Alleyne Dickens, Author

History with Mystery and Passion

More on Process


In trying to encourage a friend who struggles with her writing process, I thought more about mine.

I have struggled, too, wasting days and weeks and months in not writing. I knew I could. I had. When I used to work outside the home, I’d go into the office and hour early every day. It was quiet and they had a computer — an enormous word processor with 8 inch floppy disks. My roommate had an electric typewriter. I had paper and pens. That tells you how long ago it’s been!

Back to the day job. I wrote for an hour every work day. Every. Day. Sometimes at lunch, too. Telling the story was my only goal. I wrote for the joy of writing.

The problems began when I stopped working to be a stay-at-home-mom. There’d be plenty of time to write… later. I cranked out a couple of manuscripts, mostly when my daughter was very small. I got involved with other things that sapped my creativity and energies. Writing took a back seat.

In an effort to restart my productivity, and to become what I’d always wanted to be — a writer, I found and joined Virginia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. I had found my sisterhood! It was glorious!

But the more I learned about craft the more I procrastinated. The more I talked about writing, the less I seemed to do it. I wrote, slowly. I entered and won contests. I got requests, but it seemed to take me forever to finish a book and an eternity to edit it. My Internal Editor ground me to a halt.

I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – 50K words in November). The first year I crashed, but the second year I won! Came close the 3rd year. That’s when it hit me. I needed a goal.

Not an abstract goal like finishing a book, but a finite, quantifiable goal that I could measure. That turned out to be number of words. 50,000 words in 30 days ends up being 1667 words per day. I could do that. I also discovered that Scrivener, the writing program I use, has a feature that not only counts the number of words you write each day, but uses them to calculate how many more you have to write per day to reach your goal.

I became more and more excited to see the numbers per day dropping. It pushed me to write more words so that the next day, I had fewer to write. I finished my 4th NaNo on November 25th! I reset my goal and kept going. That 120K word manuscript is waiting to be revised, while I revise my previous NaNo success for the agent who wants it.

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OCD doesn’t run in my family, it leisurely strolls along saying hello to everyone. Let me tell you, my OCD (in this case making the “to write” numbers shrink) can kick the snot out of my Internal Editor. The giddy pleasure I get out of opening Scrivener  and seeing how much I have to write makes the words flow.
This might not help you if you’re struggling, but it’s an idea. Try it. You never know what works for you until you find it.

Author: Alleyne Dickens

Alleyne Dickens was destined to be a writer the moment her parents named her. It's just taken her a while to get there. Pre-published, Alleyne writes historical romance, historical mystery and historical fantasy (aka steampunk).

7 thoughts on “More on Process

  1. Great post, Alleyne! The dreaded writing process. Ugh. We all have them. The most important thing is to figure out what you need to do to sit but in chair and get words on the page!

  2. Thanks for sharing Alleyne. Very interesting. There are 2 books I need to write and I have been postponing for years. I have wanted to be a writer ever since I learned how to write. Over the years, I told myself to give up because I did not have the talent to become Victor Hugo. Now I need to write to promote my business and ideas.

    • Dominique – you don’t need the talent of a Hugo or Dickens 😉 to write. You only have to have the desire and the drive. Good luck! And congratulations on your business success!

  3. I so relate to your story. Since I quit the day job and actually have tons of time to write, I procrastinate. Since I know that I can always do write “later today,” I do everything but write. Maybe I need to set some hard word goals like you. 🙂 Great post, Alleyne!

  4. Great post, Alleyne. Procrastination is my bugaboo, or one of them. Maybe this will help.

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