Write productively and with a purpose
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing for Children
Published: December 8, 2008
|Is it important to write every day?|
The important goal for a writer is to actually sit down to write new material at a regular pace. If you don't take your commitment to write seriously, you won't get serious results. If you don't treat your writing as a career, you are, in essence, supporting a hobby.
A writing career is a job. Treat it as such. If you want a part-time job, then schedule part-time hours for writing on your weekly calendar. A part-time job means you probably won't be writing every day. If you want a full-time job, however, actually mark down 40 hours each week on your calendar dedicated to writing. This means you'll probably be writing eight hours a day, five days a week.
Post your upcoming schedule each week, just as employers do in the workplace. Rearrange your other commitments around your writing schedule, just as people do who drive to work. Show up at your writing workspace on time each day according to schedule. Sit down at your computer. And write.
The life of a writer today is vastly different than in years past. Stories abound of writers from long ago who retired each day to a solitary spot, curled up in a blanket with a pot of coffee nearby, and wrote uninterrupted from sunup to sundown. Today's writers have an editor's e-mails to answer, blogs to maintain or read, and writers' chat rooms to visit. Even though these tasks are part of a writer's day, however, they must not take the place of writing new material at a regular pace.
If you find yourself spending time each day in front of your computer but NOT actually typing new pages of publishable material, it's time to reassess your priorities. Prioritize the hours you type new content each day before you tend to the other tasks.
It's also important to write with purpose. A writer's goal is to get published regularly and earn a steady income. Develop a cycle of studying target publishers and writing queries for potential contracts until you land that next manuscript assignment. Don't spend all your time just submitting old manuscripts. In the extremely competitive world of children's publishing today, randomly submitting even a well-written manuscript is like trying to win the lottery. Career writers know that most manuscripts that reach publication are written AFTER the contract is landed or the assignment given. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, make it your goal to type out a new query each week or so for a new potential project not yet written. If an editor responds and is interested in your query, you can then prepare a formal proposal to submit.
Perhaps you already have a contract with a scheduled deadline. Is it important that you write and work on that manuscript every single day? Explore your project until you discover the schedule you need to best complete your task. Print out a weekly or monthly calendar to follow until you reach your deadline. Type out a sample page or chapter to determine a realistic measure of the amount of time it will take you to physically sit down and type your manuscript.
Perhaps you can devote the first four weeks to research, creating outlines and organizing material, then spend the last two weeks typing. Or, you may feel more confident breaking up those tasks into smaller bites so you see actual progress each day with a steady progression of completed manuscript pages. While working on a recent nonfiction book project for kids, I developed a cycle of daily research, note-taking and writing that gave me confidence to work toward my deadline.
For each deadline, take time to discover a schedule that works best for you. Whether it's actually sitting down to type new material each day, or blocking out chunks of time to type after your preliminary writing activities are finished, stick to a schedule that will help you accomplish your goals.
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of over 75 books and has been published by such houses as Scholastic, Reader's Digest, Tyndale and Sleeping Bear Press. Web: www.nancyisanders.com.