Binge-Writing

Binge-Writing

Last year, I finished one first draft, and one first draft only. I wrote lots of redrafts — in 2012 I took Watching from a sixth draft to a ninth, as well as rewriting Destroying. But I did a lot of starting first drafts.

I started a novel called Rite inspired by the Rite of Spring, about ballet dancers and sacrifice and friendship and love. I got about twenty thousand words into it, if that, before realising I didn’t have time right then to finish it.

I started a novel called Isabel that I’d attempted in the past. I wrote over thirty thousand words of that during NaNoWriMo before realising that it had failed before with good reason — I don’t read enough murder mystery / crime novels to know how to write them. I wasn’t ready to write those characters or that plot. That just wasn’t the time for Isabel to happen, so I abandoned that.

I started a novel called That Was The Bus which was a huge, hilarious, Tom-Holt-meets-Douglas-Adams kind of book, but I had to abandon that one too, partly because I got quite seriously ill and wasn’t able to write for two weeks, and partly because I hadn’t planned it and I couldn’t do the concept justice (but might, one day, even though it would have immense copyright issues).

I played with the idea of a prequel to my Death and Fairies trilogy, called Forgetting, and wrote two and a half chapters before putting it aside to work on later, not because I couldn’t write it then but because other things demanded my attention.

I basically abandoned a lot of things.

And I binge-wrote. Most certainly I did that. During November alone, I wrote 200,000 words — more than I’d written the whole of the rest of the year. After that, I felt completely drained, with no energy for writing, and yet … I wanted to. But I couldn’t. I’d used up my creative power, and that was that. I spent December writing background notes and the abandoned prequel opening chapters, because I didn’t have any brain power to think up another story.

In 2013, I decided I was not going to binge-write. NaNoWriMo be damned, I was not going to use all my writing energy in one month and then spent the months after it going through a creative drought. I signed up to WriYe, set a yearly goal of 350k (which I later changed to 500k), and decided that I was going to write every day. For the whole year. I was going to write over forty thousand words every month, and I wasn’t going to take long periods of time off writing.

It’s April now, and I’m beginning to wonder if binge writing maybe suits me better.

Because the thing about writing every day is that I don’t treat it like a job where I get holidays and weekends — I write every day, Saturday and Sunday included. And even if I occasionally miss my wordcount, I still try and write every day.

My creative brain never gets to stop. My words brain never gets a rest. That part of me is always working, always thinking, and it doesn’t get a day off.

I gave it Easter Sunday off. Partly because I felt it was needed, partly because it was the day before April’s Camp NaNoWriMo in which I’d decided to participate (mainly as an aid to WriYe, not as a challenge in and of itself), and partly because I just didn’t have the energy to write anything else.

Binge writing probably isn’t as productive as slowly slugging it out over a long period of time, and it certainly isn’t a habit that lends itself to become a full-time writer, but I’m beginning to think it has its benefits. What my brain wants right now, more than anything else, is a break.

I’m not giving it one. Partly because I’m nearly finished with my current novel, and if I stop now it’ll never get done. I’m determined to finish it: I want to reach the end. But partly because if I stop, I know it’ll be hard to start again.

Slowing down, though. That’s allowed. I wrote nearly eighty thousand words in February. I’m 73k ahead of my WriYe target already. I don’t need to beat it, I just need to meet it. I keep telling myself this: 1507 words per day. Not 3000. Just 1507. And then you can stop. 

I need to learn to stop. I need to learn to say, “Okay, that’s enough,” and not to overwork my brain. I kid myself that I’m not binge-writing if I do it all the time, but I am. I’m just never stopping. Writing 80k in a month is still writing 80k in a month, even if I do it three months running, and sooner or later I’ll burn out.

So, I’m slowing down. I’m saying it here so that you keep me to it. Oh, and I’m going to actually try and blog regularly, too. I might be writing words, but none of them are going here, and they probably should.

How about you, readers? Do you binge write? Do you start novels and abandon them?

18 thoughts on “Binge-Writing

  1. Ahehe, you have the opposite problem to me – I have spurts of inspiration, followed by cold hard slogs of “I don’t want to write!”, but I make myself. Possibly because I write so many essays for school and other stuff, I just don’t want to. I’ll play the story out in my head, I’ll work out background notes and plot points . . . but writing it? Bah. Not on your nellie.

