I’ll start by saying that I’m incapable of churning out as many words and pages as Catie has been writing the past few weeks. I admire her ability to write that way; I know of many authors who write fast, and many others who write truly high quality books. I can count on one hand the ones who do both. Catie is one of them.
I go about my work differently. I hunker down. I plod along. I use any other metaphor I can think of for writing slowly and steadily. Last week I wrote a total of 9,000 words — thirty-six pages. The week before that I wrote about 8,500 words. The week before that about the same. This week I’ll lose a day to the holiday weekend, but I should wind up with 7,000 words or so. It’s not a lot. But it’s enough to get me a hundred and twenty to a hundred and thirty manuscript pages a month. And that means that I can write my 140,000 word novel in less than half a year.
The numbers can get a bit overwhelming, and I don’t mean to get bogged down in them. My point is this: Don’t be intimidated by what Catie is doing. If 8,000 words a week seems like a lot to you, don’t be intimidated by that, either. Catie and I are both professionals with many books in print, and yet our output is vastly different. As I wrote several weeks ago, there is no right way to do this. There is no threshhold page or word output that makes someone a legitimate writer. Don’t try to write 20,000 words a week because Catie can; don’t try to write 8,000 words a week because I can. Write as quickly or as slowly as feels right for you.
What does that mean? If it means that you only write a page a night — 1,250 words for a five-day work week — so be it. If it means that you struggle for days with a single paragraph, but finally get it right, that’s fine, too.
There are lots of writers — fellow professionals — who write faster than I do. (There are also many who write slower) Many of them churn out more books than I do and make a good deal more money. But I can only write to my own pace. And at my pace I’m getting my work done and putting out books that are as good as I can make them. The key is to set goals for yourself that are realistic and achievable. For me, there’s nothing worse than setting a goal and failing to meet it. When that happens, when I find myself beginning the following work week already in a hole, I start to get discouraged, and then my work really suffers.
Writing a book is a huge undertaking. It’s hard enough to get to the finish line while meeting your goals and sticking to a schedule. But if you begin and end every day of writing feeling that you’re hopelessly behind, that you’re failing to do what you set out to do, that daunting task can become impossible. Be good to yourself. Enjoy the work. Find your pace, accept it as your own, embrace it. And then stick to it. You might not get the book done as quickly as you’d like, or as quickly as some pros do, but you’ll get it done. And really, that’s the most important thing.