At this year’s RT Booklover’s Convention, I was a teacher at the pre-convention Writer’s Boot Camp. It was a wonderful experience, not just because I got to share some wisdom, but also because I met a really great group of aspiring writers. We talked with each other quite a bit about “conventional wisdom” they’d heard, misperceptions about publishing, what to expect when they got their first (or their next) book into the hands of readers.
In that vein, one thing we talked about was the “write every day” rule.
I think “write every day” is at once great and terrible advice.
It’s good advice because it encourages writers to make time for writing, to make it a habit. It’s pretty easy to prioritize other things, but if you want a writing career, you need to not only finish the book, but also have some measure of discipline.
But it’s bad advice, because once we are in the habit, we feel guilty if we miss a day, or the pressure to produce regularly can become stifling.
But what does it mean to “write every day”?
Some writers have specific daily word count goals. So, if they aim to write 2,000 words per day, they won’t stop until they reach 2,000. That ensures a novel keeps moving forward each day.
Some writers have adjustable goals. Daily writing, but it doesn’t matter how much. Thirty words or 3,000 words is still progress.
Some writers can only write in cafes, or only at their own desk in their home office. Some can squeeze in writing whenever they have the opportunity, such as lunchtime at the office or in the car during their son’s soccer practice.
My personal goals are kind of loosey-goosey. I give myself project deadlines—i.e. “I want to finish my historical novel by July 15.”—but the amount of work I do each day varies greatly. Some of this is because my daily schedule varies a great deal (I’m a freelancer, so my job can be unpredictable) but also because my process is variable. For example, I write first drafts very fast and spend more time revising, so I have days when I probably have a net-negative word count, but I’ve revised a good chunk of a manuscript.
But someone made a suggestion at Boot Camp that I’ve been thinking about ever since. Sometimes “writing every day” is not getting physical words on the page, but rather thinking about the story.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about my works in progress all the time—in the shower, when I’m out walking, when I’m falling asleep at night. This has been a habit of mine since I was a teenager; I used to pass long car rides by making up stories in my head. It’s part of why I can write first drafts so fast; when I sit down to write, I usually know what I’m going to be writing.
So I like this idea quite a bit. Not that thinking should replace actual writing, but on days when you can’t make time to sit down and get words on the page, ruminating on a story could be a good alternative.
This is why I personally set big project goals. I like to set goals that are challenging but still within my ability to achieve, so I’m setting myself up for success without making it too easy. It’s like the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. It is doable, and thousands of writers worldwide succeed at it every year, but it definitely takes some effort.
When we do round robins at chapter meetings, a lot of you say, “I’m writing,” and that’s awesome! Keep writing and working on that book. But think about what “writing every day” means for you and how it can help you reach your goals. Let’s change “I’m writing” to “I finished,” and then, “I submitted,” and eventually, “I’m published!”♥
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.