Obstacle race

Write Short Stories To Build Your Writing Stamina

Do you find it hard to stay motivated during an ambitious writing project?

Does the idea of writing an entire novel scares you?

It scares me too. And when I started to write my Dark Fantasy novella a couple of months ago, I knew my enthusiasm would be short-lived. Just take a look at my depressing word count in the plot below:

Word count progress
My word count progress in May

In fact, I wrote the first 5,000 words in two days and it took me several several more weeks to add 2,600 words to my final word count.

My problem, as a newbie fiction writer, is that I don’t have the amount of stamina required to actually finish a project of this dimension. I get easily distracted by social media, my blog, Medium and by other story ideas.

I also get too insecure about the plot and structure of the story. For this reason, I get caught up in micro-editing my existing scenes to oblivion. And end up ditching the project on my unfinished folder and forget all about it.

I do all of this for two reasons:

  • I’m too afraid to move forward
  • I don’t have enough experience in writing fiction

Instead of banging my head on the wall and deciding (once again) that writing fiction is not for me. I decided to change my strategy and build my writing stamina instead.

Writing stamina – what is it?

Beginnings are easy. They truly are.

I know this because I have countless drafts of potential novels buried in my laptop and notebooks. And maybe, if you’re reading this article, you have them too.

I have at least a new idea every week (sometimes, every day!). Instead of getting crazy and trying to handle several massive writing projects at the same time I decided to go smaller and build my stamina first.

A lack of stamina reflects a lack of experience.

You’re not a bad writer if you can’t write an entire novel on your first go. In fact, you need to give your brain the chance to learn the structure of storytelling and you need to give yourself time to adjust to that structure.

I may be an inexperienced fiction writer. But I have years of writing non-fiction to help me understand that concept of stamina.

When I start writing an article it usually means that I already had time to properly mature the idea on my mind. I don’t write outlines and I don’t keep extensive notes on my upcoming articles, that’s how I work best as a blogger.

Outlines distract me as I prefer to write like I’m having a conversation with someone, instead of reading a text from a script.

But in the beginning it took me ages to write a proper article. I would research, outline, think, re-think, edit, re-write and eventually get so tired of looking at my one-page ramblings that I would hate the article as soon as I hit Publish (sometimes even before that).

Things got better with time. I analyzed a lot of articles written by other bloggers and I started to have a better grasp of my writing process.

This deliberate practice allowed me two things: (i) to gain an intuitive knowledge of the proper structure for an article and (ii) learn how to be a more effective writer.

And I’m still learning. Because writing is an ever-evolving skill. It never stops growing and developing, unless you want it to.

Stop writing today and you’ll notice how your ability to write large articles diminishes quickly with time.

Writing stamina – how to build it?

Stamina can be built by writing. But instead of tackling big writing projects, go for less ambitious goals and build your muscles from there.

What’s the longest story you can write from start to finish? Mine used to be 2,000 words. Longer than that I would lose my focus and motivation.

Now, my latest short story has around 6,200 words. It’s not a lot, but it’s an improvement, plus I managed to stay focused and motivated on a single story for two weeks. So this sounds like real progress to me.

Don’t push yourself exceedingly hard (like trying to write 1,000 words every day). But don’t relax on your goals either.

As Marta Brzosko wrote after challenging herself to write and publish one article per day:

Discovering how to stretch yourself enough to leave your comfort zone — but not so much as to cross the line of the panic zone.

Marta Brzosko in How To Overcome Writing Stagnation by Designing Your Own 30-Day Challenge

Only you know how much pressure you can take before abandoning a writing project. Don’t try to go beyond that. It will work during the first week, but you will quickly find yourself returning to your old patterns.

And failing your ambitious writing goals is bad for you on the long run. Don’t try to run before you learn how to walk. I’ve been making that same old mistake for the past decade.

In time, my failures as a fiction writer convinced me I wasn’t good enough to be a storyteller. These failures made me give up on my goals of writing fiction.

But places like Medium reminded that, maybe, I’m just lacking experience!

Tell me about your writing goals! Are you happy with your progress or do you feel you’re still lacking the proper stamina to tackle those big projects?

Image credits: Jaco Pretorius on Unsplash

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