Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The 10K-Word-a-Day Writing Binge (Holly Schindler)


I feel like the actual writing process is a series of establishing habits and then breaking them and forming new ones when the old habits stop working. It’s not really even that the old habits were 100% bad—it’s just that they’ve stopped personally working for you.

The latest I’ve broken is the mega daily word count goals.

I kind of feel like this habit was born in social media—all those “I hit 8K today!” Tweets. Those, “Well, I wrote a sloppy 10K, but I can fix 10K! Can’t fix a blank page!” FB posts. (Don’t even get me started on NaNoWriMo.)

Sure, to some extent, bad writing is better than no writing. I get that philosophy. Most books are written in the same way artwork for a graphic novel is produced: artists sketch, then they refine the sketch, then they ink, then they color. Each time adding a new layer to their piece.

Writers rough out the story, and with each rewrite, they also add new layers, new intricacies, honing and refining. The best writing really is rewriting.

But here’s the thing: for me, as of late, revising along the way is working. Actually, it’s working far better than 10K-a-day drafts.

Which is not to say I don’t feel like my first drafts are just magically no longer “word vomit.” They are. But I revise a rough chapter now before moving on to the next. Because I found that when I drafted an entire book from start to finish, 5-10k words every single day, the farther along I got in the project, the less I kept of my work. I threw out whole chapters. I had to invent subplots that meant giant swaths of books became unusable. I realized the climax was fairly anti-climactic, which meant I needed to change the events leading up to a better, more exciting climax. This all meant that material I often spent as much as a week or two writing was thrown.

Think about it: one or two weeks of work straight into the recycle bin.

Yes, I still delete. Just not as much. Revising as I go means I don’t go completely off the rails halfway through and find I need to delete 40K words all at once.

I absolutely think insane word counts have their place. They teach new writers a lot about working under crazy deadlines and sticking to a schedule. These days, though, I’d rather take a deep breath, and spend a few minutes thinking and looking critically at a chapter I just wrote before moving on to the next. It might feel slower—and it might result in far less interesting Tweets (“Whew! Spent two hours staring and brainstorming and then got 500 fresh new words down!”), but in the end, I find I cross the finish line far sooner.

…and I don’t have to lose my mind with 10K-a-day insane word count goals to do it.

2 comments:

  1. I recently started this same process of reviewing and rewriting previous entries on a manuscript...it's given me a chance to get back into the head of the characters as I move forward.

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