Writing Every Day vs. Binge Writing

There is so much advice for writers out there, it can be hard to decide what an individual should listen to.

I’m a knowledge sponge and soak it up whenever I can. To that end, I’ve read countless books on writing as well as listening to all kinds of audio series, videos and live lectures on how I should write. I also now have four books so I have a little experience in writing and have settled into my own routine.

One of the big recommendations from many pros is to write something every day on your novel/work in progress. Even if it is just a few hundred words. Or if you can write 1000 words a day, you’ll have a novel finished in a few months. I’ve struggled with this before. I tried it and just failed and ended up feeling guilty because I hadn’t written anything on the latest book.

I find I’m more like a binge writer. I like to let the urge build up and then I schedule time to let it all out onto the page. I also have a day job and cannot be creative after a full days work so my best writing day is at the weekend when I can immerse myself into the writing process. I know Stephen King wrote every day when he had a day job but most pros don’t have that to worry about anymore – but they all started like us so there’s no excuse. It’s just how we can shape our lives to fit in the writing. I want to write fast, I want to be prolific but right now, binge writing suits my lifestyle.

The first mind map for Prophecy, my next thriller novel

I’m currently planning my next novel, Prophecy. I’m in composting phase which means I’m gathering ideas, writing mind maps with initial thoughts, reading books around the topic and then letting my brain create new ideas from this raw material. I’m not writing anything on it at all. But I am writing blog posts, doing interviews and writing other things – just not my next book.

I need at least a month of composting before I want to write. Some of the scenes are starting to emerge already but this time around I will be outlining more thoroughly anyway. I’ll start writing when the urge gets overwhelming. Then I will have the first draft binge writing phase. I’ll get up at 5am and write before work and will write every weekend. I’ll be aiming for 5000-8000 words per week. The blog, podcast and other things will go on the backburner. So I can happily oscillate from one extreme to another.

On this topic and writing fast, have a listen to this round-table with Dan Sawyer, Mur Lafferty, Gail Carriger and Nathan Lowell. Gail writes 2000 words per day, no excuses. Nathan is a binge writer who doesn’t write for months and then can write 10,000 – 20,000 words a day.

How about you? Do you write every day or are you a binge writer?

Image: Flickr CC Parker from DigitalNative

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Comments

  1. Eva says

    I really should write every day, just because as I put writing aside, I tend to just let it languish away. I lose the thread of things. That being said, I’m more of a binge writer. I shouldn’t be, though, but that’s the way it works out.

    I feel much more satisfied with myself and my writing and the story evolution when I make the effort to write daily.

  2. says

    BINGE WRITER! If my writing were alcohol, I would be put in jail for life. On a few occasions I’ve gone for twenty hour stints, truly a man possessed. Sometimes I think writers-block would be a nice antidote, but I never get writers block. Sometimes I’ll awaken during the night and something will hit me and I just have to get up and write it.

    Even as a young teen, before the writer contagion, I would awaken at two in the morning and fire up my ham radio and seek out contacts until the sun was well up. I still plead guilty to that once in a while.

    I’m not complaining, each of us has our own nature, and that is what works best for me. I’ve tried to regiment myself, to no avail.

    • says

      wow! 20 hours – that’s amazing! I couldn’t do that but I can crank out the words when I am in binge mode. I am also an outliner and will move to even more outlining. I can write serious word count when I know what the scene is trying to do.

  3. says

    Joanna,

    It’s interesting that you posted this now because I just did a post about how my new word count goal a day is 2,000. A lot of my friends said not to do that because it kills their creativity and they’d rather do what you call binge writing (which is a great way to put it). I’ve tried binging but it never gets anywhere, so I’m thinking maybe I’m the type that needs to just plunk my butt down and write the desired words a day.

    Thanks for giving your insight! Always interesting to here the other styles of writing other writers have.

    Elisa Michelle

      • says

        Will do! That makes me excited to think someone who is successful does the same thing. And I’ve been churning out more than 2,000 a day so far. We’ll see if this sticks though. I’ve been one to binge and then not write anything for months in the past. But I have a new outlook on the first draft now that might help speed things up.

  4. says

    This is a great post. I think it’s important for everyone to find their own writing rhythm rather than just blindly advice. After all, in the writing world rules are often made to be broken. Though of course I have two addendums to this. The first would be to take the aforementioned advice and see if it really does work. The second would be is to find your own writing pace but be careful it doesn’ t become an excuse to not finishing anything.

