Writing at Your Own Pace

Reviving this post for NaNo 2014 — For those of you joining through the Lovely NaNo Link-up, hosted by The Novelista!

The Novelista

Be sure to check out more NaNo-related posts this month through the NaNo category under “The Season”!


 

I’m not sure why I continue to be surprised at how much of what I’ve come to realize about life in general also applies to more specific parts of my life, for instance, my writing.  In this case it’s the matter of moving at my own pace, not holding to other peoples schedules.

I got a glimpse of a microcosm of this while I was participating in some NaNoWriMo Word Sprints.  A short sprint could see a word-count disparity that I don’t think is always simply explained by a difference in typing speeds.

Sure, there are distractions, there are those who did not type the full time, and those who are typing speed-demons.  But it also has to do with the vastly different ways that people approach their writing.  For some it is a matter of dumping the ideas on the page, writing absolutely horrible writing if that’s what it takes, to just get it down, and then sorting it out and editing it later.  For others every single word is meticulously planned from the first appearance on the page, with a lot of editing happening before the words can be written.  And yet others fall somewhere in between.

Just the same, some can write a novel in a matter of months, from first idea to finished project, while others will take years for the process.  Some want to make sure that everything is plotted out, others are happy to just see where the characters and the story may lead.

And it can cause hesitation when you’re faced with someone who takes a different approach than you.  At least, it does for me.  I find myself wondering if perhaps I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe I would be [more successful] [a better writer] [more productive] if I wrote differently.

The truth,  though, is that there is no right or wrong way to write.  Sure, there are suggestions, “rules” for writing.  And for every rule there’s an excellent example of a time to break it.  Every writer has their own method, their own way to reach their goals… and their own understanding of those goals.

Most important of all, there is no right or wrong way to write — there’s only what works for you.  I was taught to write every day, but I know a writer (a bestseller at that!) who only writes on weekends.

– Tamora Pierce

What are some of the “writer-expectations” that you have heard and embraced, or rejected?  Where are places that you’ve found yourself setting your own pace?

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29 thoughts on “Writing at Your Own Pace”

  1. Funny, I’d just been staring at a single sentence in yWriter and feeling at a loss as to where to go next, then I decided to take a break and ended up reading this post. Even though I best enjoy writing at my own pace–sometimes a little at a time, sometimes marathons, I’d recently become hung up on the notion of setting deadlines for my various writing projects. I think it’s time for me to take a step back and let the words trickle or flow–whichever they may…

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    1. I think it’s also important to keep remembering that what “fits” at one point in your life might not in another. Being open to change within your own process is important too. 🙂

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  2. I used to feel like I was doing it wrong. Writing every day does not work for me. What does work for me is weekly word counts. I used to feel like a failure at the end of each day. Now I feel accomplished on Sunday nights when I reached my count for the week.

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    1. I don’t know.. I’m kind of the queen of long sentences… always interested to see how others manage them! Love letting go of the rules, involves turning off that inner editor, but I’m getting better and better at that. Just takes practice!

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  3. I just figure if I’m being stubborn about something and I can sleep at night, then I’m being stubborn for a reason. The latest uproar I had was reading that you should only use the word “said” in dialogue and that you have to always use “fresh” words to avoid cliches. That was a fun day…Thanks for the post!

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    1. Ugh… Any “rule” that tells me what I “should” do as a writer … I usually find myself wanting to do just the opposite of. Not always a good idea but, certainly leads me some interesting places in my writing sometimes. (What do you mean semi-colons are outdated!? Result — sudden plethora of semi-colons in my work.)

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  4. There are sophomore (derivation: wise fools) writers who seize on a “rule” and broadcast wildly. You can’t do this or your hero & heroine must meet in the first so many pages. The only “rules” are to use good grammar (exceptions in dialogue) and give readers what they expect–in a mystery, discover the bad guy; in a romance, a happy-ever-after or a happy-for-now. Just write a good story. One you want to read.

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    1. See… and I think even some of the rules of grammar are flexible (though, I do know many disagree with me on that… I will continue to fight for the underdog….). I think it’s also good to sometimes mess with what the readers expect, but you can’t push it too far.

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  5. Isn’t it funny. Writing is art. Do you think there are so many rules for other art forms? I’ve never really chapter planned a full novel before this one I’m writing and I’m enjoying being able to drop everything and turn to any chapter and start writing. In the past I’ve free written. I think the only important thing is to never feel like you’re failing. You will make mistakes. You will drop your writing schedule. Life happens. Just stand up, brush yourself off and get back on the proverbial horse.

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    1. I think there are still plenty of rules in other art forms… but I think they are probably just as applicable. A huge part of what makes art ART is that we are breaking the rules. I remember that old saying — you have to know the rules to break them… and it seems like a lot of the time with writing people get to this point of knowing what these different “rules” are, but forget the importance of breaking them. Because that’s where real creativity happens (I think).

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  6. Yes, your own pace is very important. I am somewhere in between. I try to make myself write 500-1K words a day in my WIP, but if some days it is just not working.. I simply take a break and start again the next day.
    I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and got to 35K words. Not to shabby but not the ultimate goal. The thing is I am not sure if that work will ever make it to a full story. I wrote some interesting pieces and characters in it, but for now, as it has since the end of last October it just sits in a folder on my computer. However, even if it didn’t produce what will be my next novel it did give me time away from the one I was editing and when I came back I was refreshed and could look at it in a whole new way.

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    1. Sometimes Nano can serve as just a giant free-write session for me, a lot of work that I’ll never use, but that get’s me the chance to take a break from what I’m working on or, more often, get’s me back in the flow of writing when I’ve fallen out (the fall is often a tricky time for me because of the start of the academic year). But sometimes that work can also serve as a spark MANY years later. Two of the pieces I’m currently working on were Nano starts from years ago that sat around on my computer doing nothing until recently.

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  7. I read that JK Rowling spent 5 years planning her HP series before completing her first books. Go at the pace that suits you. There’s a quote from Thoreau that I love that speaks to this: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, it’s because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.” Love that. 🙂

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  8. I am mostly a weekend writer (at least for now). Everyday writing just does not work for me, try as I must…My brain is just too mush by the end of the day. I also know that even more important than writing is to get into the practice of rewriting and improving on what one has written. In the end its not the count of the words that matters at all…

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    1. Indeed! It’s a matter of finding what is going to work best for you, your style of writing to get the story onto the page — and then being ready to put in the hard-work and practice of rewriting.

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  9. Great post, especially about the ‘rules’ for writing. I’m participating in Nanowrimo this year and trying to write regularly and at a faster pace. But the only wrong way to write is to not write.

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