Binge Writing and Schedules

NaNoWriMo just ended.  It’s a sad loss for some of us who live November to November– you can’t really top the thrill of writing a novel in a month.  However, is it a good thing?

Of course it is.  This year it motivated over three hundred thousand writers to write– and most of the time, finish– their own novels.  For all the people who have claimed they wanted to write a book, that’s amazing.  But what about the writers who have already written books?  Those who have already participated in NaNoWriMo and won– what does it do for them?  Motivation, perhaps.  But those who have written novels have already achieved their goal, correct?  That is, only if their goal was to write a single novel.  If their goal is to write several novels, to become a dedicated writer, that’s something different.

What does a dedicated writer do?  The answer is obvious: they write.  But when do they write?  Only one month a year?  Only three months a year?  Writing is work, however little people think of it as such.  Working people don’t get to take nine months of the year off for rest and relaxation– they have to work.  A lot, actually.  A lot more than most aspiring writers do.

How much do professional writers write?  Every day.  Well, almost.  They take some time off between projects, I believe, but the professional writers I’ve heard from write constantly while they’re in the middle of a project.  How many amateurs do that?

Just looking at myself, I can tell you I don’t.  Writing every day is difficult.  I might write a paragraph or two every day– a blog post some days, and just really long emails on others– but rarely do I flip from projects constantly.  However, not long ago I learned the concept of a binge writer.

A binge writer is someone who only writes when they have to– when they’re faced with a deadline, such as fifty thousand words in a month.  Between projects, they lay about and do nothing having to do with writing, then make it all up in an enormous sprint.  A binge writer is… well, someone who does NaNoWriMo every year and nothing in the meantime.

Please ignore the giant neon arrow pointing at me right now.

I, as I said, just learned this concept, and thinking about it has made me a little bit skeptical about the worth of my yearly schedule at the moment.  NaNo in November, Camp NaNoWriMo in summer sometime, and four novellas a year along the Phil Phorce vein. Sure, that’s six projects a year, but I finish each in less than a month.  What am I doing with the other six months?

I’ve decided to make it a little harder for myself.  If I’m ever going to be professional, I’m going to need to get out of binge writing and start writing constantly.  Now, of course, that doesn’t mean writing like I did in November all the time– that’s a lot of words, and to do that month after month… well, let’s just say my hands are already aching at the thought of it.  Instead of that, there’s going to have to be a better structure than that.  Of course, you can’t simply write first drafts all the time and never revise anything.  With all of this in mind, I’ve constructed a sort of schedule for myself.

Monday, December 2nd, I began a novella I had outlined a long while ago called Plague.  Now, of course, I don’t usually write from outlines, but with the recent discovery of the expand, don’t add idea, I’ve decided to go for it.  So far it’s going well– the goal for that is probably about 20k words.

When Plague is finished, I’ll probably take a small break, then jump into Fathoming Egression rewrites again.  I have an outline for that too, so hopefully I’ll have found through Plague that I can in fact write from an outline, and thus complete those rewrites in a timely fashion.

However, Fathoming Egression will take a while, and I only have until about February to write the next Phil Phorce episode, so somewhere around January I’ll have to begin that novella, also targeted about 20k words.

After Phil Phorce, I’ll set Fathoming Egression aside for a while and begin work on Stakes, my latest NaNoNovel.  This is the novel I want to get polished up, possibly for queries, so I’ll read it through and start a macro-edit.

And that’s basically it for a while.  Then I’ll have Phil Phorce 8 to write… but I have no idea what I’m doing for that yet.

I really shouldn’t plan this far ahead, I know, but wish me luck all the same.  If I can figure this out, I should have a better chance of making the transition from amateur to… well, more awesome amateur, more easily.

And if someone can tell me how to turn that giant neon arrow off, that would be helpful.

