So the second effective habit Barbara Wallace talks about in her article in the June 2014 edition of RWA magazine is about establishing structure as a writer. Structure, when used here, doesn’t mean how you construct your stories. It refers to being consistent and regimented in how much you want to write every day.
Writing goals are wonderful yardsticks when you write. They can be anything from a daily word count, to how many scenes you want to do a day, to how many chapters you want to get on paper in a given time frame. On the days that I don’t go to my paying job, I routinely set a goal of 1000-2500 written words. They don’t have to be perfect, they just have to get written down. This translates, when I’m working on my WIP, to about 8-10 pages per day. Some days I write a great deal more, but I never write less. And if I’m not pounding it out on the novel, then I’d doing it in this blog. Most of my blog entries average between 600 and 900 words, so that’s a fair chunk of writing still, on those days the WIP isn’t going smoothly. Every November a competition called NANOWRIMO occurs. The acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write AT LEAST a 50,000 word novel in the month. I’ve done it for the past two years and both times I’ve exceeded the word count simply by setting a daily goal and sticking to it NO MATTER WHAT. This is the key to structure: doing what you’ve set out to do no matter what.
Many writers who are lucky enough to actually support themselves with their writing and do not have to have outside employment to survive, will all tell you the same thing: they treat writing as their 9-5 job. It may not occur exactly in those hours, but the reality is they work full 8 hour days or longer on their craft. Sitting down at the typewriter/laptop, and producing words-sentences-pages every day is how writers ,who are successful, write.
I’m a terrible deadline-er. This means that, 1. I hate deadlines, 2. I have never, ever, made one, and 3. I hate deadlines.I was that kid in school who always had their summer writing assignment done before july 4, who always had the term papers ready to be handed in at least a month before they were due, and I never studied the night before an exam. Never. I always had the full studying done long before that. In my adult life this hatred of deadlines shows its head in similar ways: I amortized my mortgage so my house was paid for decades before it was supposed to be. I pay cash for most things because I do not like that monthly credit card statements that says “minimum due now,” and I am always ALWAYS early for work. How does this apply to writing? Well, if you give yourself daily goals, you will never be in that deadline crunch when you are furiously typing those last, critical pages for submission, and you can have the luxury of reading, re-reading and revising the work to make it the absolute best you can do.
Structure is a good thing. To a writer, it is essential.