In my experience, which ordinarily involves a great deal of slapping myself on the forehead and muttering, “Why’d I do that?”, a writer who is serious about writing has to write everyday. Did you see how many times I use the word write or a variation thereof? Yeah. That’s because this is some serious writing info.
So, every day.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. In the big picture, if you’re not doing it every day, if you’re, say, only writing when the inspiration hits you, it will take you approximately 874 days to finish a novel. Know how long that is? For-freaking-ever. And maybe if it’s your first novel, and you’re just learning, and you’re making mistakes and going back and fixing them, and just figuring this writing junk out, maybe that’s okay. (It’s not really, and I’ll tell you why in a minute, but whatever). Fine, first novel done. And it only took you two years, four months, three weeks, and five days. Give or take.
Except, you know, when you actually sell it and you want to sell another, the people who are publishing your novel, the agent who is selling your next novel, they’re not okay with another 874 days of waiting. Because you need to build on the momentum? Sure. Because it might mean you’re a one-hit-wonder? Well, yes. Because they like money and keeping the lights on, much as you do, and they can’t push an unfinished product? That, too. Because you also have to spend time on editing and, I don’t know–cover designing and marketing planning–whatever else goes into selling your lovingly crafted product? Yes and yes.
The Big Picture
Okay, so you see the big picture. But it doesn’t apply to you, right? I mean, who knows when you’ll sell a novel (depressing thought alert)? When you finally sale one, or land an agent, or unicorns sprinkle glitter across the page–then you’ll get serious and start writing to a schedule.
Well, here’s the thing. If you were hoping to compete in the Olympics, would you train when the urge hit you, and actually expect to land a spot? If you wanted desperately to be an artist, would you paint one painting, then wait for some big gallery to book you for a show before you started getting serious? Of course not. Because those things, like writing, must be learned through practice and discipline.They don't call it craft because it makes it sound important. Click To Tweet
Living in your story
Okay, so for reals, now I’ve convinced you of the big picture. Now, let’s look at the tiny picture: your manuscript.
You know how, when you’re pregnant, you’ve got all this crazy stuff happening to your body, every day, preparing you for birth, nurturing the life inside of you? Well, writing a novel isn’t like that. Writing a novel is a lot harder. Because all of those details don’t just happen. You have to make them happen. You have to develop characters, and create a story arc, and delve into goals and motivations, and you have to grow conflict. And about eleventy other things.
If you write every day, those acts are in your brain, 24/7. You live in your story world, at least a little. If you write a day, then take off a couple days, then spend six hours in a mad writing binge, and then forget it for two weeks you have to start all over every time. Sure, you’ve taken notes. Of course you took notes, because (and listen to me here) only an idiot would try to create a whole world and populate it with people and make up a story worth telling without writing notes. But you have to review your notes just to find your way back to the story. Instead of becoming places to jump off or dig in, they’re breadcrumbs. You don’t want to find your way back to your story and hope the birds didn’t gobble up half of it. You want to sleep and breathe and exist in your story.