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165 thoughts on “Binge Writing and Schedules

  1. Lovely post.

    I am most certainly not a binge writer. Something just feels really off if I’m not at least procrastinating from writing (that sounds really odd, but truth is that I constantly write or at least have the “going to write” mindset, even if I actually write nothing at all that day).

    Good luck with your schedule! Did you by any chance consider unplugging the neon arrow?

    1. Good for you! I’m a little too lazy for the compulsion to write at the moment, but I’m hoping to nurture it a little in the coming months.

      Good idea… Didn’t think about that.

      1. Try walloping it with a pillow. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, CALL ON THE PILLOW.
        Or the TSoD. Hmmm… that might be a BETTER idea. ;-P
        Or… the Typo Turkey. (see my page of “Definitions” to find out what it is. Don’t have time to explain myself.

      2. (Nope… unless that’s somehow a Pirates of the Caribbean reference.)

        Don’t say that too loud. If it decides to use its overdeveloped morals to shape my future, I don’t think I could stand it.

      3. (Doctor Who. The episode with Idris. “I didn’t alway take you where you wanted to go, but I always took you where you needed to be.” Or something like that.)

        Mmm, that could be extremely aggravating indeed. I shan’t lift my voice above a whisper.

  2. *Raises invisible mug of hot chocolate to your schedule-and-outline-following success.* Good luck, my friend!

    I, sadly, cannot help you with that giant neon arrow. I’m a workaholic, and not writing everyday feels wrong (even if I don’t want to write.) I have to give myself permission not to write in order to feel okay about it, otherwise I go crazy and feel guilty for no good reason at all. It’s like my charries sit on my shoulder saying “Lily, Pinterest is not going to write us. We want Word! We want Word!” I can’t imagine this is healthy, and it certainly can be rather vexing. (Though I don’t have to write much to get that feeling to go away. Just a quick jotting down of some notes or a scene floating in my head can do the trick.)

    Would you ever be interested in doing Edit Wars?

    1. I envy you and Robyn and your work ethics. I’m lazy, but productive when I need to be.

      Yes, of course. But we still haven’t figured out how to score them, so… but yes. Definitely.

      1. Well, “lazy but productive when you need to be” is a start. If you want a better work ethic, just keep trying and it’ll come and hit you over the head with the magic frying pan of Ethicus Workemus and suddenly things will have changed.

        Awesome. I get the scoring issue, but for me personally, the score doesn’t matter. It’s the time set aside to work rewarded with hanging out with friends that I like. Of course, I’ve been doing word wars with you and Bean who stomp all over me, so I’m used to losing, and have gotten quite used to just doing the best I can in the given time limit.

      2. Had another thought on edit wars. In a word war, the point is to just write as much as possible, even if it’s blithering rubbish. With an edit war, you don’t want to rush it (I should think.) You need time to think and figure things out. To fix the blithering rubbish. Rushing it might just turn blithering rubbish into rubbishing blither.

        So, a time limit to enhance productivity and give you a goal, without a scoring system or competition to induce recklessness. If that makes sense. I suppose that would be less of an edit war, and more of an edit…party?

        Thoughts?

      3. Good idea, although perhaps the whole time limit thing is too blither-inducing. Unfortunately, a set goal wouldn’t be any help either, because what goals do you really have? Editing is quite diverse. But yes, an editing party would be nice.

      4. I was thinking goal in the sense of “my writing goal for the day is to edit for an hour.” But I did think about the time limit being a bit blither-inducing. Perhaps it would be better not to think of it as a time limit, but a certain amount of time set aside in which to edit, after which a break may be taken. Maybe we just ought to try an edit party out and see how it works, what our reactions/experience are and figure it out from there.

        Glad you think so, Robyn.

      5. Indeed.

        “Come one, come all, to Editing Extravaganza! The immersion editing adventure for writers of all kinds! For the small price of your sanity, you get to hurdle obstacles such as plot holes, wrangle plot bunnies, and reprogram broken characters! And that’s not all! You’ll also get unrestricted access to our extensive community of writers! Hang out with other writers and editors facing the same problems you are! Create a plot bunny wrangling team, or participate in the daily “Capture the Renegade Subplot” games! Plenty of tea and hot chocolate will be provided in the evenings for your consumption as you rest from the day’s endless fun.