    Anyhow I think that you covered it quite well. I also agree that you should write every day, even if it’s just a little thing.

    As for me, I am definitely a daily plodder. Though on some occasions I can binge write, if I don’t write every day I get knocked right out of the story and it’s a bear of a time trying to get back in again. Then again my “story gestation” cycle tends to be fairly quick and I often don’t go back and outline until I’m at least midway through.

    • says

      Thanks Sharon. I’ll need to do an outline vs discovery writer post next! People’s personality types make such a difference to writing style I think, as well as their daily lifestyle.

  5. says

    I’m definitely a ‘every day person’, although in between the daily sessions, I’m thinking and planning ahead. I binge think rather than binge write. I do a lot of planning at night which isn’t too good for my sleep patterns! It’s exhausting being creative – but well worth it!

    • says

      I know what you mean Stephanie! This blog is pretty much all of my “spare time” although Glee has just arrived in my iTunes so I may have to take a break soon. It helps me be creative – honest!

  6. says

    I make my living from writing (and coaching writing), so it’s a daily thing for me. Usually, I’m working on blog posts, ebook content, or ecourse lessons.

    When it comes to my fiction, though, I’m more of a binge writer, and I can go long periods without writing any fiction at all (particularly between drafts). When I’m working on a novel draft, I like to go at it pretty fast – ideally writing for a couple of 3,000 word sessions a week, or more.

    I think my record was somewhere near 7,000 words in one Saturday… I was very spaced-out after that!

    • says

      wow! 7000 words is brilliant :)
      I like that space between drafts too. I’ve been increasingly thinking of Stephen King’s recommendations to put the first draft in a drawer and don’t look at it for a few weeks. It’s much easier to edit after that. I’ll be doing that with the next novel.

  7. says

    I tend to binge but I do like to binge everyday until a project is finished….hybrid-binger?

    I LOVE the word ‘composting’ for what you’re doing. I’ve used ‘percolating’, but I think ‘composting’ is perfect.

  8. says

    I learned with NaNoWriMo that I can do binge writing and still produce work that can be usable with editing, but that id I write at that level for a month, so much of the rest of my life suffers. My kids eat a lot more fast food, my lesson plans are pulled from similar periods in past years, my husband wonders who I am. I still enjoy the intense writing but become unbalanced feeling, I need to get up and move, stretch my body, meet other people, read other people’s writings. So yes, I do binge write on occasion, like I binge eat at Thanksgiving, but in my average day to day existence, I write a bit on my book, a bit on my blog, post on a few forums and write a letter to family, read a book, go to a movie, take my son fishing then write some more.

    Dixie Goode,

    PS. Into Chapter 5 of your Pentecost now. I am really liking your characters and enjoying the suspense.

    • says

      Thanks so much Dixie – I’m glad you’re enjoying Pentecost. I am learning every day of ways to improve so Prophecy will be even better!
      You’re right that in binge phase, everything else suffers. I stop answering emails within 24 hours, stop blogging so much or schedule it all in advance and generally don’t have a life :)

  9. says

    I’m somewhere inbetween. I work on my WIP everyday except Sundays (my day to put family first), but that doesn’t necessarily mean cranking out thousands of words. Sometimes it’s only typing up a few sentences scribbled down during a lull at my day job. Other times, like now, it’s playing the “card game,” as Roz Morris calls it, to work on the WIP’s plot. Fridays I usually get to binge write for up to four hours.

    As you put it, I do what works with my schedule.

    • says

      That’s great to have a family focused day Virginia. I am trying to unplug one day a month which is pretty hard for a tech addict like me. Hammock time is forced rest :) I do use sundays as my binge writing day once it comes time to put words on the page.

  10. says

    I’m definitely a binge writer. To be honest, I wish it was easier to coordinate my writing into my every day life, but until I’m able to work my way down to part-time with my job, this is how it has to be. I’m okay with that though–I find that I do the research for my writing during the week in between the work I accomplish for my clients, then in the evenings I refine my query letters and binge write all night long. :) It’s actually been a decent system for me, as having the research in hand makes it so that I can accomplish a surprising amount in a short span of time.

