I am currently writing at least 1,000 words a day, every day (which is about the length of this blog for reference). It is not a huge amount, but there are no days off. Holidays, weekends, hurricanes, miserable hot and humid weather, anniversaries, vacation, whatever it may be. Trust me- I don’t always have the mood to write. Sometimes I just want to walk around my yard, watch YouTube videos, browse the web, or stare at a wall. I work full-time on a salary (currently remotely) which means I work much more than 40 hours a week, and as I work in higher education, this time of the year is hectic, to say it lightly. Sometimes I sit down in front of my laptop after a bear of a day, deflated, tired, and void of good ideas- this week, in particular, has been a struggle. However, I still write. I may not always reach the goal, but I make a concerted effort. I keep a master excel spreadsheet (with all series-related information like names) and indicate my daily word count. Often, I don’t think I will make it, but I am always pleasantly surprised when I do.
If you’ve been following my writing journey, you’ll know it wasn’t always this way. The realization of setting a writing goal came to me late in my writing life. Well, not necessarily the realization, but lets say the action. I always knew it was a good idea, but I was cocky that I didn’t need all that jazz. I liked to write unrestrained, and the goal seemed to go against that mythos. Like in many things in life, I was wrong. During the drafting of my most recent book, Dawn of the Lightbearer, I set a goal. I approached that book utterly differently from others due to some reader feedback and just a whole lot of lessons learned in my publishing journey. I knew that my time working remotely wouldn’t last forever, and soon I would be back to losing two hours a day commuting. I didn’t want to waste this gift of time, so I decided to set an optimistic goal of 2,000 words a day. It was a challenge, I won’t lie to you, but I wrote what I consider my best work so far, from beginning to publishing, in six months.
I started with the same mindset and goal for my current WIP, the sequel to the above novel, Son of the Mourning (updates here), but quickly realized that my schedule and the book being a sequel made that goal impractical. There was just too much to think about, and I spend a lot of time trying to remember what happened in the first book, looking up names and events, and going through my notes. I also need to think about how the complete story will pace out over the entire series, which requires more planning than the start of the journey. But, I still have a goal and write no matter what. I started writing on 6/6, and as of today, 8/27, I am at 55,030 or an average of 1,123 words a day. It will be about 120,000-140,000 words, so I am a bit under halfway (about 3 more months).
Before realizing setting a daily goal was essential, writing a book took me years. I found myself in the comfort of reading what I had already written, over and over again, afraid to move forward until it was perfect. It was a massive waste of time. It made me think I was a writer, but you can only use that title if you’re writing and producing something. The thing is, you should save rewriting and revising to when you finish a book. Wasting time doing this before the story is complete is precisely that- waste. I remember going through this process with one of my other books and cutting whole chapters for which I had spent months re-reading over and over to get “perfect”. So now, I move forward, no matter what and keep the re-reading to the absolute minimum. Sure, I may end up cutting what I write, but it gets my brain in the writing mode, and more often than not, even when I am not in the mood to write, good stuff will flow. Though, I am sure to tell myself that the goal is not god. Sometimes it is quality and not quantity. Last night, I wrote 1,079 words and barely made my goal before quitting (it was literally down to the second), but I wrote gold, which will play an intricate part in the story. I ended the day fulfilled, even if I didn’t write 3,000 words.
And that’s what is most important- a feeling of fulfillment. That is what keeps me going. The slight stress of having a goal forces me to write. Sometimes, it’s torture before the words flow, but when reached, I feel like I have accomplished something. Writing a novel is always a daunting task when you look at it globally, and it gets people stuck or even prevents them from starting at all. But with the bite-size chunks of a writing goal, before you know it, you’re done, and because you were writing and not re-reading, the real fun can begin of experiencing your writing with a fresh set of eyes and molding the slurry of words into greatness.
I am no expert, and writing is very much an individual journey, but there are things I hope to convey that I’ve learned from bitter experience. Some of my followers congratulate my honesty and frankness. I appreciate the feedback, and I am so glad my willingness to be open with my struggles shines through, but on the other hand, it does sadden me a bit. What are people trying to hide? Why does everything have to be a secret? Some of my most outstanding teachers in life did not brag about their success. They were the ones that spoke about their mistakes, and more importantly, shared with me what they learned from those failures. I am not great, but I do have many shortcomings that I think can help others, and I hope this little nugget of advice is useful.
For those of you who have similar or different experiences, please feel free to share them below. What is your writing process? How do you keep moving forward? What do you do when you’re stuck? Whatever you can offer may help me or others on our journey of creation.