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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fits and Starts

I try to do my writing according to a schedule. Every day, at about the same time, I'll sit down at my computer and open up the file with my current WIP, and try to write.

So many other writers out there, many of those with a lot of success, claim that the only way to write is to do it every day. So I try to.

The problem comes in when I fail to do it.

It isn't that I don't try. I do sit my butt down in the chair and try to make the words come out, hoping that my fingers will guide me to write some brilliant dialogue or come up with a unique twist on the same old plots that we've seen time and again.

But some days, nothing happens. Sometimes, nothing happens for weeks or even months at a time. I'll have a project that I'm working on, one that I'm in love with and think has oodles of potential, and can't wait to sink my teeth into it and really get it down on paper . . . but for some reason, I just can't write.

And then there are other days, days when I sit in my chair and start my session, hoping to get a good 1,500 to 2,000 words out, and those words fly by in about an hour and I can't seem to stop myself until I've passed 4,000 or maybe even 5,000 or 6,000 words.

I just recently had a long skid like I described above, where for weeks on end that turned into months, I'd try to write but stare at a screen that had looked the same for almost as long as I could remember. Then, just out of the blue, it changed. I could write again. And the words started to flow better than they ever have.

It used to be that if I had one of those days of amazing output, I'd inevitably hit another day like I described above where nothing would happen immediately afterward. It might last for two days, even. And then I'd be back on my schedule, cranking out 1,500 or 2,000 words a day most of the time. Right now, that isn't what is happening. Right now, I'm writing between 3,000 and 6,000 words a day, pretty much every day. And it has been going on for over a week.

Needless to say, I'm in awe. I don't quite know what to do with myself.

But I know better than to complain. As soon as I start complaining about it, that's when the drought will hit again.

It seems, no matter how hard I try to become a disciplined writer, one who can produce the same amount of quality work day in and day out, I just can't seem to do it. So I've decided I'm not going to give myself a hard time about it any more. It may work for some authors. But my system seems to work for me.

Any way I look at it, I'm still producing the same number of manuscripts in the same amount of time. Ever since I started writing, I've been a two-manuscripts-a-year writer. It doesn't seem to matter if I write the requisite 1,500 to 2,000 words a day every day, or if I take two months off with zero words, and then cram in 30,000 words in a week. It is always two manuscripts a year.

Are you a disciplined writer? Do you write every day, or on specific days? Or do you write in fits and starts like I do?


  1. I'm a fits and starts writer too, Heather and I push out around 1.5 books per year. I'm happy with that, and it seems to work for me.

    Although, with Christmas here, my writing has slowed way down, but come Jan / Feb my muse usually kicks back into full swing.

    Great post btw.
    Tam :)

  2. Catherine,

    I've never considered myself to be a disciplined person, but I guess in some ways I'm a disciplined writer. Woo hoo! It's about time I learned some discipline.

    I usually write every day unless I'm sick or on vacation. On days I work my other job, it may only be a hundred words or so. If I have a day after work where I'm too tired to write, I'll critique or read a book on building craft. Sometimes reading a novel sparks my desire to write. Then on some days I just need time to sort out my plot, so I'll make notes, outlines, discuss plot points with my husband or a crit partner and get ready to really dive in on my writing days.

    I think you hit on a good point, though. Each writer has to find a system that works best for them. I also produce two manuscripts a year, so it seems each of our systems work for us.

  3. Tamara, I'm glad I'm not the only "fits and starts" writer out there--and that you're still able to essentially stick to your schedule, too. I guess as long as it is working out well for us, we should stick with it.

    Samantha, I tend to be pretty disciplined about it when it is flowing. I stick to my schedule when the words are coming out. It just seems like I can't make that happen non-stop. Too bad. If I could, I might be able to become a three or four manuscripts a year writer. LOL. But two works for me, at least for now.

  4. I am not a disciplined writer. I dream of being one someday - lol. But, everytime I think I have a schedule in place something happens. I also go through periods of not knowing what to type to wishing I had more time to write because the story is pouring out of my brain faster than my fingers can keep up. I think this would happened regardless of whether I sat down at the same time every day, glued to the seat for the same amount or hours or writing when I can based on family schedules.

  5. I'm a fairly disciplined writer or at least I was up until my hubby recently lost his job. Stress has a way of sapping your creativity to tell the truth. I would sit at my desk every day and write. It didn't matter that I would only eek out a mere 200 words or if I cranked out 4k - at least I wrote. So Catherine, I applaud your effort and give you an A+. You sit and try to write. That's all anyone can ask for. Just keep trying and writing when the muse favors you. Good luck

  6. I'm fairly disciplined, though there are the lulls when my brain is trying to come up with just what I need for this next section of the book. Once I find it and settle on it, I might write in a flurry for a few days, but generally I'm pretty consistent. And slow :)

  7. All hail the undisciplined, Amy. LOL.

    Melissa, I'm glad at least one of us thinks I'm disciplined. Keep at what you're doing, because it is clearly working for you.

    Heather, they always say slow and steady wins the race. I'm pretty sure that's true in your case, based on what I've heard of your recent successes.

  8. Catherine, when I began my blog in January 2010 I found that daily diary entry posting plus searching the Internet to find what other writers say about writing is all I need to do at the present time for writing satisfaction, especially if I leave a comment and receive a reply in return.

    The Lady Scribes group blog that you and your fellow writers have put together is beautiful. Congratulations to all of you for your blog being a finalist in the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest on the Write to Done site.

  9. Barbara, thanks for joining us today. We're all very honored to have been nominated, but to be in this final group of 20 blogs is very humbling indeed. You've got a great point. Sometimes, just getting inspiration from other writers is all it takes to jump back in and get the writing going again. I hope you'll be back with us soon!

  10. When I'm writing a book I force myself to write every day. If I don't I literally find it very hard to keep my groove going. I find the editing process harder than the actually writing process. I tend to edit in long starts and stops. It can take me up to a year to be happy with a book after I though it was done.