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My Say - Timothy Hallinan


My Say gives writers a chance to air their views about writing and the writer's life.

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The Writing Session

Timothy HallinanBy Timothy Hallinan, author of The Fourth Watcher

  1. Getting there:
  2. Write 500 words a day, five days a week, and in ten weeks you’ll have 25,000 words. That’s a quarter of a good-size novel. At that pace, even with the inevitable wrong turns and backtracks, you’ll be able to turn out a revised draft of your novel in a year.

  3. Tuning in:
  4. Writing regularly and at some length also keeps the world of your novel open to you. Annie Dillard once said that writing a book is like taming a lion: the longer you stay out of the cage, the more dangerous it is to go back in. Working regularly keeps that lion under control.

  5. Opening up:
  6. Regular writing also brings the world of your book into your non-writing life — and vice-versa. You’ll find yourself thinking about the book even when you’re not writing. Everything you see or hear will have some sort of relationship to your story. You’ll find yourself asking, "Is this material or not?" "Is this what Judith would say in that scene?" Driving down the street, doing dishes, taking a shower (especially taking a shower) — you’ll have inspirations.

  7. Turning on the sorter:
  8. There’s a little node in your brain called the reticular activating system. It’s a sorter: it flips through the hundreds of thousands of things you see, hear, read, and think every day, and it says, This is important or This is junk. And it calls the important things to your attention. The reticular activiting system is why you can hear your name spoken across a noisy room, or why, once you’ve decided to buy a certain car, you suddenly see billboards and commercials for that car everywhere. Those things were always there, but the reticular activating system had been putting them in the junkpile. The universe has a vast amount of material to offer you, free of charge, for your book. If you write regularly, you’ll recognize that material when it comes along. It could, ultimately, be the thing that either saves your book or takes it to a higher level.

  9. And finally: Write regularly because it’s a privilege to be able to do so. Write regularly for the love of challenging your creative spirit to grow and flourish. Write regularly to experience the magic of a new world coming into being at the ends of your fingers. Write regularly to strengthen yourself against the despair of gruntwork, dead dialog, and bad pages. And most of all, write
  10. regularly in order to write better.

  11. And remember, the session you decide to blow off today or tomorrow might be the most important session in the development of your book. Ain’t no way to know except to do the session.

Timothy Hallinan is the author of The Fourth Watcher. He began writing books while enjoying a successful career in the television industry.  He is the author of a number of novels and a non-fiction book on Charles Dickens.  For years he has taught a course on "Finishing the Novel" with remarkable results – more than half his students complete their first novel and go on to a second, and several have been, or are about to be, published.


The Fourth Watcher - to buy on
Amazon US
Amazon UK

My Say 8 - Jae Watson