How Often and How Much?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how a writer should write every single day.  That we should set a goal of X amount of words and work toward that diligently.  That writing X amount of words a day multiplied by 365 days a year will surely lead to a book (or two). I know all rules are not for everybody.  That no one can tell you how you should write or what you should write or what time you should write.  Duh!  But after reading so many of these posts by authors and agents and everyone else on the planet, I am almost itching inside to find out what my fellow writers think about this.

Why?  Because I do not and never have done it this way.  I’ve written four books, one published and one to be published sometime this year, and I don’t adhere to this “rule” and never have and can’t picture doing it, given my personal life, family, and whatever else is going on in my world.  When I finally get an idea for a book I’ll start and I’ll write until it’s finished.  Then I revise “til the cows come home” and then revise some more.  Then months may go by where all I’m doing is social media, blog tours, querying agents, etc… and I’m not writing at all.  I let my brain have a rest and when I get inspired I go for it all over again and start another book.  But this in-your-face rule about writing every day has made me feel so guilty and like such a loser in the writing world, I’d like to know what you do.  What do you think about this rule?

Thanks so much for commenting.

Posted on June 29, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Though I am unpublished, I have written seven novels and around 50 short stories. I used to write every day.

    It was a great practice in some ways. I learned a lot about pushing past the wall and getting it done.

    On the other hand, I tended to push out material just to get it done, and that material was very low quality.

    I didn’t want to take time to outline stories (so they’d be better executed) or to revise my work because I needed to write new words every day.

    What I learned from the experience is that every writer has to find what works for him or her as an individual. There is no right way or wrong way…other than never writing anything.


  2. I don’t do it. Most days, there’s no excuse to not write at least a little. I define “writing” to include thinking, daydreaming, revising… anything that is part of the process of putting out a book. Even so, there are days none of this gets done.

    Do the people who say they write every single day, honestly do that? They never go on vacation and have a full day of sightseeing or play? They never have family emergencies? They never get sick?

    Perhaps I’m being too literal. But I am not just a writer. I’m a human being, first.

    • I love your comment, Marlene, and I agree with you completely. You have a great way of describing the “writing process” – it includes thinking, daydreaming, revising…anything that is a part of the process of putting out a book. GREAT way to describe what we do.

  3. I so agree with Cati – I believe we have to find what works for us. I work on something everyday and most days I can tie what I do to my current WIP – but other days – life for a full-time caregiver swarms in and demands my time and suddenly everything has to be arranged. On those days, I recognize I probably will read a lot and perhaps take notes and even write a scene or two independently of the WIP. Does that make any sense or not?

    • Of course it makes sense, Sheri, and really, the writing process includes WAY more than sitting at the computer and typing out the words. It’s so much more than that. As Marlene said, it’s the experiences that go into “what” we write which makes up who we are. And that could be caregiving, reading, going for a walk, a family dinner.

  4. I’m definitely with Catie. Everyone has to find what works best for them. As long as the work gets done that you want to get done, who cares if it’s done in a 4 week mega writing session or 250 words a day. There are some days you need to edit, some you need to brain storm, some you need to work on your platform/brand and some you just need a vacation from it all.

    • You said it, Rhonda! But, you know, everything (99%) of what I read almost every day says to set a daily writing goal and stick to it. I read how so-and-so wrote 1,000 words a day, others 500 etc. I can’t imagine, unless I’m writing a book, placing a goal on myself. I write until the inspiration tires and then I stop.

  5. Being indie-published, I’m my own boss and set my own deadlines, but I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be. I totally get down on myself about not writing enough because I’m so innundated with promotion and general management of my writng/publishing life with its zillion tasks. On one hand, I hear people say write every day and that the most important job a writer can do is write the next book, but the fact remains that once you wear the hats of publisher/author/marketer and start selling the books, you have just eaten up a good portion of any viable writing time. I’m learning to be kind to myself and try to find balance, but I’m with you Patty, on feeling like a loser for not cranking out more words per day or taking a week and writing nothing.

    Although I think the pendulum eventually swings back the other way a bit. I did actually get about 1800 words down today. Deadlines are looming!

    • Hey, thanks for making me feel better! We all have to do SO much promotion that I have to admit, unless I’m writing a book, that’s pretty much ALL I do. And now I’m thinking of doing another virtual blog tour for my pubbed book! AACK. What a time suck!

  6. Christy Hayes

    I’m sure even those people who say they write 1000 words per day have some days when the writing doesn’t get done. It comes when it comes, you get time to write when you get time to write, and you make time when you can. If you can’t compartmentalize your life like others do, so what? It’s your life. What works for others isn’t going to work for you so why fight it? It is easy to read advice like that and think you’re not keeping up, but keeping up with what? You are the only one who can define your career and your goals. I think you’re doing great!

    • Thank you for your comment, Christy. It succeeded in making me feel good. I’m not going to feel like a second-class citizen/writer any longer after reading what y’all have had to say. I’m in control of my writing and my career and I should be proud instead of berating myself. I’m so good at slapping myself around! I’m going to pat myself on the back instead!

  7. Yes, Patti, give yourself a pat on the back. From what I’ve seen, I’d say you do a pretty good job of producing words that multiply until they fill a book.

    I’m at the computer every single day, doing something writing related. I’d personally like to be more structured with my writing schedule and either write or edit every day, but as the general consensus seems to be, we’re human and life sometimes interferes. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sheila. I bet we’re all on the computer every day and, as you say, it’s almost always writing-related. Maybe not words for a novel, but maybe blogging or editing or social media or what have you. I feel better now, knowing everyone else is in the same boat.

  8. Patti,
    I don’t sit down in my office every day and write, but I do work at my craft every day. Some days it’s plotting as I wait at the orthodontist or typing out a dialog run as I sit at the barn. Other days, I get 3,000 words written. I stopped trying to maintain a daily word count–it’s just too stressful! Plotting, researching, editing all counts as being productive for me, even if it’s just jotting down a cool name for a character on a cocktail napkin. Do what works for YOU!

    • You are so right, Tracy. We have to do what’s right for us. It’s just that I was completely amazed that all I ever read about is DAILY WORD COUNT! I just had to take a mini-poll of writers like you and see what the real truth is.

  9. The Big Girls–Nora and those gals–write every single day, and they do eight hour days of WRITING, not counting blogging & all that jazz. Just sayin’.

    That said, I do what I can do. Some days are just about icing my feet–I’m a speed skater–and drinking wine to survive.

    But I live by this one: A writer who does it for a living is prolific. And Nora’s famous remark: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”

  10. I try to write every day and usually succeed–when the kids are in school. But during summer I’m lucky to eek out an hour a day, MAX. But I still try!

  11. Hi Patricia!

    I’ve also heard the “rule” to write a certain number of words a day. I’ve heard other authors who stand by it. To be honest, I immediately knew it wouldn’t work for me. I am particularly conscientious in not only my writing, but in life as well. Alas, my hard wiring won’t permit it. When I write, a chapter takes as reasonably long as it needs to take in hopes of capturing the quality I truly hope to accomplish in all my writing. To give myself a word count goal, as opposed to a substance/ plot focused goal, just wouldn’t work for me.

    I do, however, give myself a writing schedule. I treat writing as if it were a job with set hours. During those hours, I don’t run to Publix, or I don’t decide to finally tackle that “small” task that appears to have taken permanent residence on my “To Do” list… and then 3 hours later I wonder where the time has gone. Just like any other career, one can’t skip out in the middle of the workday. Thus, I set a work schedule.

    That seems to be what works best for me.

    Thanks for sharing. I am glad I found this blog. I look forward to connecting with more writers. God bless!


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