I remember when I first started to take writing seriously. My junior year of high school I would make myself write a page every day until eventually had a novels worth of words. However, I was unbelievably stressed, with school, homework and working sometimes six days a week. The workload didn’t really give me time to think about the rest of the writing process. I thought putting the words down was all I would need.
I wasn’t completely wrong, after all to be a writer we have to type or write words. But I didn’t realize it was so much more than that. Now we have apps to track how much we’ve written. We have Nano month to get people to spit out as many words they can in one month. I’m not saying that taking the time to write something is bad and I do think that Nano month can be helpful for a lot of young people and that it does a lot of good things. I’m grateful to see a program that goes out of its way to help young writers. And to support youth that have been oppressed in one way or another. That means a lot to me as well as everyone else in my generation. However, by focusing purely on word count young writers miss a lot of valuable steps to writing. It’s a process and having the words in front of us is only just the beginning.
Writers don’t need to write 10,000 words a day to be good at what they do. The average writer only writes about 2,000 to 4,000 words a day. By telling writers that to be good all they have to do is write a lot isn’t entirely true. The work also needs to be good quality. With good ideas and purpose before it is even put into words. There have been good stories that are 20 pages long and ones that are 600 pages. We don’t need to be a factory machine of words to be good at what we do.
Good writers are also good readers. Sometimes we tend to neglect that to write well we also have to read well. It helps us to understand what makes a good piece of writing. If we don’t take the time to go back and read our own writing often, we might never improve as well as we could. Even being our own editor is a good thing to do. It can help us get better at grammar and hopefully help us to make less mistakes. Reading books by other authors helps as well. I’m trying to make it a habit to read at least one book a month and to read blog posts and articles created by other people when I see one I’m interested in. Doing this can help inspire us and gain a better understanding of what an audience is looking for. We might not be good at writing horror if we’ve never touched a horror book in our lives. If we’ve read other books like romance and general fiction, that might help. However, those books probably won’t help nearly as much as a Stephen King book.
Writers revise their work, and its not just a few times. We might have to make 20 revisions before the piece looks good and maybe even a lot more depending on the length. We have to make sure things aren’t too repetitive, cut out words that do nothing but drag on sentences. Sometimes we’ll have to cut out paragraphs or even pages to make the writing look better.
We have to reflect on our work too. To do this it’s best to leave a piece alone and then come back with fresh eyes. Have I used this word too much? Does this part of the story help to move the writing along or does it service no purpose? If I could redo this, what would I do better? These are all good questions to ask and it can help revise a story and help to make future ones better.
Purpose is important too. I’ve seen a lot of Pinterest ideas for blogs that claim to create deep conversations. A lot of it mostly ideas for people to just talk about themselves. I’m not that people shouldn’t talk about themselves, but I don’t consider deep conversations to be self centered. We won’t attract the right people if we think our purpose is to create deep conversations, but then we end up answering questions about ourselves.
I think sometimes we focous too much on writing novels worth of words. Yes, writing novels can be good, but people also read articles and blogs. It can be easier for us to create shorter, pieces of writing especially if we don’t have much experience in it yet. By focusing too much on word count our stories might become like that one episode of SpongeBob where he wrote the a hundred times.
For many of us, writing isn’t a career and due to that we have to make sure we are investing as much time as we can, not just to put words down, but to revise. We have to consider who we are writing for and how they will react. I provoke people on purpose, but some of us may not want that so we have to look at how we’re writing our content. I don’t participate in nano month for this reason, although for some us who are struggling with word count specifically it can be helpful. But remember that many novels have taken people years to write, and books made for educational purposes can sometimes take a whole decade. I think to fix this we can work together to have each month represent a aspect of writing. I don’t want to write a novel worth of words just to say I did it, I want what I write to being meaningful to people and help them to ask thoughtful questions. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we can’t do it all in one month. Writing is a never ending process, and it doesn’t end with word count.