Why “Write Every Day” is a Terrible Writer’s Philosophy

A few author friends and I shared the worst pieces of writing advice we’ve received. Seems the biggest offender was: “Write every day.” Some people are perfectly happy doing this, and I support you, too. But this is for people like me who simply know in their heart of hearts they can’t possibly get a novel done in a week because there’s just no time. And we’re tired of feeling bad if we don’t hit the daily word count.

For the record, I’m a fiction writer, but I’m also a magazine writer. So sometimes, my writing quota is totally capped by the time I get home. There’s just nothing left in my mushy brain and the only solution is Netflix and dog cuddles. But for the sake of this post, let’s focus on the idea of working on your books every single day. 

The struggle is real, y’all. Between full time job, side business, (minuscule) social life, and books, there’s a real balance I have to strike in order to feel successful. I spend a LOT of time on the computer and there are some days where I go home and have to ignore the bright, shiny screen in order to not chuck it out my window. And to be frank, I’m pretty tired of being told that’s “the wrong way to do things.”

I totally understand the feeling of needing to write everyday, believe me. Just the other week I admitted how burned out I’ve felt with doing ALL THE THINGS. I’ve loved every minute of it, but everyone needs a break! It’s that or risk my sanity. Yesterday (Saturday), JLo went to school to work before an afternoon memorial unveiling. I had no plans and zero desire to be productive. I have no children, had no immediate pressing responsibilities (I still did laundry!), and the week at work was busy enough that I was sick of looking at a computer. So I spent an exorbitant amount of money at Target, painted my nails, read a magazine, and watched movies. And you know what?

I didn’t feel guilty about it. And it was amazing. I couldn’t tell you the last time I wasn’t halfway attached to Scrivener or my phone. It might have even felt a little liberating. The key is not to make this my new everyday/weekend habit. (I can do the fun things once I’ve gotten the work done, but eventually I will have to get to writing the words!)

This post from Seven Scribes really hit the mark, I think, but let’s talk about why I believe “writing every day” isn’t the great advice you think it is.

I’m a a huge advocate for breaks. To me, when you force the words, your heart isn’t truly in it and that shows. Readers will pick up on it, believe me, especially those who have read your other works and can feel the difference.

It’s probably not going to be your best work if you’re rushing it. Now, there’s a difference between getting it done quickly and throwing something together. This isn’t about your edits or cover work or marketing. Some days, I’m just not feeling it. And if I just sit down and try to hit a word count, there are probably way too much of “the” and “just” and “so” (my overused fillers). That’s stuff I have to go back and edit later, things that could be avoided if I’d just allowed myself to skip a day in order to refresh my noggin.

Speaking of it not being your best work, that’s not exactly fair for your fans. They read your work expecting the wow and pizzazz that comes with a well-thought out story. And if you’re asking for their trust and dollars, you want to make sure it’s worth it, that they come back to every book you write.

And then there’s the fact that “writing every day” might not be fair for you. The guilt that comes with all of these points listed was overwhelming. I felt terrible every time I wasn’t at my computer, writing a new scene or emailing people or whatever else was on my to-do list. It was making me a little crazy.

Yes, there are days where I think, “I’m going to write six chapters today!” And if you do, that’s fantastic and you definitely deserve cookies. And if you didn’t — well, you can have a cookie, too. Just promise me you’ll try again tomorrow, okay?

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

The 1-Star Review (Looks Like We Made It)

The other morning, I received an email notification that another review had been added for GIFTED on Amazon. “Oh good,” I thought, “reviews are always nice.”

Until I did that thing where I ignored my own advice not to read reviews, and I jumped over to find my first ever one-star review.

Womp womp.

Talk about a gut-crusher — at 7AM, no less! I admit it didn’t exactly kick my day off right, as I sulked in the shower, the car ride to work, and through my first meeting of the day.

Logically, I knew what I’d done wrong. I’d read the damn thing! I’ll let you follow that link above for my reasons on why authors shouldn’t read reviews, but let’s just admit that sometimes human nature gets the best of us. My PR people have been rocking it on gathering reviews lately, and most of them have been so positive that it was a great way to get myself motivated. So of course when a new review came out, I bebopped over without thinking. While it didn’t exactly crush my entire world, I admit that I let it hang over my head like a dark cloud for at least a good 2-3 hours.

I had to get over it. I had plenty of other things on my to-do list, not one of which included grouching over a book review. So I did that thing I always do to snap out of it — I had to look at the bright side.

How?

First of all, no more reading reviews. That officially cut me off right there, not wanting to get my little writer heart in another tizzy. Check.

