Many authors worry about how many words they write every day. Some even post the tally on Facebook as if they’re in some kind of competition.
And if they’re not writing at least 500 or 1200 or 2000 words or whatever quota they’ve set, they feel miserable. Why aren’t they working harder? Why are they stuck? What’s wrong with them?
If that kind of system works for you, fine. But I think too many writers start out assuming that if they’re not actually physically writing a set number of words every single day, they’re not just slacking, they’re falling behind and even betraying their talent.
Many well-known authors like Ann Lamott (in Bird by Bird) advise beginners to hold to a daily minimum, but some days it’s simply not possible. Hell, for some writers it’s never possible. Why should it be?
I’ve never advised my creative writing students to write every day; I advise them to try to find the system that works for them.
I’ve never worried myself about how much I write every day because I’m almost always writing in my head, and that’s as important as putting things down on a page.
But aside from that, every book has its own unique rhythm. I’m currently finishing a suspense novel and I’ve spent weeks on one chapter. Some would call it obsessing. They’d be wrong. What I’ve been doing is musing, rewriting, stepping back, carefully putting tiles into a mosaic as it were, making sure everything fits right before I go ahead, because this is a crucial chapter. I’ve also been doing some fact-checking because guns are involved and I’ve had to consult experts. I barely have ten pages, yet there are times when I’ve written ten pages in a day on this same book.
The current chapter is the book’s most important one, where the protagonist and his pursuer face off, and it’s got to be right. So when I re-work a few lines that had been giving me trouble and find that now, they finally work, that makes me very happy.
And if I don’t write a word, I know I will be, soon enough.