I just caught the end of an interview with John Grisham and learned an interesting bit of information. He doesn’t write every day. He said he starts a project in April and has it finished by Thanksgiving. He wasn’t specific about how long he can go without writing before it drives him nuts.
So, does writing every day mean you have a better chance of being successful? Not necessarily. There are thousands of writers out there who apply words to paper every single day, yet can’t find publication. There are highly successful authors like Grisham who don’t write every day, and there are authors like Stephen King who write five to six pages every day.
The true key to success is a great story, knowing the craft of writing inside and out, and perseverance. There are benefits to writing every day for those trying to finish a manuscript and those still learning the craft of writing. If you write every day, you’ll reach the end of your manuscript much faster than if you only write every Saturday. For new writers and those struggling with the craft…remember that saying about practice making perfect? Well, that daily writing gives you the opportunity for plenty of practice. Just make sure you study the technical details of writing as well so you know what it is you need to practice.
I hear you out there wondering if I write every day. I try to. If I don’t write every day, I tend to feel stressed and my life has enough stress already without adding to it. I learned a long time ago that writing is a form of relaxation for me. Some people do yoga every day; I write.
If, for some reason, I can’t get my writing in for the day, I don’t worry about it too much unless I’m working on a deadline. Most of the time, I’m not. Unlike a lot of writers out there, I don’t have a daily word or page goal. I just write whatever is begging to get on the page. Sometimes it’s a sentence, sometimes it’s twenty pages. Part of how much I write depends on the amount of time I have to devote to writing.
So, do I think writing every day made me successful? No. I wrote every day for a long time, but I didn’t know much about the craft of writing. Learning the craft and applying to my writing, learning how to completely rewrite a manuscript, and willingness to give up on a manuscript are what finally led to my success. And I haven’t had much success yet.
I have more to learn about writing, and I’m constantly trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve had to rewrite scenes multiple times before they finally worked. I’ve had to swallow my pride and admit I made events in a story fall into place a little too perfectly. I’ve had to completely tear apart a manuscript and take the basic idea and a little dialogue and completely rewrite the story.
These are the things that lead to success. It’s not uncommon for an author to refer to a manuscript as her baby. What a lot of people don’t realize, including a surprising number of writers, is that you have to be willing to tear that literary baby to pieces and put it back together, sometimes repeatedly, to get the story to where it needs to be for a publisher to fall in love with it. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s a part of the process.
Do you want to be a successful writer? Learn all you can about writing, create a unique story with a great plot, and don’t shy away from hard work. Because there’s nothing easy about breaking into the world of publishing. And once you’re book is finally accepted by a publisher, the work continues: edits, galleys, promotion.
Good luck to all of you who are writing with a goal of publication in mind. You most likely have a long and rocky road ahead of you, but remember to persevere. That’s the only way to survive the inevitable rejections and criticism. If you’re like me and have to write or go nuts, you’ll find the strength to persevere even when it looks impossible. It’s part of who you are.