Posts Tagged ‘consistency’

Why Consistency is Important

On to a new topic today, Squiders! But first, I want to tell you about a promo that’s going on through tomorrow, March 17. You can get a variety of fantasy novels or series for free or $.99 through here. I’ve got my first novel, Hidden Worlds, included. There’s some good stuff (I may have bought a couple myself) so take a look!

So, we’ll start with why consistency is important today, and then in subsequent posts we’ll look at ways to build up and maintain consistency as well as what to do when life is getting in the way. Like the submitting/publishing posts, there’s some stuff I’ll leave off the blog posts so that there’ll be some new info in the book when I put it out, though I’m not quite sure what exactly as I haven’t finished outlining this book yet. But that’ll be done before next week.

Merriam-Webster defines consistency as a “harmony of conduct or practice with profession” which is a bizarre way to put it, if you ask me. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “consistent behavior or treatment.” (And also “the way a substance holds together,” which is irrelevant to this discussion.)

If you do a quick Internet search, you’ll find several dozen articles on why consistency is the key to success. But what it basically comes down to is this: if you’re not regularly doing something, practicing it and improving on it and trying new things, how can you expect to be successful?

I heard a tenet once, many years ago, that said you have to write a million words of crap before you get anywhere. Not sure who said it originally, since the writing community picked up the idea and ran with it. A million words sounds like a lot. It’s 10 100K word novels. 20 50K, if that’s more your length. It took me about eight years to get through my million words of crap, and that’s not counting earlier stuff from my teens.

So, to be specific, why does it pay to be consistent with your writing practices:

  • Things get done. A novel can seem like an insurmountable goal, and if you’re writing once or twice every month or so, it very well could be. By writing consistently, you can break a goal into something manageable and see that you’re actually getting closer.
  • It helps improve your craft. The thing about that old “practice makes perfect” saying is that it’s true, to some extent. Sure, there is the occasional odd duck who can put out a story that gets them everything they want on the first go, but most people have to work at learning some aspect of the writing process, whether it’s plotting, description, characterization, structure, etc. Writing consistently can help you learn to see the errors in your own work, and also help you try out ways to fix those errors.
  • It keeps you from getting rusty. When I was younger, I’d write for, oh, six months of the year, and then take the other six months off and do other things. Whenever I came back to the writing thing, it was as if I couldn’t remember what I was doing. Sure, it’d come back eventually, but I could have saved myself a lot of time and pain if I hadn’t taken such a long break.
  • It helps you push yourself. Most writers have a list of things they’d like to get done eventually. For example, I’d really like to write a cozy mystery someday. Maybe set in space. By writing more consistently, you can get through projects faster, which leaves you time to experiment, or to say to yourself that maybe now, finally, is the time to try the epic time traveling romance you’ve always wanted to do.
  • Writing becomes a habit. And habits tend to get done in a day around everything else.
  • More opportunities will come your way. If you’re more consistent, you’ll probably build up a reputation in your writing community for being dependable, which means that when that editor needs a last minute story to round out an anthology they know you’ll be good for it. Or if that small press you’ve had your eye on opens a call for historical romance, you’ll have a novel waiting in the wings ready for submission. Or if you’re at a conference and overhear an agent say that they would give up coffee to get their hands on a MG scifi adventure with a female protagonist, oh hey, you just finished one up last month.
  • The writing business isn’t for the faint of heart. Writing can be very depressing. There’s a lot of waiting and rejection and a lack of response, and if you’ve got one novel done and you’re waiting for it to sell for a million dollars and make you a bestseller, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It helps to move on to new things, to have more than one project, to keep your mind off of what a single project is (or isn’t) doing and to keep your momentum going.
  • It keeps you up to date. The publishing world and its trends change often, and it can help you tailor your goals and what you’re working on if you’re generally aware of what’s going on.

Anything I’m leaving out, Squiders?

Consistency

You’ve probably heard it said a dozen times over, in a dozen ways: the one requirement to be a writer is to write.

But life is cyclical. Priorities change. Things happen. Writing sometimes falls by the wayside, and sometimes it can be hard to get back into it, especially if it’s been a while.

Now, admittedly, I make my living writing and doing writing-related things like editing or book formatting, so I can’t get too far from it. But when things have happened and it’s been hard to work on my personal projects, I like to break out an old standby: the consistency challenge.

These are month-long challenges to write a little every day. Depending on the circumstances, I usually select a goal between 300 and 1000 words. And you do need a goal. Else you end up writing a sentence and calling it good, especially if it’s been a long day, and then you’re not really getting anywhere.

And if you stick with it (though invariably a day or two gets skipped due to extraneous circumstances) you get to the end of the month with a decent amount of words and an idea of how to incorporate writing back into your life on a regular basis.

But I don’t recommend going for more than a month. After a month it no longer makes sense to write just to be writing. At that point you should probably switch to a more dedicated project and set realistic goals to help you get it done. And while some people want–or need to–write every day, it’s not viable for everyone. And 300 words a day may not help you get where you want to go.

Plus if you’re editing or submitting, an arbitrary word count goal is no help whatsoever.

I’m doing a consistency challenge this month. The Fourth threw me off a bit, but I’m back on track and making good progress. It’s nice to be writing again, though it’s only been a little over a month, all told. And I’ve finished a short story that seemed like it would never get done and outlined my part of a joint novel, so it’s all been good.

Do you like the occasional consistency challenge, Squiders? Anything else you like to do to jumpstart your writing again after a break?