  11. says

    I am trying to write every day — on my own writing — not blogging, but so far it has proven to be difficult. There are so many distractions — like other blogs, yours as well, now that I have discovered you. It’s like dieting, you have to take one day at a time. In the past week, I’ve written two poems and almost finished with a short story, but I had to leave my house and kids to do it. It’s a great high for me to create something new, and it makes me feel really good — now only to get published!

    • says

      Hi there Marina,

      Just wanted to say that I’m really proud that you are taking the initiative to write more in the face of distraction–it’s so hard! I completely know how you feel. Learning is such an important part of writing too, and I’m constantly on other blogs and reading books to learn all that I can, but then it can be difficult to step away and complete the actual writing. Especially when working at home–my apartment is so tiny, and every little noise can make me feel cluttered. I sometimes feel like I’m in an Advil commercial, *snorts.

  12. says

    I’m a binge-writer, without a doubt. What you call composting, I call percolating. I like to take my ideas and let them percolate for a bit, and then when the major parts of the scene are congealed in my head, I sit down and write it. the minor stuff I write by the seat of my pants.

  13. says

    Thanks for the article. It is sometimes difficult to take yourself seriously when a bunch of non-writers are always telling you how you ‘should’ be doing it!

    I am a little of both. I write something every day – it’s almost like an addiction – but I do not work on my current book every day. I go in what I used to call spasms, but will now think of as ‘binging.’ I also use a recorder for my percolating (thanks, Gargantua – I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses the term). It seems my ideas and plot twists never happen when I’m near a computer or a pen.

  14. says

    I’ve got a Don’t Break The Chain calendar at the top of my web log that I update when i hit 1,000 words – whether blog post or chunk of novel – written every day. I’ve been moderately successful, having built up a couple of week-long runs and then broken them due to brainstorming, other commitments or just taking a break.

  15. says

    I am a big supporter of writing daily, even though I struggle with it myself. However, with that said, you make a good point in this article.

    The problem with binge writing, in my opinion, is that it’s very risky. It’s so easy to just “wait for the muse,” so the speak, and never write a word for a week… then a month… then a year… then suddenly it’s the year 2020 and you’re wondering where your book went.

    Still, as long as you have discipline, I think binge writing can work. :)

  16. Richard says

    The two books I wouldn’t ever have produced a manuscript without are No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty, the NaNoWriMo handbook (though I never entered the competition), and The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield.

    The first is full of practical steps like setting targets, monitoring workrate, and just getting on with it whatever you are feeling. The second is like a no-nonsense self-help book, based on the premise that if you are reading it then you have something you have always wanted to do and aren’t doing, and secondly – and I can’t believe how important this idea has become to me – that sometimes every fibre of your body will try and stop you doing that thing. He calls it Resistance, and once you recognise you can deal with it. Like you Joanna, I can’t write after work, so do so every weekend day, and that is what works for me, leaves me tired and happy and knowing I am “doing my work”.

  17. says

    I try to write everyday as well. When I was working on finishing my album I simplified my writing process. I wrote 4 lines an hour this added up to about 10 minutes an hour.

    The result was speedier writing and songs with more focus. Blog writing is different though, when I start an interesting blog I have to finish it…hence binge writing.

    Thank you for this post…

  18. says

    Hello Joanna, I just found your site through Write to Done. I have been writing for several years and I don’t always write everyday either. I do have slower times of writing, and I do binge write too. I just started my own blog on writing in Sept. My desire is to help writers too. I am going to post approximately once a week to help me write more often. I am trying to keep the posts to right at 500 words. This challenges me to write well. I like the wealth of information on this site. I have bookmarked it and will return as I have time to read more. Have a great day, thanks for a great site. Peter

  19. says

    I’m both, I think, depending. When I’m at the start of the story, I focus more on getting a scene a day while I get settled into the story (I’m a pantser, so I don’t know where the book is going). I also do this during the winter. In Washington, DC, the barometric pressure goes up and down, along with my sinuses, so sometimes I really don’t feel well. One scene is an accomplishable goal with a sinus headache. When the weather’s better or I’m further into the story, then I can start writing and suddenly realize I’ve gotten quite a bit done.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Writing Every Day vs Binge Writing  This is an older post that I found this week over at Joanna Penn’s ‘The Creative Penn’ website.  I’m a firm believer that one of our jobs as a writer is to try and find the optimum system that suits US!  For some of us that might be ‘binge writing.’  (Great term btw!). [...]

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