The rules of the game

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Maybe a lot of writers are like this, but I find it almost impossible to maintain forward momentum on a project as big as a novel without breaking the process down into manageable chunks. If I tell myself I need to write a complete novel in three or four months—panic! But if I tell myself I need to write three pages of a novel every day, well, that's seems pretty reasonable.

So I've created myself a calendar and given myself a set of rules. The calendar started on January 26, and the note for that day says "3." The note for January 27 says "6." The note for today says "9," and so on. The calendar extends all the way to May 15, the note for which says "330."

The rules are pretty simple. It's kind of like football, in fact. Every day I start at the line of scrimmage, which is wherever I left off the day before, and write at least until the cursor reaches the page with that day's number. It doesn't matter if I actually type anything on that page or not. As long as the cursor reaches that page through legal game play, I'm safe. That can either be accomplished by writing all the way to the end of a page naturally, or by reaching the end of a chapter and advancing automatically to the next page.

For bonus yardage and a bit of a kickstart, each new chapter starts halfway down the page. (You can see that this allows for things to start out easy on the first day. From halfway down page 1, it only takes a hair over a page and a half to get to 3.)

If I should fail to make a first down, well, I have to make up the lost yardage the next day. It's like getting sacked behind the line of scrimmage.

I'm not sure that 330 pages by May 15 will add up to a complete novel, but if not the ending will certainly be within sight. And by that time, if I need games to make myself dash to the end zone, then I really have problems.

Now it's back to work before I hit myself with a delay of game penalty. I'm about two thirds of a page from my first down.

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on January 28, 2009 3:21 PM.

Cubist writing was the previous entry in this blog.

Game play variations is the next entry in this blog.

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