Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Gasp! I Am Not A Daily Writer, After All

Daily writing goals are alluring. They keep the writing brain in shape. They keep the writer satisfied: “Hey, look at me, I’m writing!”, keep the writer with the story. They feed the muse.

It’s easy to feel productive that way — and to be productive, too.

WHY IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE (i.e. why it’s not for me)

Some people are not superheroes. Sigh.

After trying it out repeatedly over the years, over and over, I have found that daily writing works. Until it doesn’t. Until it dries me up.

The danger of daily writing goals is: it can become all  about the word count.  The 1K a day, or even 500 words a day can become too much of a marker, encouraging an “are we there yet?” mentality.

I have found that with daily writing goals, more often than not my word count would become my cap for the day.

MY NEW TUNE

I still have to keep track of the pages for my VCFA packets, which still requires goals on deadline, which still might be a great good thing. But within those goals, I have loosened, allowing for both marathon go-go-go writing days and occasional days of no writing whatsoever.  I love the marathon days, when word count ceases to matter, when the only thing that counts is getting lost in the storyworld. I equally love just being in the world once in a while. Looking around with my eyes wide open and just breathing.

In a way it is easier to stick with a word count goal, this external thing, to keep from drifting, to stay in line. But I have discovered recently, that drifting, floating, crossing lines, can be another important part of the writing life.

marathonI am aware that thousands of writers are on Week One of the beautiful national madness that is NaNoWriMo (The National Novel Writing Month). You all are running a marathon. You’re ALL about the word count right now.

If it’s been working for you, just keep going. I am cheering you on!

But if — come next week – you find yourself dry-heaving and dizzy and a little bit lost, if you keep your eyes too closely on those numbers, if you notice you start doing more counting and less wording, then try something brave and dangerous — try taking a break. Try a little breather. So you can come back to the work fresher and stronger and more committed than ever before.

In the end, we each must find our own style. Writer and former literary agent Nathan Bransford discussed it on his blog last week so well.

What’s your style? What’s your tune? Are you a daily writer? A word count champion? What have you tried? What have you discovered?

If you are still figuring it out, look no further than your own page. What’s the quality of your writing like with daily goals — and what’s it like without? Sometimes the quality doesn’t matter. Other times, it tells you something.

On the other hand, are you able to produce enough without the external push of word count goals?

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November 5, 2013 - Posted by | VCFA Adventures, Writing Mirror

12 Comments »

  1. I, too, love the marathon days. I have them now and again, but not as often as I would like. This is a good post. We all have to give ourselves permission to take those breaks. I have never done NaNoWrMo, but intend to one of these years, but I always seem to have some big thing going on in November. This week I am at a workshop at Highlights — Whole Novel Historical Fiction — and it is pretty intense. I am doing PiBoIdMo though. I can manage that. Now, I have to get back to work! Thanks for a good post.

    Comment by Rosi | November 5, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thank you, Rosi. Have fun with the workshop and good luck with PiBoIdMo!

    Comment by Katia Raina | November 5, 2013 | Reply

  3. You’re doing fine, Katia. This lovely post proves it. And none of us are superheroes. We’re human. We have jobs, families, lives outside of writing. We get sick, too. Especially this time of year.

    So I’ve always gone more for time spent writing than actual words typed. And I usually don’t write more than 4 or 5 days a week. I managed to bang out 3K words on Halloween (which is a lot for me!), because I’d set myself a goal to finish this rough draft by then. And I did! Then I took the next two days off. I’ve learned I need breaks from writing and I think it makes me stronger. The story itself is always simmering in the back of my mind, and sometimes an extended break helps it to boil up again.

    NaNo participants have my deepest admiration, but I’ll never be one of them. And people I know who’ve succeeded at NaNo admitted to me that sometimes they typed “blah, blah, blah” just to fill in the word count. I’d rather not be forced to write filler.

    Comment by Joanne Fritz | November 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you, Joanne. Some people NEED those daily wordcounts. Some people ARE truly superheroes. And some are NaNoWriMo gods. They just seem to OWN the format. I’ve tried it once (55K words no problem. A cohesive story? Not so much). I might even try again in the future — it’s actually pretty tempting, but for now NaNoWriMo isn’t me. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? A big part of writing is knowing yourself. It sounds like you have it down. :)

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 5, 2013 | Reply

  4. Katia, I, too, am not a daily writer. The only way that would happen is if I’m heavily into a novel and on a roll, but that, too, would slow down or stop at points.

    My biggest problem is time, period, but I’m not one to write for a half hour every day, just to write, and certainly word count is the last thing I would push for. It’s just not me, so…I’m with YOU! :D

    Comment by writersideup | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Sounds pretty perfect to me! As long as it works for you, right? Thank you for sharing.

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  5. I have weekly goals. If I’m drafting, my goal might be 7 chapters a week. If i’m revising or editing, it might be 14 chapters a week.

    I sometimes do daily writing. It depends on my energy level, time I have, and what I’m doing.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Your goals are impressive (yet not insane), Medeia. I too often have weekly goals. Daily goals too. Maybe I should have clarified: I AM a daily writer. Except for the times when I am not ;)

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  6. What do you mean you’re not a superhero!?!? JK. I am not an everyday writer either. My creative self often needs time to rejuvenate between writing bursts. :)

    Comment by Writerlious | November 11, 2013 | Reply

    • I have heard of lots of people who ARE. I even know a few of them in person. I have always wanted to be one. But that might be a topic for another post :)

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 11, 2013 | Reply

  7. I’ve been recording my wordcount for the whole year and I normally write 15-18 days per month, which seems to work for me. I tried the daily thing but it wouldn’t work all the time, which is not that bad, because it just means that on the days I am not writing, I am gathering moments worth writing about

    Comment by AH | November 20, 2013 | Reply

    • That makes sense, AH. The thing I have realized is that daily word count is about so much more than mere willpower. It’s about the words. As you know from my follow-up post, I am still stubbornly intent on one day being able to produce that daily count, after all. “Daily,” minus Saturdays and a once-a-year vacation, that is. Like you say, “gathering moments worth writing about.” And breathing.

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 20, 2013 | Reply


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