Look at my other reviews. The upside with this 1 star review is that it was my very first one. As in, out of every book I’ve written. That’s 5 books, 4 years, 235 reviews and I JUST got my first one star! You know what? That’s pretty killer, considering none of those reviews are by my mother.

Everybody’s got ’em. Why? Because you can’t please everyone. Just like I don’t care for some books (for whatever reason), there will be others out there who won’t care for your book (for whatever reason). And that’s okay – we’re making the world go ’round, after all, and we don’t want it to get boring. I know full well that supernatural circuses aren’t for everyone, so why should I be upset when someone who didn’t care for it says so?

Check out successful authors with their 1-star reviews. I mean, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had like 200+ one-star reviews last I checked, and while that’s practically blasphemy in my eyes, everyone’s entitled to their opinion (though they’re wrong there, truly, and I’ll fight you to the death if you say otherwise). Besides, maybe I should turn my frown upside-down – a 1-star review can sometimes spur readers to pick it up just to see what their own thoughts are. In some cases, authors might feel as though they’ve “made it” because now they’re collecting critiques, too.

And last but not least, I went to check out the reviewer’s profile. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but here’s what happened when I did it: I stalked–er, glanced–at this person’s reviews. This person apparently does not like ANYTHING. There were a few stars for things, but many books they’d read only received 1 star. (Also, they’d commented several times on profanity in other books, which was something I noticed in  their review of GIFTED. I’ve made no secret that my carnies curse, nor will I make apologies for it. Teens curse. It is what it is.) By seeing that this person is incredibly hard to please, I ended up laughing off the entire thing.

It reminded me not to take reviews personally, because as snarky as that one-line, one-star review was, it wasn’t against me. And it rarely ever is, if you’ve played your cards right. One-star reviews, no matter how many you have, aren’t going to kill you. And if you’re ready to give it all up after just one of those, then I hate to break it to you, but not only is your skin too thin, but you’re in the wrong line of work. The best thing we can do is ignore the reviews and keep writing the best work we can put out for our readers.

Just Say No: Comparing Yourself Against Other Authors

Nominations came up for UtopYA last week. I’m beyond thrilled for my author friends and while I was not nominated in any categories, I can’t wait to celebrate with them the night the winners are revealed. I am SO excited to attend UtopYA and finally meet some of these girls in person. They have been my rocks through the last couple of years of the self-publishing adventure and I am so glad they are being rewarded with accolades.

That being said, I have a confession to make: I let the green-eyed monster get ahold of me.

The thing is, it’s not about being better than those nominated authors. Those authors are AMAZING. Many of the folks on that list are my friends and I know how hard they work to accomplish their goals. When I admit jealousy, I don’t mean to say it’s because I’m better than anyone else. I don’t believe my writing or stories deserve more attention than theirs – the envy doesn’t stem from that. It’s more of an internal frustration, at the idea that I’m not doing enough. I get mad at myself for not being more. You’ve probably been down that path once or twice.

I began to wonder what I was doing wrong.

If my marketing campaign was a mess.

If I wasn’t reaching the right people.

If my writing sucks.

If my books weren’t good enough.

If I wasn’t good enough.

It’s a dangerous game, comparing yourself and works to other authors. Even if that author is a terrific writer, you look at what they’re doing and wonder what you’re missing. Why don’t I have more Facebook fans, why don’t people retweet me more, why I have so fewer reviews than an author who hasn’t been on the block as long.

I’ve been in that place a lot lately, feeling sorry for myself. Maybe my sales slowed down or I don’t have nearly the amount of reviews that I’d like or insert reason here. Whatever it may be at the moment- you know how it is. Sometimes you just get in a funk. It’s a crappy cycle. I won’t let it get me down for too long, but eventually I’ve gotta shake it off and get back to my own work. You can’t compare yourself to other authors. There are too many factors, both internal and out, that have to do with why your work is or isn’t doing well. Many of my friends have made writing their full time gig, so I shouldn’t be surprised or frustrated when they have ANOTHER book release (where I mutter a lot: I mean damn, didn’t they just release one like two months ago?! How do they do that?!).

And like I said before, the other authors are fantastic. I’m thrilled they were nominated and are doing so well. They are my friends, peers, and in a sense, colleagues because of our like-minded community. Their goals and dreams are no less than mine, but their situations are not mine. Plenty of them write full time, but they also have kids and crazy schedules. Some of them DO have full time jobs like me, and still push through the chaos to get another book written. As for me, I make writing a priority, sure, but I also have a high demand job that sometimes wears me out to where I can’t stand to look at a computer anymore. Some days I choose to go home, accept the writing block, and watch a movie instead. That’s my choice, no one else’s. There’s no one to blame.

