Keep a Writing Schedule or Wait for Inspiration? Pros and Cons
I’ve always tried to write every day. Even if only a sentence! But writing Friends of my Enemy was the first time I wrote following a writing schedule. The schedule was organic and changed weekly, depending on life and work load. My goal, in general, was three chapters a week. I’m task oriented, so having a breaking point like a chapter end instead of a word count kept my mind from freaking out with hanging sentences or ideas! And having a goal made me work to find extra time to meet it.
I wrote four books in a year (with an average word count of 85,000 each). And while writing those four, which comprise a complete series including 11 short stories that are a prequel, I wrote half of the first book in a new epic fantasy series. Plus I kept up my blog and editing. I really don’t know where the ‘extra’ time came from to do all of that. Maybe I’m writing faster or more focused? Seriously some nights I only have 45 minutes in ‘writing’ time. Sometimes less as my job includes monthly meetings held in the evening. Yet I wrote 4 ½ books.
So am I an advocate for keeping a writing schedule – one flexible enough to fit life? Definitely! But wait, isn’t this a blog post about pros and cons…?
The flip side
I think I just discovered the flip side. There are always times when writing doesn’t flow. Being determined to meet my chapter goal kept me writing even when I was stuck in the mud. But sometimes those slow downs have a purpose, as I mentioned in my recent post on overcoming writer’s block. If things are really bogging down, it might be because I’m standing on the edge of a plot hole and I’d really better fill it in before trying to step across.
Waiting for that ‘aha!’ moment when something that was blank clears like a suddenly evaporated mist is the beauty of waiting for writing inspiration. Writing surges ahead when filled with that energy. A writing schedule, on the other hand, is often training your brain and body that at a certain time every day you will be sitting down and expecting the words to flow. Which does work to a degree.
Sometimes it worked too well. If I had writing time earlier in the day than usual, I felt out of sync. Writing didn’t always flow. That is a drawback. And because I was trained to write when it was time to write, I would push through the murky, slow bits and figure I’d fix it later.
Which is where I’m at now.
If you’ve been following the last few posts, you know I have a troubling ‘long’ chapter during the climactic scene of the final book of the series. I tried chopping it by writing bits in a new chapter in a new POV. Which I like, but still… there was something wrong. And then I realized what it was. I was staring at a huge plot hole!
I actually figured that out BEFORE I finished writing the final chapter, but I haven’t fixed it yet. I’m sort of waiting for inspiration to tell me how to fix it! 😉 It should be a fairly easy one to take care of, as it is a self contained problem – not a thread through the whole novel thank goodness. I’ll need to add another chapter and re-rewrite/cut up the one that is the problem. So not a huge issue.
But I also just re-read Spark of Defiance, the first book of my new epic fantasy series, to get reoriented before picking up the writing with chapter 19. And I was really disappointed.
Seriously. The writing came across more as the skeleton of ideas without the life that makes a story captivating. Really it reminded me of the ten chapters I struggled with and then sadly/fortunately lost when writing Rule of Fire. I ended up rewriting them over two weeks of a Christmas holiday. The rewrites were awesome. First draft… well it was a sad loss when they were accidentally deleted, but I recovered and the book benefited from it.
Plot holes in the Fight for Peace, bad writing in Spark of Defiance. I had to seriously wonder if this writing schedule thing was really all that great. But then, fortunately, I got to chapter 7 of Spark of Defiance and the story focused, the writing improved. Maybe what was at fault was that this was a brand new story and though I was pushing myself to write, it simply hadn’t developed well enough?
Chapters 7 through 18 are all very decent. And what is in chapters 1 through 6 simply needs fleshed out. They aren’t a loss (no, I will not delete them!).
So where does that leave me with a writing schedule?
Well the pros are that I finished 4 ½ books and 95% of what went into them only needs minor tweaks or at least the normal level of edits. That is a far cry better than the 1 book a year I had been managing, which is a big con with waiting for inspiration and hoping when it comes it actually fits with whatever time I can scrape together to write.
So a con of one plot hole and 6 chapters that need a bit more verve isn’t that horrible of a result. But maybe I should pay more attention to inspiration – or the lack of it. The pace could be slowed down maybe… just a bit, so that writing isn’t entirely forced forward when the plot needs to get worked out.
And I can’t say that I wasn’t rewriting bits while writing one book a year. I rewrote the final battle in Spirit of Life three times. Starting work on the first short stories to Friends of my Enemy while doing those rewrites helped keep me sane. And that was the start of my writing schedule. Which I think I’ll be keeping.
How about you? Do you try to write every day, keep a schedule and goals, or simply wait for inspiration to find you?