Writing every day: Pros & Cons

The number one piece of advice I’ve heard professional writers gives to aspiring writers is simple enough: WRITE.

Put your butt in the chair, your hands on the keyboard and just write your story instead of fretting about it. Then when you’re done, write another one, and then another one.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

A lot of people also say that the best way of achieving this is to write every day. Write about your day, follow a writing prompt, write your novel, every day. Even if it’s only a few hundred words, it doesn’t matter, Neil Gaiman said when he explained that he wrote Coraline by two-hundred words increments every night before going to bed.

So, a couple of months ago, I started the experiment of writing a bit of my novel every day, with a fairly low daily goal, but the hope that the regular additions would plump up my Scrivener file nice and quick. It worked, in terms of adding words regularly, but because it was always only a few hundred words at a time, the text ended up being fairly disjointed.

I found it difficult to maintain writing every day more than a couple of weeks, because after a while I got really depressed about the state of the story. I couldn’t manage to get the tone and action consistent from where I’d left off, and ended up having to delete a lot of words.

The two to three thousand words I wrote during those two weeks are now the chapter in need of the most revisions, and it’s so broken up that it’s not even ready for me to read at writing group.

I could try and write quicker, that’s true – three NaNoWriMo wins have taught me I can write fast, but I don’t really want to, in all honesty. I don’t write quickly, and I haven’t found that my writing improved when I made myself write very quickly all the time. I now consider the wonderful Write or Die a November-only luxury. I’m now trying to write things that make sense and sound nice the first time around, rather than having to re-draft my whole book before it makes any kind of sense.

The good thing about my Writing Every Day experiment is that it’s shown me again and again that once I got in the groove, after maybe ten or fifteen minutes, writing wasn’t as difficult as all that, and I produced decent stuff. What I’m taking from these few weeks is that I need to find a way of writing regularly that works for me.

My assessment so far is: I need to write often, but in longer stretches of time. I can’t just grab ten or twenty minutes here and there (again, that’s a November thing) – I have to set aside an hour at the very least, two at best and knuckle down properly, giving myself time to think. The good news is that I have that time, the bad news is that I don’t know how much I trust myself to put it to good use.

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