Guest post: “Getting It Done: What Determines a Writing Quota?” by Franklin Leo

Getting It Done: What Determines a Writing Quota?

by Franklin Leo

 

Writing is hard, and even for the experienced, it continues to be difficult. Whether it’s editing or drafting, there’s always a point when we find ourselves unable to move forward simply because time is such a huge issue.

I’ve instructed and tutored writing to college students for a few years, and I have only recently started to come out more as a furry author, but the number one thing that I hear from other writers or hopeful-writers is that there’s too much going on in their life.

Stephen King says in his memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft that it’s best for one to get around 1,000 words a day down and written into some piece he or she’s working on. That alone is around four pages, and to some, the idea of doing so much so soon comes off like a triathlon equal to NaNoWriMo.

What matters, however, is that you get something down — anything down. Students tell me that they could only get a paragraph written. In college, that’s quite a bit, I tell them. Some often tell me that they could only get a sentence or two down because they had to do some reading. That’s okay as well. Reading and writing go together. You simply can’t do one without the other, I say.

I also tell them that some days, it’s okay to write more than other days. Some days, it’s okay to write nothing. What’s important is to discipline and let yourself write as much as you can, understand that there is no punishment for writing too little, and being there for yourself when you need it. Writing is part therapy and part communication. Try to write as much as you can, but also allow yourself the freedom that the work demands.

Personally, I stand by the 1,000 word quota, simply because it works for me. I enjoy it, I get good enough results from it, and it makes me feel accomplished. Have I ever questioned my own methods? Of course. Working as a writer is like working as your own personal trainer at the gym. You need to know how much, when, and in what way to push yourself. I continue to keep my quota going as long as I can, but with work and class (as well as different stories going on at the same time in my head), it’s just impossible to do everything that I wish.

What works? Again, it really depends. For someone, writing a couple of sentences before bed can be enough to get him or her going until the next day. For others, they may feel that 2,000 words a day is worthy of any acknowledgement. Working with others, as well, forces you to work as much as you can; several times, I’ve had other writers tell me that I’m just not writing enough, which is nice because they hold me accountable when I myself am unable to do so. Beating yourself up about it, however, is something a writer should never do. By changing writing into something that you have to do rather than what you get to do, you ultimately take the fun out of it. You ruin your chance of wanting to return to a story because it honestly gripped you. For a writer at any level, that there is the kiss of death, whiskers and all.

My students come to me every day when I’m in my school’s lab, and I get to hear how they enjoy writing now because they realize it’s not work — it’s fun when they allow for it.

That’s all you can ever do. Allow for it, and be proud of those moments when you do. That there will build you a quota and keep you pressing forward amidst a hectic schedule and series of setbacks.

 

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Member Spotlight: Franklin Leo

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

​My most recent project is an unpublished short-story about a hare and a weasel fighting against time to survive a utopian society. It’s a dark touch on science fiction involving time travel and manipulation, which I have never gotten the chance to write about before, so I was very excited to get a shot at it and finish up the rough draft. It started off with a line that I couldn’t get out of my head, and when I got the chance between work and classes, I had to write it down. I don’t know what I would have ended up with had I not written that sentence down and returned to it during the drafting phase.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I believe that I am a “pantser,” for I enjoy letting the characters I come up with take me along, show me interesting things, and eventually tell me how they corrupt, save, or destroy themselves without me controlling them. If I’m lucky, I’ll have an idea to go into, as my most recent piece has shown. If I’m unlucky, I start with a character in a situation and ask myself, “What is it that this character wants?” A lot of my fiction drives me with this, and I don’t feel accomplished if I don’t find myself ending with an answer for that character’s request. It takes a good character to do what it takes to get what they want, and I’m simply there to write about how they do it.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

My favorite kind of story is one that tests a character’s morality and what he or she believes is necessary to live.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

I identify most with Dillon from one of my first stories, “Best of the Best,” published in Heat #10. He’s a guy who carries a lot on his shoulders and understands how important everything can ultimately be. His anxiety of the unknown is something that really sits with me, and I often find myself working through the same concerns he may have within his own life.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

Stephen King, Robert Aspirin, and Tui T. Sutherland all in some way influence my interest in horror, fantasy, the paranormal, and characters not typically seen in protagonist roles, such as dragons or shape shifters. They have shown me that everyone—however odd, weird or different—has some sort of story to tell.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

The latest book that I read and couldn’t put down was Sutherland’s Wings of Fire: The Brightest Night. As part of a series made primarily for children, the book is simple in its structure, but the conflicts, questions, and dragon characters within all have as much validity as any other novel out there in the market, and I found myself rooting for these characters by the second chapter. Also, who doesn’t love dragons?

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

I spend most of my free time tutoring undergraduate students in writing or instructing part time alongside professors in the classroom. When not working, I’m usually replaying Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us or researching and reading.

8. Advice for other writers?

Start off at your level—admit where you’re at—and just write what you love until you can’t write anymore. Then, read what you love until you can’t read anymore, and when you’re finished, do the process over until you are ready to revise and love what you do. This is how we ultimately grow, yet so many young writers get stuck in that “I’m not good enough” phase. We need to get over our skill levels in order to simply write.

9. Where can readers find your work?

My work can be found in Heat #10 or in various convention guidebooks across North America. I’m also found chatting and discussing my progress on my twitter, @Fictionfelid, where I share upcoming projects and announce any publications available. I hope to have two stories out in a couple of anthologies by the end of this year.

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

The furry fandom is a place where artists and fans can grow together. No matter what one is into, there’s a place for that in the fandom, and fans continually push artists to do the next big thing while artists do much the same with each other. Without the fandom, I would not be writing what I love today and speaking about it with my students, tutees, and friends.

Check out Franklin Leo’s member bio here!