Nothing happens as a writer unless you are actively writing. Australian crime author PD Martin, whose first five crime novels have been published in 13 countries, extols the virtues of writing 10,000 words a day.
She teaches intensive writing workshops around the country providing theoretical and practical tips to writers to improve their skills.
While Seinfeld might have created a 365 day wall calendar to jump start his own literary output, PD Martin regularly takes up the 10K a Day challenge.
It’s a good lesson for those struggling with their doctoral writing.
The 10 K a Day is the writer’s equivalent to Boot Camp; the mental version of sickening repetitive pushups and laps around the oval pulling a car tyre. Forget washboard abs – you’ll come away, however, with a novel in a very short amount of time. Or, indeed, a good chunk of your thesis written.
PD Martin has just emerged from an intensive year of moving into ebooks, with five new releases under her belt, including true crime, two young adult novels writing as Pippa Dee, for which she has a separate website, and Hell’s Fury the first book in a new series.
It’s tempting to imagine she has all the time in the world to write, while doctoral students have to make do with scraps left around research, teaching and paid work.
The Australian author, however, speaks from experience when she talks about time management.
“When I was writing the first two Sophie Anderson books, I was working three days a week with reasonable, guaranteed pay and the other two days I dedicated to my creative writing,” she said.
“I made sure that I kept 9 am to 6 pm office hours with a 40 minute lunch break, and also worked five hours on Saturdays.”
With this disciplined regime, PD Martin finished a novel in six to 12 months “writing to a deadline, bum on seat.” However, after she became a full-time mum, her writing time dwindled dramatically. Around this time, she heard of the 10k day and with a deadline looming she gave it a whirl. She was amazed by the results.
The 10 K a Day Rules
The 10 K a Day effort is achieved in four blocks of two hour writing bursts with a 10-15 minute break in between each two-hour block.
PD Martin explained the rules – don’t stop to research, turn off the grammar and spell checking programs and don’t re-read a single word that you write.
“This is the most important part. When you stop and re-read what you’ve just written, you’re stopping your writing flow and listening to your critical brain,” she said.
“With the 10 K a Day program, you make a commitment to stream of consciousness writing, and understand that the editing process is where the critical aspect comes in.
“This approach is especially good for dialogue and for progressing the plot. Even if you only stick to the regime for one 10k day a one month in addition to your normal writing regime, it makes finishing a novel achievable in a short amount of time.”
It is interesting to hear PD Martin speak about a “writing regime” as this is what separates serious writers from those who dabble. Treating writing as a job means daily commitment.
Especially if you have a doctoral deadline, when you need to reach that word count.
“It’s so easy to find excuses not to write,” PD Martin says. “You think, oh, I need to work on the plot, I need more research. While these things are essential, it’s also important not to use them as a barrier to actually finishing that novel.”
Another general writing tip from PD Martin was about when to finish work for the day/session.
“Never finish your writing session at the end of a scene/chapter. Even if you only write one paragraph of the next scene/chapter, make sure you have something to go on with the next day. That way you’ll be less likely to have writer’s block.”