There are writers who set themselves goals: 1000 words a day, or, three hours every morning. Then there are writers who work only when the spirit moves them, waiting for inspiration and then working nonstop. I’m somewhere in between. I try to write consistently, but I don’t have a rock solid routine. I do hope for inspiration, but I have to work while I’m waiting–and pick up kids, and buy groceries.
The tricky thing about writing is that it’s not even or consistent work. Sometimes writing goes quickly, and sometimes it goes verrrry slowly. Sometimes it involves steady page by page progress, and sometimes work means throwing out three chapters or taking a walk. For this reason, it’s difficult to map out a writing project in neat equal installments.
What I’ve found is that each story has its own slope. When you start out, you’re writing your way uphill, figuring out what to do, learning–indeed, inventing–the terrain.
The middle of a story feels like cresting the hill. At this point, you might want to rush to the end, but don’t do that. Stop here, unpack your picnic, sit with your reader and admire the view.
Ending means writing your way down again. Writing downhill is much faster than working your way up, but you need to pace yourself so you don’t run out of energy, and step carefully so don’t fall, or start avalanches, or get lost in the woods.
Every writing project has its own slope–steep, or gentle, or slippery. A novel might have a gentle slope and a short story might have a rocky one, hard going at first. Strange and wonderful to consider these narrative topographies. Strangest of all to think that within a larger project like a novel, each chapter has its own slope, its own unique challenges and surprises–a sudden waterfall! A tangle of wild blackberries.