Momentum, in context of writing, really covers two different ideas, one pertaining to the discipline of the craft, and the other to the craft itself. Next week, I’ll look at the role that momentum should play in fiction. This week, however, I wanted to look at how momentum affects the discipline of the craft.
Every time I mention the “discipline” of the craft, someone somewhere cringes. It used to be a term I threw around rather lightly, but I’ve since learned that several artists have a strong disliking for the word. By far, the most comments I’ve received since embarking on my weekly blog, was on “the habit of art” as Flannery O’Connor put it. I reinterpreted it loosely as the discipline of the craft. Many artists feel that “discipline” or “habit” or “writing when you don’t feel like it” is detrimental to the art itself, that it robs it of passion. While I hear their earnest dissent, I stand resolutely in favor of discipline. By far, the number one thing that ends a writing career before it begins is the lack of discipline. No publisher has ever paid for an incomplete novel. Go ahead, check the books.
So then, our first task as writers must be to complete a project. Once done, then we can revise and check to make sure that passion we feel for the project is clear on every page. But here’s the catch—the longer you spend not writing, the more your passion wanes. Stephen King backs me up on this. In his book On Writing, he discusses the importance of writing daily. When you do so, he asserts, you remain immersed in the world and it takes a much shorter amount of time to delve into that world each day, and to keep the passion for that world, those characters, and that story alive and well. If you think of the writing of a novel as a relationship, what kind of relationship would you have if you didn’t daily spend time with your significant other? Would your novel divorce you on the grounds of abandonment? I reckon many of ours would. I have several failed novels. I often think about going back and finishing them, but every time I do, I worry. I’ve been away from them so long, it’s like I don’t even know them anymore. I would have to start from scratch.
Make it your goal to spend time in your novel every day. Take a day off if you have to, but never more than two in a row. Monitor how long it takes you to get back into the swing of writing after a few days off—it’s infinitely harder. What you’ll find with consistency is that your passion will increase, as will your word count, as will the quality of your writing. So, stop reading this, and get on your skateboard, and take the plunge down the hill. Get that momentum working for you. Your novel will thank you.