        Please come prepared with a faulty manuscript and plenty of patience.*

        *A screaming room will be provided for those who underestimate their task. See your adventure guide or our website for further details.”

      6. That…is a slightly…I don’t know…strange image.

        But okay. Whatever floats your boat. Or…whatever feeds your duck. Mallard, excuse me.

      7. Ready? Okay!

        GIVE ME A “L”! GIVE ME AN “I”! “GIVE ME AN “A”! GIVE ME A “M”! WHAT’S THAT SPELL? LIAM!!! YAY, LIAM!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!
        *shakes pom-poms and does a back flip*

      8. Hey, if you all have an editing party after NaNo WriMo, say, feel free to invite me. Still, I dare say it would be a, well, unusual editing party.

        *shakes head over the bizarre things “Recent Comments” links to*

      9. I guess I didn’t really expect anything: clicking the “Recent Comments” link was more of a procrastinatory gesture than anything else. (though I should know by now that this blog is a rather bizarre place)

      10. …You’re kidding me, right? Is it really time to start thinking about November?

        *glances panickingly (is that even a word?) at her troublesome writing projects already in progress*

        Uh…have to come back to that. I’m trying–trying–to finish a first draft, then I have…two first drafts to edit. Oh, and one that I set aside half-finished. I can’t even fathom starting another story, though I do have an idea I could run with…

        Also, Robyn’s right, Leinad. You should’ve expected something strange and completely irrelevant and resurrected from the past.

      11. Yep! That time of year has come once again to start our pre-NaNoWriMo panic… I mean preparation of November.

        I know the feeling, Amanda. I definitely have to finish a story before NaNo if I am going to participate.

        *says nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      12. Groooooooooan. How did I let you all talk me into this last year, anyway? How exactly did it happen again…?

        It’ll be something amazing if I manage to plow through the rest of this draft before November. Before the last two weeks of October, really. Wow, that leaves me…six weeks? Okay…no panicking…

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      13. You handwrote last year then typed it up and it may have been edits…

        How are you helping any of us not panic!? The fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft is 4 1/2 months!

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      14. Okay, no, that wasn’t it. I think what happened was I was halfway through Living Rain and decided just to try writing as much of it as I could with you all. And then…I guess I decided to try to write the 50,000 words. And when I finished that one, I just started right into the sequel. Lovely. Stopping halfway through a story for months on end is a very, very bad idea. I think I have learned my lesson now…maybe?

        I suppose I’m not. Sorry! We may have to have a pre-NaNoWriMo NaNoWriMo-like writing stint. Okay, let’s reword that. Uh…we may have to make ourselves write quite a lot before November, so we can…make ourselves write quite a lot during November. Huh. Your call on that one. I’m game if you are.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (I actually had to go over that in my head a few times before I decided it was correct. This reminds me of those pictures with a mirror in them that go on into eternity…)

      15. Yes, we must write a lot before we make ourselves write a lot… I think this is going to require some heavy artillery. Like Tylenol.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities

      16. Tylenol? Please explain how this aids writing fast.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      17. Late nights and early mornings can cause headaches.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      18. Oh. OHHH! Hey, that was a joke, sort of, wasn’t it? At least, it made me laugh…but then again I laugh at weird things.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (of which this definitely qualifies in my book)

      19. Yes, it was a joke! I’m certainly not getting up early! 😉

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (Indeed.)

      20. Well, me either. But I don’t do so well staying up late…because that means writing in the dark, while I’m tired. Which doesn’t go well. Earlier is easier than later under that measurement, since at least it’s light out. Sorta.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (How long are we doing this for? Until Liam tells us to cut it out or someone gives up, whichever sooner?)

