Friday, July 13, 2012

Pacing Yourself as a Writer

When 2012 began, I set a goal to write three novels this year. So far, I've written four. My pace picked up to an insane speed. I couldn't stop writing. But then editing jobs forced me to take a break because I can't edit and fast draft at the same time. When I fast draft, I like to have nothing else on my plate.


Well, after I drafted manuscript four, I realized I couldn't keep up this pace or I'd burn out before September. So, I did something I never thought I'd do. I took a break from writing novels. I focused on editing and writing short stories. Now, I'm getting that itch again. But I can't give in to it. Soon, I'll have edits coming in for the sequel to Touch of Death. My summer is going to be busy, but not in the same way as when I'm drafting.


Still, I'm trying to hold off on this new idea I have. I'm plotting it and attempting to keep from drafting until my daughter starts school at the end of August. The question is, can I make it?


How do you pace yourself so you aren't writing too much or not enough?

62 comments:

  1. Unless I have an assignment, I write on impulse, so it can get too much or not enough. I need more discipline.

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    1. Yeah, I have to discipline myself, too. My agent has two manuscripts in her hands now and I'm still writing more. It's a little crazy. I don't want to overload her.

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  2. KatieC has left a new comment on your post "Pacing Yourself as a Writer":

    How interesting, Kelly (well, and totally awesome!). I'm on my second novel this year, but I pace myself at no more than 2 chapters a day. That just works for me.
    When I do more I start writing mumbo jumbo. I need that time each day to solidify what comes next.

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    1. Ah, Katie, blogger seems to have issues with your posts lately. They keep getting kicked to my email. Sorry about that.

      See, for me, I write better when I fast draft and get a lot of words down on screen in one day. That's what's forcing my pace. I don't want to sacrifice my writing by slowing down, yet I know this pace isn't good in a lot of ways too. What will I do when I have a pile of manuscripts? My agent can only put so many out on submission at once. And then if they all end up coming out at once, that would be crazy! So, it's a tough situation for me.

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  3. 4 novels a year? I could never write that many! One long novel a year is good for me. When I'm done a polished draft I usually take a few week's break.

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    1. Yes, my problem is I write a new novel while taking a break from one I've just drafted. I have issues. LOL. Is there a group for obsessive writers?

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  4. I wish I had your level of obsession when it comes to writing, Kelly! I'm going to stop procrastinating eventually. I'm supposed to write two chapters for my critique group this weekend and I'm starting to feel the pressure! lol

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    1. You can do it, Diane! Let me know if you need me to cheer you along. I can send you encouraging messages to make sure you're writing. ;)

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    2. LOL, Kelly. Your blog is inspiration. :)

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  5. I am constantly working on something, but it's usually one project at a time: first draft, followed by several rounds of revisions.

    Of course, getting a book contract has forced me to change my habits a little. I kept getting revisions or editing for the book sent to me while I was working on first drafts of other projects. And if/when other contracts come along, I will have to adhere to the publisher's schedule. I'll have to learn to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

    As for pacing, I write until I burn out. Then I take a break for a few days to recharge -- and get right back to it.

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    1. Hmm, now you having me thinking it's okay to write until I burn out. I just don't want to overload my agent with all these manuscripts. She already has two in her hands.

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  6. Wow, fours novel. That's awesome. I don't usually pace myself. As long as I write something everyday. It could be 1 page or several chapters. I'm thinking of setting deadlines for myself, though, to get more disciplined.

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  7. I am astonished by your prolific nature, Kelly. Your agent must be grinning from ear to ear. Wow.

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    1. Or overwhelmed. LOL. I worry I toss too much her way. I have to remind myself that she has other clients.

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  8. Whew! I am shooting for a novel a year plus a few short stories sprinkled in. I am a perfectionist by nature, and it is going to be REALLY hard for me to let a story go after even a full year (wait, let me reread it. I might have missed something. Let change a word here... add a subplot.... oh noes). That's awesome that you can comfortably keep that pace.

