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Write every day.

16. February 2009

It’s a mantra many writers are familiar with. Write every day. Get the words down on paper and just go for it. You can’t edit a blank page, but you can fix a bad one.

Like most other writers, I translated that in my head as “write as much as you can, as often as you can”. This works for me for medium stretches of time, until I get to the editing stage of a project or life makes me too busy to write. I never wrote every single day. I always took weekends off.

Then I read an interview with Cory Doctorow on writing in the age of distraction. Like so many people of my generation, I have no attention span and can lose not just days, but weeks doing bugger all.

His tips to getting your writing done? Write only a little, but do it daily. Don’t make a big deal out of a writing ceremony, don’t research, don’t do anything, just write. And don’t write until there are no more words, leave yourself hanging.

Doctorow himself writes one page per day. That’s it. End of the page, stop. Mid-scene. Mid-sentence! Leave yourself hanging and you’ll have a jump start on the next day’s work.

I’ve been trying it with my new YA novel. I’d outlined it and done some preliminary work. I’d tried writing some of it during NaNo last year (yeah, that worked well for me).
Now I’m writing exactly one page every single day. I ahve missed days three times and made up for them the next day. I didn’t write two pages, I wrote one page in one sitting, then much later, another page in another sitting, to simulate the same effect.

I started in mid-January and just today, I made it past 20k, somewhere between a quarter and a third of a novel already.

I’m doing this while I’m editing my current book. I’m doing this while volunteering. While being part of the busiest time for my kung fu club. I’m doing this despite anything else that comes up. Because you alwayus have time for just one page, even if you’re tired.

A lot of the pages are bad. Horrible writing. But they are pages, and I can fix them later.

Some people write in bursts and word sprints, climbing to dozzying heights on their word count meter in very little time.  Others write slowly but steadily, finding time when they can.

How do you write? Are you producing enough content as you go along? Do you wish you could write more? Or maybe less, so you wouldn’t feel so drained? Do you need to take breaks from writing?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 16. February 2009 4:34 pm

    Good advice. I’m struggling with these same issues. I was just writing about them actually.

  2. dianecurran permalink
    16. February 2009 6:09 pm

    I experiment all the time with the ‘write every day’ thing. I find that if I don’t write every day, my head falls out of the story, and I have to re-read a lot to get back to that focus. But if I do write every day, my head never leaves the story, and my subconscious is always working on it.
    My latest experiment is ‘writing dates’ on Write or Die. A writer friend and I are scheduling writing time using the Write or Die website. We write for half an hour then swap rough drafts during a fifteen minute break, then write again for half an hour and swap. It’s scary showing someone my crappy first draft, but also encouraging. In the last two days, I added over 4000 words to my ms, thanks to these writing dates. And we have another date tonight.

  3. 17. February 2009 12:28 pm

    Rafe, great minds think alike, it seems. ^_^

    Diane, you’ve clearly got this writing volume thing figured out. I always love reading about how much you manage to write!

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