Then again, why is there blame? Because I’m an overachieving Hermione Granger? Partially, yes. I’ve always been hard on myself, especially when things don’t happen the way we expect them to. It’s human nature. It does not mean I’m a failure. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I am my own worst enemy. I only have myself to answer to and I have the power to push myself into getting more books out. Readers and reviews motivate me, yes, but it’s my ass in the chair, fingers on keyboard, that make the book happen. I’ve attended enough webinars, conferences, and Facebook group conversations to know I’m doing the right things. It’s just a matter of staying on the path. 

How do you sell books?

Put more books out there to sell. (As in, keep writing, dummy.)

How do you get better at writing?

Honing your craft with each new endeavor. (I’d also add listening to your editor and reading lots and lots of other authors. I happen to know several good ones!)

Okay, so maybe I didn’t get nominated for an award. So what? Does that change my goals or dreams? Nope, not even a little bit. Why should I let it get me down? If you’re in a similar boat, I say we give the green monster about ten minutes of our time – and then move on, because no amount of envy in the world will get you what you want. You have to go after it.

I always tell people that in order to be successful, we must take initiative. Don’t sit back and let things happen around you. The harder I work, the more books I put out, maybe then I’ll gain more traction. In any case, I have to keep reminding myself, I already have some pretty nice traction! Solid reviews, good friends with better advice, and plenty of plots swirling in my brain are enough to keep me going. A break is okay – a sulk-fest is not. 

If you have time, go vote on your favorites for UtopYA winners. I might be a little green around the gills, but I’ll be damned if I don’t stand up and support my fellow writers. Because in the end, we’re all in this together.

Time to go get a new chapter written. And then another, and another, until I have another completed book to put out into the world. As for awards? Maybe next year. Maybe never. But awards or no, that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. Thus ends the pep talk. 

How to: Kick Insecurity in the Ass (Writer Style)

That old feeling crept up on me again. The one that says I’m not good enough, that my lower-starred reviews are telling me to give up, that I can’t force a story out of my head no matter how hard I try.

Sometimes you just wish you could strangle that pessimistic bastard in your head, right? I know I do.

It’s no surprise authors get their nerves in a twist, especially before a new release. Even well-known authors who have scores of well-reviewed books get the jitters, because the new book is, well, new. Different characters, different plot, a whole new world of ways to make readers put your book down and walk away. That possibility is downright terrifying.

Feeling a little lonely and blue about your writing?

Feeling a little lonely and blue about your writing?

Then there’s my current problem – I’m working on the second Donovan Circus book and am having one of those days where I hate everything about it. It’s in its first draft and logically, I know first drafts are allowed to be shit. That’s why it’s only a first draft. But that little nagging voice in my head telling me it’s shit, telling me a 2 star reviewer is right, and telling me to go watch TV instead is still pretty loud and persistent. That little voice is telling me to give up, just for a few days.

I read a blog recently that talked about authors having a strange complex of both thinking they have THE book everyone should read, yet being terrified of everyone reading it for fear of criticism. I think this goes beyond authors into artists in general!

While I hold firm that you can’t please everyone, no matter how well you write, I still say that we need to conquer the fear. Because you know what? If you give up for a day or a month, what’s to stop that from turning into a year or forever? I’ve read several quotes lately about how it’s better to try and fail than it is to never try at all. And I have to say, that resonates.

One suggestion to get over your book blues? Go read your positive reviews. Those good reviews mean you have fans, readers who will probably give your new books a chance because they loved the other one(s) so much. I know it makes me feel good and boosts my writing confidence when I read people saying that I have a future in writing, that they’ll read my next story and can’t wait for a sequel. It gets me excited to put my butt in the chair and write more, because people are clamoring for more of your worlds. Honestly, nothing has been more motivating to me than hearing such kind and enthusiastic words from readers, encouraging me to get on with the next book already.

You’re writing and releasing books because you believe it. You feel confident about it, that it’s a great story with well-developed characters and a plot that will keep you reader going to the next page. And despite whatever reviewers might say, you’re doing this because you love it, not because you expect a large paycheck (at least, I hope that’s why you’re doing it).

My other suggestion to get over that annoying voice is to prove it wrong. Sit down and write, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you have to force it. Chuck Wendig wrote a great article yesterday about how writing is a job – it’s not about the muse or inspiration. Writing is work, hard work, and in order for the craft to be done, it requires you in that chair, your fingers clacking away at the keyboard. Put words to paper. Even if they’re shit (like my first draft), they’re words. You can go back and edit later to hit the high points, tweak the themes, and round out characters. But until you have that draft, you just have a blank document, sitting there, blinking at you to write. And honestly, isn’t that scarier than the voice in your head?