    I’ll do you a swap – some of your bingeing, for some of my procrastinating ;)

    1. I procrastinate like mad too — hence why I am permanently online and expect everyone else to be as well…
      I just somehow write a lot. And don’t do any work. Hmmm.

  2. I have to admit that I binge write. As you know, I also wrote 200k for NaNoWriMo in November. Despite taking over two weeks off work at the start of the month, by the end I was exhausted. I was just so focussed on getting the words out. I had stopped eating and sleeping properly, and in the last week I fell ill, which I think was as a direct result of this. Instead of stopping and taking a break, which is what my body was telling me to do, I still pushed on, as well as doing a full time job on top of it.

    I took a few days off work at the start of December, but I was still pretty exhausted. I didn’t fully recover until I had my two week break at the end of January.

    However, I rarely abandon my novels. I’ve done NaNoWriMo six times now and, of those, there’s only one novel where I didn’t complete a first draft, which was in my second year. However, that novel hasn’t been forgotten. That year I had a couple of background characters, who I had literally just added to the novel to make up the numbers (it was about a group of Uni students living in the same flat in their first year), but who then proceeded to take over the whole novel. At some point I intend to revisit that novel, and rewrite it with them as the lead characters…

    With the exception of my first Nano novel (which was essentially a “Final Fantasy” fanfic), I intend to go back and work on all of my novels again.

    I never truly abandon anything that I write. Back when I was 12 I had started writing a series of sci-fi stories, which were pretty dire. (They featured a space monster called “The Ultimate” who could change states from a solid to a liquid to a gas – hey, I was a 12 year old boy!) You may think there’s not much hope for this, because they do read like, well, like a 12 year old wrote them. But, one day, I will write a novel which has a 12 year old boy in it who likes to write sci-fi stories. One quick cut and paste job later and people will praise me for my ability to uniquely capture the writing style of a 12 year old! ;)

    There is always something that can be salvaged from an “abandoned” piece of writing…

  3. Nope, I do not. I get ideas galore, but I can never dive in the way I might like. I need to do some sort of week-long writing sprint soon, though– I write something like five hundred words a day. Whoops.

  4. I so do! I’ve abandoned a few…but I didn’t get TOO far in them, so that’s good. Others, I intend to work on later, as they need work. I also get TONS of ideas, but not tons of plots.

  5. Ohh, I get the tons of ideas, but not tons of plots thing. I always have an idea for a premise, the “what if” bit, but then I get to a certain point and realize that I need more plot-type details to fuel the adventures, because apparently just putting “and then various alliances and betrayals” doesn’t work if you’re a plotter.

  6. 200 000 words in a month is amazing! The most I have written is 32 000.

    I have nominated you for a blog award, if you are interested, but if you think it is a waste of your time, feel free not to accept.

    1. I’ll check it out when I have more stable WiFi — I’m currently in Scotland, hopping onto any internet I can get in cafes and the like, so it’s a bit limited for writing blog posts :)

  7. I definitely need breaks from my writing. Actually, I’d say the saddest thing about writing a lot is that then I read less.

    But I don’t have your binge writing ways. I just miss actual books when I’m spending tons of time writing.

    But there are only so many hours in the day. And sometimes my brain rebels on me.

    1. Ah yes, I’m the same. I do tend not to read, because I only have so much energy. If it’s half an hour of reading or half an hour of writing, I’ll usually choose the latter.

  8. you clearly have an amazing amount of discipline, and should congratulate yourself for that. reading this article made me wonder if you keep a journal, and if you write in it daily. when it comes to writing a story, i am definitely a binge-writer. there is kind of this idea that the muse is moving through me, and i am the medium, and i am not sure how long the muse will stick around, and so i feel a twinge of panic, i suppose (do you ever watch ted talks? i don’t love her books, but elizabeth gilbert gives a worthwhile ted talk regarding this concept). but i write in a journal daily, simply because i adore the act of writing.

    1. I don’t keep a journal at the moment. I did, last year, from January 22nd until around the 13th May, and I wrote in it every day (that was simply how long the notebook lasted me), but because I write so much fiction, it wasn’t always practical. I write a lot of poetry at the moment, and that sort of serves as a journal for me — I make sure everything has a date on it, and then when I look back I can match up what I wrote to how I was feeling at the time or what happened then. :)

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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