Like many writers, I read Stephen King’s nonfiction book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. When I first learned that he wrote 3,000 words a day, everyday it seemed like a lot. Now, many years after reading his advice, it the ideal seems either daunting or totally doable, depending on the day. I work full time, and according to contract, that means forty two and a half hours before I am eligible to put in for overtime. I also work two side jobs.
There are days when three thousands newly created words is more of a challenge.
And what about editing? How do writers who are attempting to get consistent word counts everyday deal with writing. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I am editing a large project, it isn’t uncommon to go into negative word production (which is another King axiom; cut ten percent during the edit).
We will get to some methods of addressing that particular issue in a moment. For now, there are a few other word count productivity questions I want to throw out, because admit it, this is exciting stuff. #writinggeek
Should I count blogging?
It might sound crazy to even worry about these details, but generating three thousand words a day is the same as writing 1,095,000 words a year.
The Words I Track
1) New words: these can include story summaries that will be expanded into regular narrative, outlines material, and story beats (for fans of the Self Publishing Podcast crew). Story building can be counted, but it isn’t wrong to forbid yourself from logging this category. I know a very good writer that will probably never finish a novel, but will have an entire universe created to the smallest detail — so writer beware.
2) Blogging: I say count it, but set limits. Even though I awoke this mrning with ideas for several different blog articles (a rare occurrence) I am limiting myself to five hundred words. (Because I have a novel to finish, Hello Moon!)
3) Email words: no, this is like an Olympic sprinter bragging about how she walked to the mail box every day — not something that will bring home a gold medal.
4) Social Media: if the raw number of words spent on social media make a great novelist, then I am in trouble. This should probably be subtracted from the daily goal. (Look at me mom, I wrote eight thousand words on Facebook! Ah, no. There are so many reasons not to do this.)
Summary: Today, I start adding the words I blog to my daily log. The reason is simple; I don’t blog consistently and it is something that can help aspiring novelists.
Bonus: The best way to meet word count goals is to join, or start, an accountability group. Josh Hayes, Scott McGlasson, and Roy Upton have allowed me to be part of their word count team. So far, 2016 is looking to be a good year.
Results: I have not made 3k a day, but I have done better than 1k so far.
Here are some good books on writing productivity:
2k to 10k (by Rachel Aaron)
5,000 Words Per Hour (by Chris Fox)
Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly (by Jim Denney)
During the last several months I have been extremely inspired and entertained by the Self Publishing Podcast of Sean Platt, David Wright, and Johnny B. Truant. Writers who are not afraid to work hard might give it a try.
Three of my favorite books on writing faster are 5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox,
2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron, and
Writing In Overdrive by Jim Denney. Each has valuable insights of their own, but also share a common theme. Fast writing is not bad writing. We don't have to agonize over each word before moving on.
Some legendary authors do it that way. I read that Kurt Vonnegut perfected each page before moving on. Personally, I tend to start from the beginning when writing organically, which results in the first three chapters being heavily polished. The words come harder after 30k words, because it becomes more and more time consuming to read from the beginning as the novel grows.
It is a good method and I like it. So does the author of Story Trumps Structure, Steven James. Writing organically is sometimes fast and often slow, but there are many real advantages, assuming you don't get stuck. I will talk more about this in a separate article.
This article is not about plotting versus pantsting, but about productivity.
The Number One Reason to Write Fast
The best reason to write quickly is not just to make your word count everyday, but to find continuity. There is a high probability that a rapidly written story (a novel in one month or two weeks or nine days...) will need a lot of revision and editing. Parts may be destined for the circular file.
But you will learn a lot about your characters and their journey. There is also a good chance that the first draft will be better (and more consistent) than you could have hoped for. As a bonus, all those rabbit trails might be the start of other stories with real potential.
So try this to jumpstart your writing:
1) Brainstorm an outline in one day; create a list of scenes and characters.
2) Set that outline aside and refer to it only when necessary if at all.
3) Set a high word count goal for each day am meet it.
4) Do not edit anything.
5) Take a break before revising.
The results may surprise you.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation