The title says it all: how do you prefer to write? Do you like to write a little bit each day, setting aside whatever time you can between activities? Or, do you save up all your writing time for a couple select days and just write for hours and hours?
I’ve discovered that I do both. At first I thought I needed at least an hour – preferably more – to get any real writing accomplished. Then I got a job in a city and had to commute back and forth by subway. The individual legs of the journey would take anywhere from 15 – 25 minutes, and I used to spend that time engrossed in whatever book I was reading at the time. But, that changed one day when I was riding home and just had the urge to write an opening scene to something. Didn’t know where I was going with it, but I knew if I didn’t write the scene down then I would forget about it. So, I put the book away, pulled out a notebook, and started jotting things down.
10 minutes later, as the train pulled in, I had an entire page written. The prose wasn’t very good, but it was a page! A full page!
I started doing this every day, getting several pages written during each commute. I would then go home and transcribe them to the computer. It was a great setup, and quite a bit got done during those days.
But, jobs changed, schedules changed, and I suddenly found myself with more free time to write. And that, as most writers know, is both good and bad. I find I need just a little bit of pressure in order to write efficiently. Too much time and I dawdle, thinking I have plenty of time to get stuff done and – oh, wait, it’s already 4:00 PM and a paragraph’s been written?
My solution to that has been to time myself, either with the stopwatch feature on my cell phone or the handy dandy Online Stopwatch. When drafting I will time myself until I complete a page, and then attempt to beat that time during the next page. My goal is to do at least six pages an hour. The first couple of hours tends to be the slowest, but as the hours creep by the word count per hour rises quite a bit. I’ll average 1,000 words in an hour at first, but by the end of an 8-10 hour writing binge I’m doing upwards of 1,500 words an hour, if I’m really into the story and have enough notes prepared to carry me that far.
I love these long stretches of time. Not only does my overall productivity climb, but I find that I become more immersed in the characters and the world at large and insights occur to me that wouldn’t come in a much shorter session.
I need those short moments as well, though. There are days where I can’t devote even a solid hour to writing, especially now with my work schedule. If I keep myself from writing even a little bit during these busiest of days I start to feel like crap, like I’m no longer a writer. While I don’t believe that all writers must write every single day if they want to hold onto the title, for me this is a must. Something must be accomplished every day, even if it’s just a single page or a short scene.
So, what works for you? Or, have you figured it out yet? If you haven’t I recommend trying to write several different ways and see what works best.