One of the most difficult things for me to develop as a writer is the habit of writing on a project daily. Instead, since I began chasing my writing dream in earnest beginning back in 2004-2005, my writing life has been characterized by fits and starts of actual writing. One month I'll write like crazy on a novel project. The next three months I don't even open the file.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I'm also trying hard to train my brain to outline to a moderate level before I begin to write. So this morning, I opened up a manuscript I started last year--one that had been sealed shut for months while I argued with myself over the flow of this main character's life events and how many books I could get out of it.
So I began reading from the beginning to refresh my memory on how I'd intially introduced the character, what they were going through, etc. When I read the prologue and the opening few chapters I'd written, I knew immediately it was a section of the manuscript that I had written steadily over a period of days (last January in fact).
How did I know that?
Well yes, I do have the option of going back to last year's journal entries to see what I was working on this time last year. But I didn't need to.
The reason? I saw some traits in those first few chapters of the book that screamed "Consistent writer!":
1. Solid Rhythm: One sequence flowed easily into the next. It wasn't jerky and off-kilter.
2. Deep characters: I'd really taken the time and the focus to dig deep into the characters for each scene--to immerse myself into the characters and their location and to make it read like you were really there with them.
3. The plot flowed: It wasn't disjointed and rambling.
The result? It gave me one of those rare moments of reading my own writing where I said to myself, "I thinks this reads very well."
You see, the reason writing in fits and starts doesn't work for me is because I lose all sense of rhythm, I forget minor character names or even some little bit of backstory I used to give a character more depth, and even my plotting gets shaky when I wait between months to work on a particular manuscript. Disjointed writing springs from infrequent writing.
So that's one of my goals for this year--to write regularly. I don't want to say daily because there are simply times in our lives when we won't be able to write daily. But for myself, even writing one or two sentences daily on a project and making small progress is better than writing nothing at all, because it keeps my brain engaged.
I'm so encouraged by what I read that I think I may even submit the first several pages to my critique group, even though generally I never submit for critique those chapters from a novel that isn't a completed first draft manuscript.
I'm glad I took some time out to go back to the beginning of the manuscript and read where I started. It was a real encouragement to me to keep chugging along.
Encourage yourself too. Get back to that manuscript and write as regularly as you can. You'll be amazed at the results.