Dave Eggers (born in 1970) is the celebrated writer of such books as A Hologram for a King, The Circle, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Here are some fantastic quotes from Eggers to inspire you about writing!
1. I need deadlines, just like everybody else. I need daily or weekly deadlines to get stuff done, or I continue to do things and not go off on a year of unproductivity.
I’ve been saying this to other aspiring writers from day one. It’s simply essential that you set deadlines for yourself, whether they’re made up or not. Most of my deadlines are made up, actually. I have deadlines for certain things, like when it comes to the classes I teach, but when it comes to my novels and short stories, there’s almost never a deadline of any kind, unless there’s a literary journal I want to send a story to that has a deadline coming up. And so what do I do? I. Make. Them. Up.
Deadlines are important because they make you more productive. They force you to get things done. When you have no deadline for your latest writing project, you’ll find yourself working on the project just here and there, and you know what? It will never get done. You’ll tinker away on it for awhile, but if nobody’s expecting it, if there’s no deadline you’ve at least made up in your head, what’s the rush in actually completing it, right?
So come up with a deadline of some kind. Pick four Fridays from now, and stick to a word count every day. It can be just 250 words or 500 words or whatever. Just stick to it, and make sure you reach that deadline in a few weeks time, yes, even if it’s made up. You want to create ways to write more, not less, and, even more important, finish things.
2. If you want to write about people, you can make it up. But if you spend time talking to someone and examining what it is you want to write about, you discover a level of detail that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
One of the great things about writing fiction is that you truly can just make it all up. When it comes to the plots you design, the characters you create, there’s nothing necessarily you have to pull from the people in your life or the people you walk by in the street. You can do whatever you want, of course.
But Eggers is right in that if you just make it all up from your imagination, there won’t be that level of detail that’s typically necessary for a fictional character to become a full-fledged human being on the page. You absolutely do want to study people closely, talk to lots and lots of people, develop an ear for dialogue for what others are saying around you.
The level of detail you get across in your fiction will ultimately make you stand out from other writers. Detail when it comes to your characters but also your setting, your action, the way you set up each and every scene.
3. I’ll always be working on five things at once, usually with those documents open at the same time because if I get stuck somewhere I’ll jump over to something else. That’s how my head has always worked.
There’s this myth I’ve heard from other writers that it’s best to focus on one thing at a time. To not start another project until the one you’re working on now has been completed. There is some truth to that, I guess. I used to have a friend who would work on five projects at once… but never finish anything. It’s one thing to be working on five projects at once forever and ever, each manuscript getting close to the end but never actually reaching it.
But as long as you commit to finishing everything you begin, it’s absolutely worth your time to work on more than one project at once. I’m always in various stages of different writing projects, both novels and short stories. And often I’ll be working on two of them, possibly three, on any given day. Right now I’m revising my new middle grade novel and writing a new short story. I do a little bit of both every day, and this coming Friday both will be finished!
What’s up next? On Monday I start revising my new young adult novel I finished the first draft of last summer, at the same time I start writing another new story that’s been percolating in my mind recently. I’ll be working on both every day, and I’m able to handle that workload because I’ve been doing it for so long.
So don’t ever feel like you can only focus on one of your writing projects at a time and not move onto the next one until you finish the last one. Feel free to work on two projects or more at the same time… as long as you commit to finishing them all. As long as you keep the progress going, feel free to work on as many of them as you want!