Saturday, March 26, 2011

The psychology of writing more: double-space, page count, and never look back

Best body double ever.
I'm working on a piece right now that might end up being rather lengthy. That means I've got to write a lot of words. Writing a lot of words is something that can sometimes make me scream, but this effect tends to lessen depending on the number of pages that appear as a consequence. The best way to deal with writing long stories? Double-space for better page count, and, as usual, never look back.

Now, I'll be honest: I used to be averse to double-spacing my work. I'd never do it before I'd finished the story. I felt as though double-spacing was for manuscripts, and it wasn't right of me to feel like I was accomplishing any more than I really was just by boosting the page count with extra space. Double-spacing, in short, might be good for the eyes of editors, but for writers it's cheating. I had to keep it real and do it live.

But, alas: life is a vale of tears and sorrow.

I'm a manic-depressive writer, and although there are times when 2000 words can appear like a genie from a bottle, other times, getting those 600, 12-point, Times New Romanians down on the page is just tough work - and when you're done, you're still on page whatever. After all: there are days when I only write 600 words in total, and sometimes I write even less. In a standard word processor, that means I have to select a few menus and bring up a pop-box to visualize my progress for the day.

But double-spacing fixes this problem: it makes the torture of this literary purgatory into a joyful revelation where one is constantly being reward. The pages just fly out of your fingers when you only need to churn out 300 words; and if you write in Courier New, you've only got to put down about 250! That's awesome. And, best of all: you're already formatted in Standard Manuscript, so there's no need to return to the work after the fact and set it up for the editor or the presses.

Be this guy. Be him right now.
I'm not sure if this works for everyone, but it works great for my personal writerly psychology. I feel like I'm "gettin' 'er done" when I see the length of my manuscript rapidly piling up. Furthermore, because of the standard format, I can already imagine the work being slapped into a book, done up all nice for an e-zine, or otherwise published for consumption. In other words, I feel as though my conquest of the literary world is a fait accompli.

Of course, it's not. But half the battle is getting in the right mental state. Double-spacing your writing from the get-go helps put the words on the page and fill out those pages. Just look how much you're writing! You're awesome. You rule.

Go get published.



  1. Completely agree.

    I go back and forth from Scrivener to Pages (Mac's version of Word; I have Word, but only use it when I have to). As much as I love working in Scrivener -- and especially the full-screen view -- it's so much easier to challenge myself to write just *one more page* than 250 words.

  2. One more page! It's only one, after all.

  3. Can't say I've ever used that tactic, but there certainly are times when only gettin 300 words done in a day is rather depressing. I wonder if this would make such days feel better for me?

  4. Very interesting. At this point I've trained myself that *nothing but the words* matter. So a wimpy 500 is a wimpy 500 whether I'm on a new page or not.

    But hey, whatever psychs you out, man.

  5. It's not so much about countering the lameness of a small wordcount, but countervailing upon it by creating a psychology whereby it is easy to produce a mighty two grand.