I have just read a post by Steven James about writing targets and why many writers have them. You can read it here :
We all know about the words-per-day target, or the hours-per-day target but he questions whether either of these really work in actual writing life – other than for those who are required to submit a certain amount of copy each week to their editor, or they get fired. We are talking about novelists rather than journalists, here.
All writers have their own method of staying on task; for many it has to be some sort of routine whether it is quantity or schedule. Steinbeck believed in writing one page a day, ignoring your audience and only writing to one person instead. Others insist on getting up at O’dark thirty to complete their word count before the day begins, while there are those who operate at the other end of the spectrum and write as bats and owls go about their business. Joyce Carol Oates – a prolific writer of over 80 novels alone – insists she spends much of every day staring out of her window. Each to his or her own writing clock.
James concludes with the notion – derived from calculations that will produce a 90,000 word book per year – of writing 300 words/day for 300 days/year. I haven’t checked his math, but I’ll take his word for it and understand he is being ironic. For how frustrating would that be? To get to your word limit, and ‘limit’ is the word here – 300 words is nothing – and still have another page or three to go before your ideas are all down? I understand his point, though, which is to show us that writing does not have to be this all-day slog on the days when nothing is coming. That we do not have to sit for a certain number of hours or words, as some authors insist upon, and feel guilty when all we can do is look at a blank screen or spend several hours revising. (Or writing blogs about not writing!)
I have tried forcing myself to write – both by word count or time: it didn’t work. I ended up hating the story, and writing in general. And without fail, all of the forced writing didn’t fit into the end product, exactly because it was forced.
I do not write every day. I do think every day, though; my story and characters are floating around in my head as I go about my business. I wait until one of them says or does something, and then I need to get it down immediately.
Do not get in my way.
Once I have that idea down, I can be writing for hours and then re-reading and tweaking for days until the next fallow period of thinking sets in. Somehow, I have managed to produce several novels this way.
So, that’s how I work. My characters have been quite chatty recently and so there has been a lot of writing going on and I like where they are taking me. I will write as far as I can and then set myself some questions to ponder for the next stage, and the next, and eventually, there will be another novel come out of it.