    For me, my writing prime time is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I tutor during the rest of the week, so I'm usually busy planning or working with kids. It's actually a very refreshing break from writing, and I love being able to work with kids (I get an inside track on what they're reading).

    Enjoy the break. Read a few books. I'm confident you'll survive through August :)

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    1. I'm trying to read more. It's an enjoyable way to pace myself. :)

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  9. I am amazed that you are able to write 4 novels or more a year (since you will be writing again in the fall). I am working on my pacing. Some days I write a lot- other days very little. A lot of it depends on what is going on at work or at home. I don't like to write when it feels like stress- so I have to do it when I have time. I think it is good that you are taking a break and working on other aspects of writing right now. Enjoy the break and brewing your next novel. :)|
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks, Jess. It's helping that I have client edits right now too. They keep my busy and still working in the field.

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  10. 4 novels already? You are my new shero. Did you say 2 chapters a day? How long are your books, so I don't feel like a total failure. All in all, proud you could do this. That is my goal. If I finish this book, I'm starting another with another goal and see how far I go.

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    1. I've written up to 15k a day. I don't necessarily go by number of chapters. But my chapters are anywhere from 7-11 pages on average.

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  11. Sadly, pacing myself (or the need to) hasn't been an issue. I can see where it could put undue pressure on yourself though! :)

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    1. Yeah, I tend to put pressure on myself. LOL

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  12. I have the same problem as you--I have to stop myself from working on a new novel so I can finish other important projects. I hope you're not being too hard on yourself, though. There are many writers in our history as prolific as you who stayed that way for many years. (Louis L'amour, Agatha Christie, that crazy guy who wrote "Plotto.")

    And remember, sometimes stifling a creative urge can turn into a corked bottle of soda: too much shaking and it'll burst! (I'm totally kidding. I don't think you will implode.)

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    1. True! If the urge gets too strong, I know I'll give in. I can't stop myself. Don't tell, but my planning may have some dialogue and scene clips in it already. ;)

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  13. I will never write four novels in a year. I couldn't. But in my much slower way I too understand pacing. I assign myself what I consider a challenging pace but not over-the top challenging. It's actually harder to stop than to start. However- knowing what pace will keep you steady and not burn out is key.

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    1. Yes, it is key. I do find it hard to stop writing once I stop. It's addicting!

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  14. Ha! Ha! Soon as I caught this headline, I had to take a peek. I can totally relate. I've found a pace that allows me to 'complete' four books a year, but to my dismay have since learned it's not good for my health.

    Luckily I now have the chore of marketing all of the books I've pulped out, hoping I don't get that urge as it can get compulsive!

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    1. Same here! Don't let your health be affected though. That's not good.

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  15. I usually don't start a new manuscript until the ones I'm working on are maybe down to the final edits. I work very slowly. Maybe if I only wrote one story at a time, I'd finish faster, but all these little voices chatter in my ear and I have to start their stories too.

    Life is great.

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    1. Yes, I only like to be drafting one story at a time. Then I go crazy until it's finished. :)

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  16. Ever since I joined ROW80--A Round of Words in 80 Days--I create realistic goals. If I fall behind, I might work harder throughout the weekend or go without sleep for a short while. I'm more productive since joining the challenge.

    When I'm drafting I don't want to be interrupted, although I might be doing one or two other projects on the side. When I return to a draft after not working on it for a few weeks or months, I have to sync with the story again.

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    1. Medeia, you blow me away! I love how you multi-task. I wish I could draft two manuscripts. I've never tried it because I don't even know where to begin.

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  17. I laugh at pace. Pah!
    Once I start I just can't stop. Even in abstention I go mad. I have no sense of proportion. I'll just write until I break yet another computer. Even then I'll probably continue as I did my first four novels - in ballpoint pen.

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    1. I always end up scribbling notes in hand here and there because my mind never stopping working even when I'm not at the computer.

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  18. Yes, I like to completely draft something before starting a new project. Otherwise, I do tend to lose track of what was happening.

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  19. I chose my family and business first and then writing gets my left over time. ( Not much with all the social media stuff.) But I do my best.

