The Writing Life: Pacing Yourself

The Writing Life BannerWelcome to my weekly feature, wherein I discuss writing style of authors, elements of books that are particularly interesting to me, and at times my own writing escapades as I venture into the writing process of my fourth novel. And, as a researching and always-learning aspiring author, I want to hear your opinions on these bits and pieces that make up our beloved paperbacks.

Most of the time I find that in reviews we talk about the feels or the romance or the plot, but here I want to get to the nitty gritty of syntax and devices and whatnot. Mafi’s similes and metaphors? Sanderson’s world building? McGarry’s ability to write three books with the same romantic trope and yet all three books are freaking fantastic? All of that, and more!

When writing novels or blog posts, how do you pace yourself?

So I guess this isn’t specifically about stylistic points of writing, but who cares. My feature, my rules, right? Anyway, today I want to talk about the time you put into your writing, whether it’s your novels/short stories/poetry, or your blog posts. Because of course these things all take time, and I know a lot of bloggers recently (is it a disease? are we all susceptible??) have been feeling burnt out and/or uninspired.

When I was a youngster (think 14-16), I used to be able to write 10K words in a day. A. Day. I don’t even know how that happened, because I was in college at the time too. Did I suddenly find six extra hours in the day? Who knows! Nowadays, being the old fart that I am (a ripe 18.5), I can write about 2K in four hours, and then I’m done. And that 2K is usually the only bit I write in a week. Technically, my goal is this: one chapter per week, due on Sunday. It was a challenge Veronica and I gave each other, and it’s been working pretty well so far for me.

I know there are so many different ideas to how to approach writing (the most common being dedicate one hour per day no matter what), but that just doesn’t work for me. The book I’m writing right now is very emotional, and the chapters are like isolated events. So once I finish the chapter, I can release the emotion, but if I have to stop in the middle of a chapter, it’s like I leave half my brain in novel land. Seriously – ask my mom. I had to stop halfway through last week, and I was completely useless till I got home and wrote the last 500 words. The same goes with my blogging: I have a schedule that I generally stick to, and it works really well for me because I get a short, big burst of posts written and scheduled, then I can breathe for a day or so.

So while I may not be the most prolific writer right now, I’m at least writing. And I think that’s the main goal here, yeah?

Opinion time! How often do you think an author should write? How do you pace yourself, either in novel writing or blog post scheduling? 


21 thoughts on “The Writing Life: Pacing Yourself

  1. Blogging I write as I finish a book or when I start to have a scary queue of posts to write. I’m scheduled through May right now, so that’s working well!

    Other writing: I have no routine and am just trying to sit down every day and try to do SOMETHING, anything really. I’m also realizing I have to outline so that’s a whole other bag of chips. I’ve started my current “first” draft about five times.

    • THROUGH MAY???? I can barely stay two days ahead! I think we’ve found a real life superwoman here.

      Outlining is something that I used to skip, but I’ve found that I really need it to get going. I have to know at least the major plot points, so I can see where the characters are going to end up.

  2. I like your take on this… I might need to try the chapter a week goal. I don’t feel writing everyday is a realistic goal for me at this point in my life, but I do get frustrated with myself if I let the whole week slip by and don’t make any time for writing when I know I could have. Every writer has to do what works best for them, but the most important thing is definitely to WRITE.

    • I highly recommend it! It’s not my favorite, but I still feel accomplished because I’ve at least done something in a week. And it’s much easier to set aside four hours on one day rather than two hours every day!

  3. I think that there are as many right ways to write a novel as there are writers 🙂 Everyone has something slightly different that works for them. I typically have to write in short spurts, but sometimes I’ll go for a long stretch when I’m in the middle of an emotionally charged event.

  4. I am TERRIBLE at pacing myself. I tend to say “Oh, I’ll write when I have free time,” and then, when I really DO have free time, of course, I read instead!
    I’ve always considered myself a novelist, but lately I’ve been trying to write in little spurts, and do more short story type stuff. It seems to work a little better, because then I don’t get as intimidated and involved in the world-building or the research or the grand plotting. And then I get some writing in – with a finished product in a couple hours!
    I’m sure I’ll get back to the noveling eventually – when I have more free time, of course – but for now, short stories are a great way of doing my bit of creative writing without feeling too overwhelmed.

    Oh, and I’ll add a PS – I think it’s awesome that you did college so early! I’m doing something similar, and since 8th grade I’ve been taking classes at the local community college, but this fall I’m actually going to a brick-and-mortar university and do the whole traditional schooling thing. But I sort of envy you for being done with all your education when I’m practically just beginning!
    Anyway, that was a longer comment than I intended. Pardon my rambles. 🙂

    • Short stories are always an excellent option! I love reading them, but can’t write them to save my life D: I tend to be longwinded, so I need to the room of a novel to do world building and character development.

      And thank you! What are you majoring in? College is so much better than high school, in my opinion. That’s why I moved on as quickly as I could.

      And never apologize for long comments – I love them!

      • I think what helped me write better short stories is realizing that short stories are different from novels in that novels need a plot and many subplots, whereas short stories just need one scene. I tend to be longwinded too, so when I focus on just one particular scene (instead of on backstories etc.), it helps.

        And I am majoring in chemistry (pre-med), but definitely also minoring (or double-majoring!) in creative writing. I’m super excited! 🙂

  5. My problem is that I am a HUGE procrastinator. If I have free time to write I’ll find something else to do. It’s only when the clock is ticking down to the deadline do my juices get flowing, so I’ve had a hard time trying to work on my novel.

    But I LOVE the chapter a week idea, because it gives me a deadline. Great post Kayla, and thanks for the idea! 🙂

  6. I have been having such a huge problem with this lately. School has been piling up and I feel like when I have free time I am unmotivated to write but when I have no time at all then I reeaaalllly want to write. Its something that I have to get over and just push through. I have to tell myself that I already have one book and I won’t have another one unless I dedicate myself to write when I can.

    On an unrelated note, you were in college when you were 14?!? Ugh! I’m still waiting to here if I even got into the college of my choice.

    • Well when you’re in school sometimes it’s really hard to split that focus. The same for after graduation – once I started working, I had such a hard time finding the energy to write after my shifts!

      Technically I was fifteen, if that makes it better? I got bored with high school. I hope you get into the school you want!

  7. First of all…I’m sorry that I haven’t been commenting as much/as quickly as I probably should be. Shit’s been blowing up around here lately with all of the stuff that’s been going on, so I’m a little stressed!! But I promise that I will write comments on your posts at some point, it just might be like *checks*…oh, okay, this post was only written two days ago. Phew. I feel better haha.

    Okay so I’m totally not a writer, but I still wanted to comment on this. I honestly wish that I could be, and when I was little I thought that I might try, but I just don’t have that ability to create a story. I’m okay at writing poems, but not good at characters and arcs, etc. So it totally blows my mind that you (and other people) have this thing inside them that lets them be writers, and it’s so cool.

    Anyway. I think that probably everybody is different. There are lots of different ways and times to write. But as long as words are happening and you’re not miserable while doing it, you’re probably doing it right. At least for me, when it comes to blogging, I find that, in order to keep myself sane, I need to have some kind of a loose schedule but also the ability to let myself relax if I need it. That works for me because I need that structured feel of it, but I also hate being pressured, so a balance is good.

    • Aww that’s all right! I hope you’re feeling better, but if not you always have my email and I’m always available!

      And that’s the point of these posts – I want to make sure that everyone can participate whether or not they’re a writer 🙂 And not writing is okay too – we always need more readers in the world!

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