You want to write a book, but… it ain’t happening. You tell yourself you’ll make time to write, but you don’t. You tell yourself you’ll wait for the muse to strike, but she doesn’t. If you truly want to write that book, then you need to create a writing practice: a plan that develops into a habit that trains the muse to wait on you.
“Making time” isn’t working because, you’re busy. We’re all busy. We’ve got to make dinner and help with the kids’ homework. We’re desperately squeezing in a visit to the gym before work and a call to our moms after. We're exhausted after a full day at work or school and running errands on weekends.
And that busyness and exhaustion just prevents the muse from ever striking, unless it’s in the shower. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep pen and paper in there.
You need a writing practice.
But “practice?” Come on! You left daily practices behind when you were old enough to tell your mom you didn’t wanna play flute anymore!
Benefits of a writing practice
When I talk about a writing practice, I do sort of mean those hated flute practices: A consistent time and place and goal for your writing.
Writing regularly gets you three benefits:
You actually write
But that won’t happen if you don’t put your butt in your chair and put your fingers on your keyboard.
You have to actually write instead of just dream about it.
You create a habit by writing regularly
A habit is a set of behaviors or actions that you do without deciding to do them or without thinking about how to do them. Habits explain why you can still sing songs you first learned in your teen years, even if it’s been 5 or 15 or 25 years since you last heard the song. Habits explain how you can drive yourself to work or school without remembering how you got there.
If you want to write a single novel, you need, on average, 75,000 words. If you write 500 words every weekday, you’ll have written a book-length work in 30 weeks (if I did my math right!) or 8 months.
8 months to write a single book may seem like a long time. But if you have to decide and plan each and every one of those 150 days when and where you’re going to write… you won’t see a book at the end of those 8 months. You’ll be kicking yourself, again, that you’re still not writing.
You need to create a writing practice to avoid trying to “make time” every single day.
You improve your writing by practicing
Writing crappy words and then revising them is all well and good, but that can sure get tedious. With practice (i.e., repeated effort), your writing WILL get better and you’ll have to revise less. Or, more likely, you’ll be able to spot different things to revise, things that you used to need a critique partner to point out to you.
Perhaps when you first start writing your novel all you do is tell, tell, tell and you never show anything. That’s OK. That’s what revision is for.
But, if you write regularly, you’ll learn to catch yourself when you tell, tell, tell. You’ll know that now is the time to add in some action or dialog or description to break that telling up.
As you read regularly in your genre, the conventions of that genre will start to show up in your writing. If you read how-to-write books, some of that advice will also show up in your writing. Your writing will improve.
You’ll still need to revise, but your revision will go up a level. Instead of looking for show-don’t-tell, maybe now you’re looking for story structure: does this scene work in this location?
In other words, the better your writing, the more self-editing you can do, the less you’ll pay someone like me.
You need to write regularly so you can save mone… Er…
You need to write regularly to improve your skills.
What's your plan?
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without ever putting a word on paper.
When you think about creating your writing practice, consider:
The more specific you can be in your planning, the more likely you are to succeed at creating a practice to write regularly, and the more likely you are to complete that book.
How can I help?
What's your plan? What are your obstacles? Share them in the comments. Maybe one of us can help you get around those obstacles so you can start writing!