Monday, April 17, 2006

AG: B.I.C. Time

I’ve been preaching at a church about an hour from my home. The pastor is facing some surgery and I’ve been asked to fill in for a little while. This past Sunday I used the following opening illustration:

The human heart beats an average of 75 times a minute; forty million times a year; two-and-a-half billion times during a normal lifespan. With each beat, the average adult heart discharges about four ounces of blood. This amounts to 3000 gallons a day or 650,000 gallons a year—enough to fill more than 81 tank cars holding 8,000 gallons each.

The heart does enough work in one hour to lift a 150-pound man to the top of a three-story building, enough energy in twelve hours to lift a 65-ton tank car one foot off the ground, and enough power in seventy years to lift the largest battleship afloat completely out of the water.
Looking at the illustration again, I am reminded how much can be done in little increments. Just four ounces of blood is pumped with each beat of the heart. Four ounces isn’t much, but it adds up quickly because the heart doesn’t rest.

When someone learns that I write books for a living they often say, “I could never write a whole book. How do you do it?” My answer is, “I just put one word after another.”

Stephen King thinks the same way. He said, “When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’”

Some think that a book is born fully formed and springs from the writer’s brain like Athena from Zeus’ skull. The truth is it only feels that way. Novels are born not in a single act of labor, but by a long chain of words strung together like pearls. When looked at as a whole, the work seems impossible, but when viewed in bite-size segments things appear a little cheerier.
Writing five days a week and producing five pages per day will yield a 350 page novel in just 70 workdays—about three-and-a-half months. That’s three books a year. At just three pages per work day the same book can be penned in less than six months. Two pages per work day yields a book in nine months.

Granted, the math is easier than actual composition but it makes the point: Getting from “Prologue” to “THE END” is an exercise of daily production. Not to put too fine a point on it, writing requires consistent butt-in-chair (B.I.C.) time—not once in awhile, but day after day. One word joins another to become a sentence; sentences hookup to form paragraphs; paragraphs swell into chapters; and chapters add up to a book.

Craft can be learned; endurance can’t. Endurance is a function of desire. When the force of our desire exceeds the inertia of our reluctance a book is born.

Alton Gansky writes and preaches and builds furniture in California.


At 12:10 PM, Blogger Tricia Goyer said...

So true Alton! When I sit down I pray for God to help me focus on "the next thing." Trying to think about the entire novel would be TOO overwhelming!

Also, I really enjoy your writing. Thanks for being diligent in sharing the stories of your heart.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Sharon Goemaere said...

Excellent post Alton!So full of truth.God bless.
Sharon L. Goemaere

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

Thanks, Al, for the encouragement. Some times I get so frustrated and want to stop. Then finally I start putting words down on paper, knowing I can change them and make them better. One word at a time. Good reminder.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

I love that quote at the end Alton...I'm going to put you and that comment in my author quotes on my blog page!

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Wow! Did I ever need to hear this. I'm in the early stages of a new book, with thousands of words to write in a very short time. It feels so impossible it's almost paralyzing. But I remember how the last book grew - word by word, paragraph by paragraph. And suddenly one morning I realized I had 200 pages. And by then, I was in love with my characters and I quit counting and just told my story. ...Butt in chair. Guess I'd better get busy! Thanks, Al!


Post a Comment

<< Home