Having a set of goals as you write your novel is a good thing. I’ve spoken previously about how I view two writing “seasons” per year, and I try to stick to that. However, don’t get so caught up in that kind of schedule that you let it impede the creative process.
I recently caught myself in that trap. I had pledged to get 10,000 words per week done on my new novel. Unfortunately, the combination of work and literary demands created an exhausting climate that stressed me out, and that was becoming apparent in what I wrote. I was putting down drivel on paper so that I could simply meet my word count goal.
Luckily, I snapped out of my melancholy and remembered that the only pressure that existed was what I put on myself. My creative process was suffering, so I pulled back and decided that the weekly word count goal, while nice, was a bit arbitrary. What good was a word count goal if the words created sucked?
I’m about a week and a half behind my original goal of having my novel complete by the end of March, and I think it will be much better because I took pressure off myself. I have no major literary commitments afterwards – in fact, I’m taking some time off and will only write the occasional short story – so why was I in a rush?
The creative process is fragile, and it doesn’t operate well under stress. Yes, you have to push through sometimes, but don’t let stress crush it. It will only make things harder since you’ll have to rewrite garbage made during that time. Why write twice when you can calm down and get it closer to right the first time?