Writing: When To Know Yourself

For all of us, word count goals are important.  For writers who have deadlines, they mean something different.  To a struggling writer, trying to get back to writing everyday, they mean quite a lot.  We all have goals we wish to met, whether it be on a blog, writing a novel, or over several different projects.

I’ve heard many different types of advice from successful writers, bloggers, and people working their way to do so.  Hosting panels for SOKY Bookfest, this is often a common question.  Usually the answer is to writer every day.  I support that.

The past few years, I’ve been trying to write more.  It’s been a struggle. I wrote nonstop in high school (and before). It was usually short stories/poems/papers.  In college I was a creative writing major.  I changed my last year to a literature major. Due to certain issues, I was just kind of … burnt out on my writing.

I had a short story I had written for my advanced fiction class that my classmates loved. I still have their reviewed copies. One friend in the class even drew a dragon and other things on it to go along with it. She was a wonderful artist.  I still never was given an A on it, and it kind of upset me.  However, a year out, I decided I really wanted to work on it. I started turning it into a novel. The problem was, I realize now, that to go from short story to novel, you really have to plan. I did not do that. I just started writing all crazy like.

When I came to nano, I worked on the plot a bit. Realized it would sound much better in first person, and rewrote the entire thing, adding in a bit here and there.  I kept trying to write on it, but at this point I had a tiny child, was in grad school full time, and working and dealing with lots of life craziness/sadness.  Writing came to a halt.  Then, going back over the story with my friend Nick, he told me I was missing a real … evil I suppose you could say. I had this looming war but nothing concrete. And it was true. That was my problem. I had no idea where I wanted to go. We worked something out, largely thanks to his idea. However, I really need to go almost back to the start and rework quite a bit of things.

I decided to write only 250 words a day. 1000, a common goal for many, was just often to much for me many nights. Half the time I fall asleep with my toddler at 10.  The goal itself was stressing me out. Amanda suggested the 250. It was a good start.  I also did the alphabet series on my blog, and determined to post once a week on it. I’ve been pretty good about this (and thanks to all you guys reading!).

Back to work count, and the point of all this explanation.  As a writer, you will be bombarded with advice.  Everyone has something different works for them.  For instance, in my last panel the six authors talked about pantsing or plotting.  Some of them did a mixture of both, one did a general outline and went with what came, and one guy literally laid out the entire timeline of several books in a giant timeline on his wall. I mean, a super detailed one. We all started in amazement at him.  Many of us mentioned that we are not capable of that.

You really have to know you, as a writer, and what you are capable of. Set goals for yourself. If they are not working, lower them. If it feels like too much pressure, change them. When you find that you are meeting them consistently, raise them.  This way you are still challenging yourself, but you are not feeling so pressure from the get go that you are sabotaging yourself.

Finally, realize that sometimes you just are not going to meet those goals.  Or that something else may be more important.  Don’t go too long without trying to jump back into it however, because that’s just as bad.

What inspired this is that I started a new novel last Saturday. On time of outlining the entire thing, knowing several characters, and my main story-line/opposition, I wrote 1000 that first night, and the next two. Three nights in a row I wrote 1000 words. I had decided that as my goal every day.  Last night, it didn’t happen. I didn’t feel good. I was exhausted.  I tried to write, and I hated what I was putting on paper. I wrote about 400 words, and called it quits. I needed to work on my characters, I decided before I kept writing, and I did not have the energy left to devote to it then (also I’m directing a play that is this Thursday. It’s zapping a lot from me). I wrote, and that was important. But I didn’t push myself too far past my limits, because that can be just as bad as not writing at all.

We all have to take nights off. Don’t be afraid to admit it.

Good night guys, I’m going to go work on my characters.  Happy writing!

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