The Page a Day Writers Group

Why a page a day?

Posted on: November 9, 2009

I hear keys clicking and pens scorching paper this month as NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org)- is underway. A great way to jump start a novel- maybe one year I’ll join in just to ride the swell of month-long community writing energy. But my writing journey has been far from anything resembling NaNoWriMo- you will not find me writing 10 pages a day, let alone every day for 30 days. I may have succeeded in doing that one weekend on a silent retreat away from my family, which was heavenly but certainly not the socially intertwined reality of my usual life. And I’m a firm believer now that writing binges are not necessary.

As our writing group discussed the last time we met, writers are working even when we’re not writing. When we’re engaged in other things, important processes still have free reign: ideas generate, characters wrestle, sentence fragments swirl. I may dream of more uninterrupted hours of writing time but I wouldn’t trade time spent with friends and family, or simply time spent off-the-chair. Well, let me backtrack. Maybe if I’m honest there are days I would trade time spent with others for more writing time, and as writers we all make that choice- we do trade time with others to write. But I think it’s possible to maintain a robust interconnectedness with our loved ones and still write (and sleep), especially if the goal is a realistic page a day.

Writing may be a solitary profession- at some point each day we need to sit in that chair- but writers are allowed to be social beings. And we do not need to petrify in our chairs to be considered writers. Gatherings, conversations and the messy flow of family time- or just time out of the chair immersed in non-writing life- feed the spirit in a different way than writing time. Indeed, off-the-chair life enlivens our writing. Maybe that’s the theme of my post today: a page a day allows for a healthy off-the-chair life within the discipline of a writing life.

Just now I’m returning to this post after a half-hour break eating pomegranates with my sons in the backyard- a glorious and messy half hour. Rich grist for the writing mill. And because writing hours are limited, I savor them, and those solitary writing hours quench an essential need just as much as my off-the-chair life.

The practice of a page a day was first recommended to me years ago by Kirsten Imani Kasai and now again by my writing teacher, Drusilla Campbell. This approach allows a steady evolution of story and produces a skeletal draft by the year’s end- a draft with strong bones to support your developing story during rewrite phase.

Do you have to wait a year before starting to rewrite? No. As we’ve seen in our group, rewriting can begin at any point and we’ve all struggled with wielding the scalpel. A page a day can apply to rewriting as well.

But “a page a day” is not meant as a rigid rule. Some days the writing (or rewriting) might flow in a rush of adrenaline- maybe those will be 15-page days. But in between the rushing flow, the discipline of a page a day reminds me that one page a day is good work- an accomplishment in itself. We all get better with practice and all writing is practice even if at the rate of a page a day.

During the sift, shed and shift of rewriting (note restraint in omitting other s-words from this sentence) not rushing has immense value. Campbell reminds us in class, “The first thought that comes to mind is unlikely to surprise. Generate as many ‘What ifs’ as possible.” Novels are born in ‘What ifs.’ And What Ifs take time – including off- the-chair time- to develop muscles and begin to dance.

NaNoWriMo or no, there are endless ways to fire up and let loose on the page. Whether your writing session produces 15 pages or just one, it’s time well spent.

 

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2 Responses to "Why a page a day?"

Thanks, Ondine. I appreciate this post as I am in the thick of a heavy rewrite for the current section of Taking Chances I am working on. Sometimes I think its harder to revise certain sections than to write a rough draft for a story. It takes a lot more precision and process – even at just a page a day.

Ondine, this is a wonderful introduction to the page a day discipline. It inspires me to get cracking and get the words out of my head and onto the paper.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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