Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

The Last Ditch 4: The Rule of 500

It’s Sunday, a day off in my writing schedule, and this afternoon I caught up with Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Huge fun, probably the most accessible of the Marvel stuff as it’s not really linked to much of anything except itself, and is laugh out loud funny. Plus, Kurt Russell. Also, a cameo from the greatest actor and musician ever to have lived. What’s not to like? If you are going to go and see it, make sure you book a session of Laserquest immediately afterwards. As Eva and I will attest, it is impossible not to take shooting stuff with space guns too seriously after seeing Guardians.

Before the movie, on the other days, there was the writing. I’m still breaking my new schedule, which is:

Monday for a Ridiculous Idea thing which is just for fun. Tuesday to Thursday for a bigger project, currently a novella that I have plans for later this year. Friday is for short stories. Admin stuff waits until Saturday, and Sunday is a day off (and when I post all this). Here were my summaries for each day.


Monday

A very exciting email this morning, from an editor seeking pitches for an anthology. Always good to receive those, and it’s rather out of the blue so all the more gratifying. An invitation to pitch is just that though – it’s far from a sale. That’s to the side for now, along with a second one from last week, to be looked at properly on Friday when I dive into short stories.

Today it’s Ridiculous Idea Monday (RIM), and I have a preposterous novelette on the go. I’m aiming for something about 15,000 words in length. Despite being utterly worn out after dayjobbery, dog walking, an hour’s run, and dinner prep, I somehow found 1447 words to kick it off. I started this story in 2016, but rereading it last week resulted in so many new ideas that I’ve deleted everything and am starting again rather than trying to squash the new up against the old. Easier to do it that way than force stuff into spaces it was never designed to fill.  If it works out, the best of what went before will pop up in the new version organically. Next week I’ll probably hate what I wrote today and delete it again, but that’s the point of Ridiculous Idea Monday – these are stories I’m not pressuring myself to do anything with. They exist just to have fun with, and this one is definitely achieving that aim.

Tuesday

A really long day, including a jaunt to Edinburgh and back. I was tired when I got home, which may account for my subconscious decision to throw myself down an entire flight of stairs a couple of hours ago. It was not good fun. Still, despite that battering, I’ve now put 507 words into the ongoing novella project, jumping back to fill in some of the stuff I skipped over last week. I’m enjoying bouncing around the manuscript like I’m doing some ancient, wordsing form of parkour. Perhaps the change in approach is due to my not working on this every day – it’s easier to jump back in to whatever bit calls the loudest – but it’s making words occur so I’m not going to question it too much.

Wednesday

Woke up battered and stiff. Avoiding a serious injury yesterday seems only to have turned my whole body into one sore bit. Struggled through work and post-work stuff, and by the time it got to nine I wanted to zone out for an hour more than I wanted to write something. Have managed to drag myself to the keyboard around eleven for a couple of hours, but only 432 words produced.

Thursday

A bizarre repeat of yesterday. Work, home stuff, zone out, finally write about 457 useable words very late at night. Not a very sustainable way to carry on. Will have to break this habit somehow.

Friday

Finally, a day off dayjobbery! Man, that felt like a long stretch, and it feels like even longer since I last looked at short stories even though it’s only been seven days. At the moment I have a pool of partially developed ideas to draw from, but there are two which are at the top of the list. Both are requests to pitch ideas to two different anthologies. I sought one invitation out, and the other came to me by happy chance. Both have deadlines by which I have to pitch a one page outline, and it so happens that mixing together elements from two existing partial ideas with the material in the guidelines gives me the framework of a story that I really want to write for the first one. That’s been the case with most of the stories I’ve been fortunate enough to have commissioned – some pre-existing idea merges with the requirements of the pitch to create a new thing that suits. It doesn’t work that way if the idea is too developed or partly written. I end up trying to force a square peg into a round whole. But everything is still at the ingredients stage things can work out pretty well. Anyway, this pitch is sort of done as a draft. I’ll tighten it up next week and get it sent (Friday being the deadline). The editor will then consider the various pitches they have in hand, and pick the ones they think will combine into the best book. After I pitch I’ll look at the second set of guidelines. I have another couple of weeks for that one, so less rush. No finished fiction written today, but I’m happy with what’s been done.

Being asked to pitch something is always a nice confidence boost. It means you’ve done good work in the past, and somebody thinks you’re worth taking a punt on. The ideas I throw in for these anthologies might ultimately get rejected, but the invitation itself is a nice massage for the ego. On top of that, at a time when I feel like I’m trying to reboot from scratch it’s nice to be reminded that I’ve actually achieved things before that people enjoyed. Twenty-two years I’ve been doing this writing thing, and stuff like that still counts.

Hey, writers are people too you know.


One thing I learned this week is that I’m a sucker for the Rule of 500. I read many years ago that if you write 500 words a day then you’ll finish a (pretty short) novel in three months. I’ve seen that elsewhere since, and probably said it too. It’s a fairly arbitrary rule when you think about it, like when gym bunnies tell you that if they don’t do at least 10 reps then they haven’t done any at all. It’s patently untrue. Still, 500 words is lodged deep in me. When I don’t hit it, I go to bed dissatisfied. When I meet or exceed it, I feel like I’ve done good work (and when I do exceed it, the 500 word mark is still the point where I start to relax into things). This is why you must never listen to writing advice. We’re all just parroting the myths that get us through the day, and half of us are conditioned with nonsense.

Right, next week I’ll let you know if I got the pitch off, and how the novella’s going. In the next few days I’ll be sending out the first of the new monthly newsletter, which is mostly going to be more spoilery stuff about what these projects actually are. If that’s something you want to know then you can sign up near the top of the right hand column on this page.

For the rest of you – see you next week!


Total projects complete:

Novelettes: 0

Novellas: 0

Short stories: 0


*He is subjected to Marvel’s utterly terrifying de-aging machine for some stuff set in the eighties – I grip my seat whenever they do this and try not to scream “NOOOOOO! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!” like Luke Skywalker having Daddy issues.

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