Exercising Your Writing Muscles

Posted at Jan 9, 2014 10:09 pm

During the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I realized I’ve increased my drafting productivity.  And this productivity has increased exponentially. 

Before this November NaNoWriMo, it had been a long time since I’d actually drafted a manuscript.  (Since I keep a log, I can tell you, it had been 5 months.)

That doesn’t mean I stopped writing.  I’ve revised three different manuscripts.  (One three times.)   Sure I rewrote and added complete new scenes in those books, but I think revising uses a different part of my brain than drafting.  When I’m drafting, even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about my characters, about the next scene, or the next chapter.  Or I’m ripping out my hair, wondering where the book should go.  Wanting to wail when the GMC and other plot tools I’ve created fail to help me out of the corner I just painted my characters into.

But as with any other activity, my writing improves the more I force myself to stay in my chair with my hands on the keyboard.

This makes sense.  When I took piano lessons, I had to practice at least 30 minutes a day, the same with guitar and voice lessons.  Dance required hours of repetition to perfect a movement, weeks of practice to perfect a dance.  Golf required even more practice.  I hit a minimum of 200 balls a day, spent an hour around the practice green and usually played 27 holes. 

Writing isn’t any different than sports.  It requires practice to improve.  When I first participated in Book-in-a-Week, I was amazed at other writers’ productivity.      

Here’s a comparison of April/May 2008 BIW with my daily November 2013 NaNoWriMo.

Words per Hour
Apr/May ’08
Nov ’13


I write more than twice as fast as I did in 2008.  (You can see that it takes a while to get back into the groove even now.) 

There are number of reasons for this productivity improvement.  I’ve turned off my internal editor.  I plot more.  I set goals.  (Really important to me.)  And I think because I am flexing my writing muscles, I am getting better, faster, stronger.  (For some reason the Million Dollar Man theme is running through my head.)

I know that a lot of the magic happens when I revise.  That’s when I layer in more emotion and add beats.  But to help me really understand the story and my characters’ motivation, I need to get a first draft down.  And the faster I can do that, the faster I can start revising.

So my advice?  Get out and flex those muscles.  Establish good writing habits.  Turn off that internal editor.  And don’t use excuses to push away from the keyboard.

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