Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Sparks Challenge

I was reading in a pop culture magazine recently that Nicholas Sparks, author of a hugely successful string of Hollywood-loving books such as The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, only writes 2,000 words per day and takes five months to write a novel.

To some that might seem like an intimidating, detention déjà vu-assigned punishment essay, but to those of us who write articles of that length on a regular basis it's no big deal. So I ponder Sparks and his wealth and his sheer gift of time to write (the secret sauce, in my opinion, for any successful book writer), and I'm like that's all he gets done in a day? And it takes him five months to write a book like A Walk to Remember?

Apparently, according to the article, Sparks spends at least an hour so of that time thinking. Then, bam, inspiration hits, "sparks" fly, and magic appears on the computer screen. Then he's done for the day, off to play tennis with his wife or whatever he does to fill the hours of his high quality life.

I still remember my long, boring summers of my early teens before I could drive or had girlfriends. I spent them tapping away a typewriter. The result was that I wrote numerous novels, including three in the summer of 1983 alone that totaled about 750 pages altogether. The key ingredient, aside from an over-active imagination and a significant under-developed social life? Time.

But Sparks poses a challenge to me. It only takes 2,000 words per day to write a novel in five months, which is a respectable time frame for someone who works full time in the corporate world while operating his own business and raising a family. Man, I could at least do that, right? Or even 1,000 words and take 10 months? Maybe 1,500 words and take 30 weeks? Right now, I'm on pace to do like 50 words and take the rest of my life.

To accomplish the Sparks Challenge, it may require going against my nature--to, literally, rage, rage against the coming of the night.

My preference is to get up way, way early in the morning and write, when my brain is naturally the most fresh. That is when I have done my best work in recent years, aside from a period when I was able to spend big chunks of a day in a coffee shop once a week or so. But present reality and responsibility preclude such a regular, heroic early morning Rocky routine aimed at literary knock-outs. Could I dare transform my evening wind-down writing time after the house gets quiet to writing time? Will the brain and body allow?

'Cause something's gotta give, as Jack Nicholson might say. Those summers of early teenhood are long ago, and before I know it summer will begin to fade into autumn.


At 6:32 AM , Anonymous Rebecca said...

This is my challenge as well. I am a "morning person" by nature, but I'm beginning to think I need to shift my productivity pattern. Of course, when I leave the house at 6:45am and don't return until 9pm (that's my Thursday), it can't happen. Mondays also won't work for a late night.

I will say, however, that I do think quality time is still more important than quantity. The 15 minute intervals during which I was focused and concentrated produced much better fruit than the two hours I spent unfocused (under the guise of "thinking.") Of course that was for a dissertation which is a little less creative (by necessity) than a novel. I have a dear friend who is in the process of writing a novel and a family member who just completed one. They both seem to subscribe to "making your time count" as opposed to "counting your time." At any rate, best of luck as you try to switch your writing time.

At 6:51 PM , Blogger Kristie said...

I read that article about Sparks as well, and had much the same reaction. It seems like Sparks could afford to spend a lot more time writing, but the sentiment I got from the article was that he was and is highly motivated by the financial reward. So if 2K words gets him a bestseller or two a year, why push it? But for those of us who enjoy the act of writing it is more a matter of finding the time than finding the words.


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