Note: This is a time-sensitive post, so I put off the post on bad writing instructors until July 10.
Practice Is Important
Part I — Rationale and a Harsh Truth About Hovering
As it is in all art, practice in writing is important. Without practice, the writing craft and the writing itself goes stale. And as it is in all art, practice in writing is fun, if uncomfortable.
Many writers still feel more comfortable “hovering” over a WIP. They write, then rewrite, then polish, etc. in an attempt to make every word perfect.
They might spend months or even years on the same novel.
But make no mistake — they hover because it’s easier, more comfortable, and less threatening to revise and rewrite the same piece over and over than it is to let it go and move on to the next story. (Not to mention, if they don’t finish and send the work out, it can’t be rejected.)
I get that. I used to do it myself. And I’ve experienced the same twinge in my gut that they experience when, in rewriting and revising and polishing, they spoil the story.
That’s a pretty harsh truth. Even when they won’t admit it aloud, they know it’s true.
Part II — Practice
So here we are, back to the basic premise: Practice Is Important.
Maybe the only thing that’s more important is persistence in practice. Of course, that’s tempered with doing what works for the individual writer.
We all have different lives with different requirements and different priorities. I can’t speak to yours, and I won’t try. I can only speak to my own.
For the first couple of years I was writing fiction, I had a daily word count goal: 3000 words per day. For me, with breaks, that’s about 4 hours.
I hit my goal most days, and I exceeded it often. When I missed, it was all right because the goal reset the next morning anyway. I wrote about 800,000 words of fiction in each of those years. For me, that was very good.
But once I settled into an easy rhythm with my writing, I thought I no longer needed the daily goal. I seemed to be writing 11-12 novels per year either way.
And I started reading advice from other pros I respect who advised taking a day or two “off” every week, etc.
So I dropped my daily goal. I just let it go.
Bad idea. My practice lapsed.
Now, as we near the midpoint of this year, I’ve written only 225,000 words of new fiction and just under 300,000 words of fiction and nonfiction.
So it’s time to adjust and reinstitute my daily goal.
With 31 novels and around 200 short stories under my belt, I’m going back to the basics. I want to get to the keyboard every day in the company of a character with a problem in a setting.
There’s no need to take a regular “day off” from doing what I love. What excites me and makes me happy. There are more than enough days when life intervenes.
Fortunately, a new year begins with each day. I’m not tied to the Jan 1 – Dec 31 time frame. None of us are.
But I do like to begin new things on the first day of a month. So beginning July 1, I’m setting a daily word count goal again. It will be adjusted to the priorities as they exist in my life today. (If you’d care to follow along, drop by http://hestanbrough.com and subscribe.)
Some argue that a daily word count goal adds pressure.
That’s true. But it’s only pressure to get to the keyboard. After that it’s all fun.
How about you? The midpoint of the year is coming up. Do you need to reassess, adjust and reset your own writing goals?
Part III — A Little Extra
Setting a new daily word count goal is tantamount to setting a new challenge.
I’ll announce the new word-count goal/challenge later this month over at http://hestanbrough.com after I’ve given it time to percolate among my new priorities. I want to be sure I get it right.
For me, “right” means big enough to make me stretch. Not so easy that it’s a done deal, but not so big that it feels overwhelming.
It feels good — freeing, in a way — to have made this decision. I wish you the same.
‘Til next time, happy writing!
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4 thoughts on “Practice Is Important”
“Some argue that a daily word count goal adds pressure. That’s true. But it’s only pressure to get to the keyboard. After that it’s all fun.”
I hear that!
I don’t have a word count goal, but I do have a butt-in-chair goal based around timeblocks I set aside beforehand each week. Around the day job and family, those are my “must-writes.” Anything else is bonus.
I’m coming up on the end of my 52-stories-in-52-weeks experiment, so it’s time to evaluate my goals for the rest of the year. Whatever way I go, you can bet lots of practice will be involved!
Way to go, Phillip! Will you keep going with your story a week to see how long it will last? I hope so. Breaking a streak on purpose is Rough. 🙂
Yeah, to be honest, I’m a little worried about how I’ll feel if I quit cold turkey. 😉 I’ll probably continue if only to have stories to submit to publications out there (just got semi-finalist for one of my stories in Writer’s of the Future contest!) I have some novel ideas I’d like to get to work on as well, but it’s tough to squeeze everything in at one time.
I understand. When my own story a week streak ended, it did only because I pulled the plug. There were a few close calls along the way, but then when it finally ended, I just stopped it myself. That was stupid of me. BUT my goal was to write one a week for as long as I could. I didn’t have a set end goal like a year, so that made it different.
Interestingly, I found a lot of novels while I was writing those short stories. In fact, one short story (“Adobe Walls”) eventually turned into a 10-novel series (The Wes Crowley Saga) spanning some 60 years.
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