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"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3) friendly competition.

The first step, for me, is the most important. I'm a very data-driven person. I've determined roughly how long it takes me to write and revise a story. Based on that information, I can schedule when I will work on different stories--I don't necessarily know what the story will be when I schedule the writing and revision time, but I can plop a block of time onto my calendar and say, "story TBD." While there are some stories that defy my expectations and either written more quickly, or take me longer than anticipated, it's a good average for me. Based on this planning, I can theoretically crank out somewhere around 16 to 18 stories a year. (I've written a series of posts on what I call my "Giant Spreadsheet of Doom" that talks about some of this planning.)

But these are the stories that I write in the evenings and on weekends, in small chunks or scenes that add up to a full story. For other stories, this is where the stolen moments come in. I get ideas all over the place--on the bus, at the grocery store, etc. If I have a minute or two, I can type up some of these ideas on my phone to save for later. I also arrive at the office before the start of my work day, and nearly always take an hour-long lunch break. It may only be fifteen minutes at the start of the day, or half an hour after I've finished eating my lunch, but those minutes can add up to producing pieces of a story. Sometimes, it's enough time for an entire piece of flash or a poem.

The stolen moments are the least quantifiable parts of how I get so much written in a year, because they can't be counted on. If I'm writing a novel, that's what my lunch break is devoted to. If I'm running late for work, or traffic slows down my bus, I might not get those fifteen minutes at my computer before I start my day. My brain may be too exhausted to feed me any workable ideas while I can access my phone. (Of course, it can also decide to feed me ideas when I'm driving alone, when I can't type anything up, and by the time I get to somewhere I could make notes, the ideas are gone. Siri and I don't get along well when it comes to trying to make notes while I'm driving.)

Finally, there's the friendly competition aspect. In addition to being data-driven, I'm also super competitive (thanks, Dad--in the words of my siblings, "you made me this way"). If you toss me the idea of doing some sort of writing challenge, I'm suddenly all the more motivated to do the thing. Call it a contest or a challenge, and I'm there. So I take part in some online friendly writing competitions a few times a year, and I also set up some additional personal challenges, like turning Drawlloween into writing prompts and writing at least a part of a story or poem every day in the month of October. The competition aspect dramatically swells my number of completed pieces. Between the contests and Drawlloween, I knock out pretty close to 40 pieces. If I add another month-long productivity challenge, it's more like 70 pieces. They may not all be finished by the end of the year (I spent the early months of 2019 finishing some of my Drawlloween stories from 2018), but it still winds up being a lot of words on virtual paper.

I'll be the first to admit that in my endeavors to write a lot, not everything I write is good. But there's a value for me to writing prolifically, if nothing else because it gives me a lot of practice. Through that practice, I'm learning what works and what doesn't work, which makes every subsequent story  I write just a little bit better!


Dawn Vogel's academic background is in history, so it's not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. The final book in her Brass and Glass steampunk adventure trilogy will be out October 22, 2019. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at http://historythatneverwas.com or follow her on Twitter @historyneverwas.

Comments

Kathy Schrenk said…
Dawn, do you sleep? Also tell me more about your craft business; do you have an Etsy store?
Dawn said…
I do sleep, though I wish I could get more sleep!

My craft business is scarywhitegirl.etsy.com.
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