write every day

graceI’m asked quite frequently, when someone learns I’ve written a book, how long it took me.  Indeed, it is almost always the first question.  Not an easy one to answer, either.  I usually just give them a vague, “Oh, about nine months to a year,” and let it go.  The longer answer would probably bore them.

Writing is no different than any other activity.  It takes practice, careful honing of skills, and it requires attention.  One may be born with a talent for words, but if one does not take the time to develop that talent, it will never blossom.  Think of your brain as a muscle (cuz…umm…it is) and then think of yourself as an athlete.

Yeah.  An athlete.

Athletes who aspire to the very pinnacle of their sport are invariably born with a natural tendency to excel in that sport.  To get there, however, they spent hours and days and weeks and months practicing.  They had guidance in the form of coaches and/or parents, encouragement at the correct times, and obstacles they had to overcome.  Eventually, they reached their goal, or something close.  Through time, practice, attention and focus.

You have to write, if not every day, then nearly every day.  You may have the natural talent and inclination.  You may have had wonderful coaches (teachers) and support along the way.  But if you don’t put in the time, the practice, you’ll never improve, never develop the focus it takes to construct a longer work of literature.

Don’t believe me?  Dig back in time.  Find something you wrote, even something small, ten years ago.  Or five.  One.  Read it and try not to wince — (you’ll fail, by the way, at the not wincing.)  If you’ve written every day, or even somewhat close to every day, you should be able to see a marked improvement in your ability to tell a story.

Another reason it is important to write every day is to maintain control, to march the story inexorably forward without losing rhythm, without losing stride.  Your characters should develop within this structure, and your narrative unfold naturally.  It keeps you from losing touch, from the need to re-familiarize yourself.  Think of the characters as your friends.  Would your friendships survive if you neglected them?  Likely not.

So, how long does it take me to write a novel?  *grin*  Nine months to a year.  If I write every day.


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