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Posts Tagged ‘word count’

How to write 2000 words a day

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The last few weeks, I’ve been trying to write 2000 words or more each day. I’ve found there are a few things that have helped me be successful.

1.  Don’t sit down to write 2000 words at once.

I’ve found a lot more success when I focus on writing a scene or much smaller goal, like 100 words.  I can write 100 words in 3-5 minutes.  At that pace, it will take 1-2 hours to write 2000 words.  However, blocking aside 1-2 hours seems hard, while blocking a few 30-minute chunks makes it a lot easier.  With 30 minutes at lunch, 30 minutes before dinner, and 30 minutes before bed, there are one-and-a-half hours right there.  I can usually find the extra time somewhere else (generally a little longer at night).

2.  Focus on scenes, not word counts

Each of my scenes tends to run from 1000-3000 words.  By focusing on completing a scene, I take the pressure off just filling out my word counts, and can focus on completing scenes.  The word counts tend to flow after that.

That being said, if I’m stuck, I’ll fall back to just trying to write 100 words.  Small goals are easy to achieve.

3.  Find a writing buddy

Each week, I submit my work to a group of like-minded writers who want to focus on increasing word counts without sacrificing quality.  By critiquing each other’s work, we also sharpen our skill by catching each other’s errors.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that I now hear the other writer’s voices in my head as I write.  They’ll encourage me to focus on bringing out a character quirk, or adding that extra little twist of detail.  Each week, I find that my writing is just a little bit stronger.

4.  Don’t edit

Don’t revise your work at first.  Turning off the internal filter is one of the challenges writers face.  When I hear the voices of my critique partners, they’re encouraging me to bring out other aspects of my characters, scene, or plot.  I’m ignoring all the advice they give me about not repeating words, avoiding passive voice, or other grammatical quirks.

Editing comes later, once your first draft is ready.  In my case, I’m working on a novel, so I’ll be changing focus soon revisions, and away from simply adding words.

5.  Turn off the Internet and TV

Seriously, you have to turn it off.  In the age of Twitter, blogging, constant bombardment from news, etc., there are too many distractions to keep you from focusing on writing.

I used to write while playing a movie for “background noise”, but often found myself turning to watch whatever was on.  After I turned the TV off, I found myself checking email or Twitter every five or ten minutes.

Finally, I decided to simply disconnect the Internet while I’m writing.  At first I wanted to turn it on every few minutes, but by making that a conscious decision, I’m able to go longer between checking my email.  Instead, I’m focused on writing.

6.  When you finish one section, outline the next

It’s nearly impossible to keep an entire book in your mind at the same time.  However, it’s completely possible to hold one scene in focus.  I tend to sketch out the skeleton of the next scene when I’ve finished working on my current one.  This helps me to keep focused, and to understand my mindset the next time I sit down to write.

How many words a day do you write?  How do you do it?

Managing Your Novel’s Progress

Monday, May 31st, 2010

This week, I thought I’d share my progress on my novel, which I announced that I’d start work on in the beginning of this month.  There are two reasons for doing so:

  • To share a method which has helped me be more disciplined about writing
  • To show that even experienced writers can still have trouble keeping to a schedule

The basic idea was to apply some concepts from project management to writing a novel.  Ideally, to complete a first draft of a 100,000-word novel from May 1 to December 31, a writer needs to write approximately 409 words per day.  Rounding this up to 425 per day, this is still an attainable target for most writers.

In the graph below, you can see the red line represents an ideal increase of 425 words per day.  The blue line represents my actual numbers.

Word Count - May

Word Count - May

As you can see, I’m currently behind (by about 6000 words).  However, there’s something interesting that happened on May 22nd–my actual word count started going up.  That was the day I started officially tracking my word count.  By paying attention to where I’m at, and where I’m supposed to be, I know whether I need to speed up or adjust my schedule.  Having more information helps me to make better decisions, or adjust my goals.

You can also see that there were several weeks where my word count was flat–this means I was not making progress at all.  Like many other writers, I kept telling myself, “I’ll make some progress tomorrow.”  Putting my progress in a spreadsheet and graphing the results is already making a huge difference in how much work I get done each day.

And as you can see, it doesn’t take long before you get several thousand words behind.

While I could fake out the results to show that I’m on track, I’d rather keep my actual progress so I can use it as a learning tool (and as motivation to finish more than the minimum each day).  Working on this minimum each day has also had some side benefits–beyond my primary story, I’ve also recorded ideas for three other stories, as well as come up with several nuggets for plot twists within my primary story.

Since my goal of completing a novel by the end of the year is self-imposed, there’s no real penalty for missing the date.  However, setting a date and tracking my progress helps me to make sure I continue to get closer each day.

Also, since I need to update my spreadsheet every day to keep the graphs current, there’s also a bit of self-motivation to add something to the story just so I can show some progress for that day.  Even if I don’t hit my 425 words each day, I expect I’ll always add at least 100.

When I get closer to the end of my draft, I do expect I’ll find my word count stabilizing (or even going down) as I start to shift into the editing phase.  However, for pounding out the first draft, I think this method is going to be an effective way to keep myself working every day.

What tips do you have for other writers to help them make progress on their writing projects?  What works for you?

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