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    1. My family comes first and then it's all writing for me. :)

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  20. I wish I have your problem, Kelly. I keep telling myself to write more, write more and write more!

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    1. LOL. I used to be that way too. I'd write a little and be happy about it. Now, I'm kind of obsessive. Not sure which is better. ;)

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  21. I just write casually and occasionally, so I am completely amazed by how much you can get done so quickly. I do sometimes find though that the more I write, the more ideas I get for more things to write.

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    1. Yes, that's very true for me too! The more I write, the more I want to write and can write.

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  22. Like Nickie mentioned, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I revise as I go, and then revise 5-6 more times when I'm done. That means I write one novel a year. And I can't concentrate on something new if the old one isn't completely finished. (That's my weird obsession!) My biggest problem now is deciding what my next WIP will be (as I do the final edit on this one). I want something unique and fresh, but everything I think up has been done before...

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    1. I used to be the same way. I revised what I previously wrote before I could write new material. I swore I'd never fast draft. Then I had a deadline that didn't allow me to revise as I wrote. The result was Touch of Death being written in 14 days and it was my best writing. Yes, I had to revise, but the flow and consistency that came from writing that quickly made revisions easier for me.

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  23. I'm amazed you can write that much. I definitely write too little. I guess with nonfiction I'm better. I can turn out articles really fast, I suppose because it comes more naturally. Maybe if I spent more time on drafts, I could get over my wirter's block. I think it's good to have a regular time every day or every week to write, no matter what comes out. I should follow my own advice one of these days.

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    1. I agree that a schedule can do wonders. I've trained myself to be creative at specific times of day. The summer throws my schedule off, though. My daughter and husband are both home, which makes it tough to get a lot done at once. I sneak time here and there.

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  24. Thanks for the helpful hints on how to pace yourself as a writer. I've forced myself to slow down on editing my next manuscript because of the costs involved in hiring editing services. Blogging helps me to find a place for my daily writing.

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    1. Editing can be costly but it's worth the cost. Reviewers can really penalize authors when books aren't professionally edited.

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  25. Hi,

    New follower via GFC, Networked blogs,and google +. I would love it if you could stop by my blog sometime.

    Katie @ http://curseofthebibliophile.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hi, Katie. Nice to meet you. :) I'll check out your blog.

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  26. Given the genre I write in, it takes longer than a year to write a single novel. I can't imagine three or four!

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    1. Yes, genre can dictate how long it takes to write the manuscripts. My brain is hardwired for paranormal. :)

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  27. Hi Kelly -your writing output is amazing and I wish I had that same ability. My writing is mainly focused upon history and therefore a lot of research has to be done first. Having spent 4 months researching, I began drafting only to find that I still have to revert to more research for the unexpected. I have to get my facts exactly right otherwise it's not plausible. So, I don't think I'd ever be able to churn out more than 1 novel in a year. I have a minimum word count set of 500 words per day -that means on a real bad day that's got to be achieved. That's my discipline -it's a bit like doing your course work for college I guess -every day you have to make that deadline or you fail.
    You're up there with Enid Blyton -a most prolific writer.
    Barbra Cartland also, among others.

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    1. Setting a minimum word count is such a great idea. And yes, history write does require extra time for research. While I usually have some research involved in my planning process, it's never major.

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  28. I set a schedule. For example, I write on my little phone calendar that I'm going to write 3 chapters a day and then I do it. After that draft is over, I write I'm going to edit 3 chapters a day. That's just for my books - I also write freelance, which is what actually pays the bills, and I schedule that as well. Heck, I even schedule blogging and blogging commenting time just so I remember to do it.

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    1. I schedule everything too! My husband makes fun of me for it, but it works for me. :)

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  29. Short answer: I don't. LOL! But my kids/friends/family do. They start complaining, and I can usually be guilted into stepping away from the computer. :D Great work, Kelly!

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  30. It's funny how we writers work. I think what you did is perfect. Now you're ready for more ideas to come.

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    1. I'm trying to hold off on this idea for another month. I'm not sure I'm going to make it. I'm trying to focus on edits and writing short stories but I'm itching to write a novel.

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