financially, very few people can give up their day-jobs for fiction.

It can be wonderful if you are able to devote one to three hours a day, every day, while you're working on a novel or short story.

I find my best time is in the morning. Once a first draft is rolling, I trust my sub-conscious to assist with the conscious act of writing, particularly at that time of day.

I set myself word limits, minimums of 750 words a day.

This is based on the parameters I once set for myself when I had no time during the week for fiction writing. If you do 750 words a day, Saturday and Sunday, and allow for vacation time here and there, you will do 1500 words a weekend and have a first draft of an average-length novel inside a year.

Developing discipline is the key.

A tremendous number of 10,000-word stories sit in desk drawers will never get any longer because the initial enthusiasm wears thin and the writer hasn't the discipline to take the next step.

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