A couple of years ago, I went through a phase where I googled “how to write a novel” or something of that nature, almost every day. During that time, I read a lot of different advice and interesting perspectives on what worked for different people.
The unfortunate thing about most writing advice that I discovered online was that it came with an “or else.” Finish your novel/story within this set amount of time or you will permanently lose interest in the story and all your work will be for nothing. Don’t plan out anything or you will lose interest before you write the book. Plan out everything or you will slog through needless first drafts before you realize your plan doesn’t hold together. Set a quota for how much you will write every day or you will never finish. Never use adjectives, adverbs, or passive voice or your writing will be STUPID! Never write about a character until you know every wrinkle on his face and how he spent every summer since he was 3 years old.
This post is for the days when you haven’t followed this advice and you find yourself up against the “or else,” thinking you’ll never be a good writer again. Although some of the above advice is based on principles that can make your writing better, such as know your characters or write succinctly, I think the most important advice a writer can hear is to never give up.
When you can string a bunch of interesting sentences together without a single adverb, adjective, or passive construction, go for it, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do that today. If you thought of an amazing scene that doesn’t fit in with any kind of plan, just write it. Even if you have to scrap it later, the passion you felt when you first put it down can’t be deleted and will still find its way into the finished work. Try and follow a word quota if you want to, but when you fall short, or when your 20 million words for the day just look like garbage to you, don’t tell yourself this means you’re a failure and that you can never write again.
If you could turn out a set amount of quality, grammatically orthodox writing every day, you would be a robot. Robots write spam comments, not the kind of stuff humans want to read. In life and in writing, some days are just plain better than others. On the not-so-good days, remember the hard parts come and go in cycles. Look back over at parts of your writing that you are proud of and remember you have more of that good stuff left inside of you; you just have to wait for it.
- Amateurs accept platitudes about passive voice (proswrite.com)