      21. I am a night owl… which is something I currently am regretting.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (Until Liam says knock it off.)

      22. Oh, I know a lot of night owls. Personally, with late/early I’m annoying stuck in the middle, which is, as previously mentioned, neither. Story of my life, unfortunately. (Not country, not city. Not extrovert, not introvert. Not athletic, not girly.)

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities* (Okay…)

      23. Huh. That’s interesting.

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      24. (Absolutely not.)

        *says nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about you saying nothing about me saying nothing about the resurrection of comment oddities*

      25. (Absolutely not. But my comments are no longer showing up here. You’ll be lucky to get this one. I’m not sure if WordPress is spamming me or if Liam is.)

  3. When you get rid of the neon arrow, tell me how you did it. It’s after me too.

    I think even the best writers would have their ebbs and flows. I tend to imagine it being similar to running. I’m a lot more consistent with my running than with my writing, but my mileage still goes up and down throughout the year. In the first few months of the year I was running about 60 K a month, whereas in November I ran 160 K — but I don’t have a problem with that. Just so long as I maintain consistency, it doesn’t matter if there are peak times and low times. The problem is, with my writing I don’t maintain consistency.

  4. I’m not sure which I am. I mean…I don’t get anything done unless I make myself do it, pretty much, from violin practice to reviewing books. So if I’m determined to do something, I’ll do it. But otherwise? I’d just sit around all day reading books or whatnot. So…who knows. I keep a list of stuff I need to do and eventually I’ll just say to myself, “No reading/emails/blogs/fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-it-is-I-want-to-do until you’ve got at least two of these things done.”

    *shrugs* So you tell me.

  5. Fun fact: Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, every single day, since he was a teenager (and probably even before then). Suddenly my NaNoWriMo win seems a bit less impressive.

    I not sure if I’m a binge writer or not. I write during the times I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but just not nearly as much.

  6. Good luck!

    When I first found out that not every writer feels incredibly lazy and unproductive if they miss writing for even one day, it really shocked me. I try to write every day, and I have since I started writing seriously a few years ago.

    Ironically, my parents just put a limit on how many hours per day I can spend writing. Oops.

      1. Oops, sorry.

        If it makes you feel better, the past few months (including November), I’ve been really lazy and not even trying to write every day. A lot of times I’ll stare at my document, so everybody will think I’m writing, but I’m actually off thinking about something completely unrelated to writing.

  7. Oh, stop making me jealous, Liam.

    I need to finish my novel by 31st of this month if I am to ever sleep peacefully, without a deep and horrifying sense of guilt, ever again. And I’ve lost the flow, thanks to one stupid, hectic, crazy week in which I couldn’t even THINK about my novel. Now I’m just re-reading old posts and wondering what to do with my life.

    And here you are, talking about writing every day.
    *Slowly starts to cry*.

      1. Sorry! And I know most of the times we’re on are times when you have to sleep or something inconvenient like that. But keep trying. Even if you can’t find us, set a timer and write for that long.

  8. You guys used to be online by 7.30 PM, Indian Standard Time. Lately, the chat’s been empty well past 10.00 PM. So annoying, this time thing.

    And trust me, I’d love to write for hours on end. But I need to figure out *what*. I realised that there seems to be a critical scene missing, without which the story can’t move forward. I’ve been brainstorming, today. I think I’m on to something. Here’s hoping.

    Oh, by the way, about low points…

    Is it alright if low points are immediately before the climax? I’m not saying Scene 1: Low Point, Scene 2: Climax. I’m saying, in the same *scene*…is it possible?
    Please tell me it is. Because if it isn’t, I’m in for a serious problem.

    1. Yes, I know– unfortunately, I do school until about noon my time, so I can’t be here much in the mornings anymore, but I’ll do my best.

      Yes, it’s possible. The story structures I look at are never laws– they can be as flexible as you need them to.

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