Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to push up your daily word count...

So, a couple of months ago, fellow Lucky13 member L. R. Giles sent us an email recommending this article: How I went from writing 2,000 words to 10,000 words a day.

It is a great article, and I read it enthusiastically, hoping to increase my comparitively low word count. At the time, I was writing only a guaranteed 700 words of fiction a day. Unbelievably low for somebody who claims to be a professional writer. 

In the article, its author, Rachel Aaron talks in detail about her theory that KNOWLEDGE (know what you're writing before you write it) + ENTHUSIASM (get excited about what you're writing) + TIME (track productivity and evaluate) = LOADS OF WRITING.

Since reading the post, I've been tracking my own productivity and evaluating it. I've been trying to find a writing routine that works for me. Findings so far?

  • Mondays are always productive
  • If I write a lot one day, I often can't think what to write the next
  • Once writing, it's best to stay writing for as long as possible as interruptions (including making pancakes, reading, watching films, listening to the radio, the dreaded, ignoble, wonderful Internet) tend to be permanent
  • Working from home for too many days in a row leads to increased napping and guitar playing
  • Working in pyjamas for too many consecutive days can lower self-esteem and increase risk of napping
  • If I don't write first thing, I don't write at all
I've also been reading the wonderful On Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande (1934). She, too, advises observing ourselves in order to find out under what circumstances and in what environments we write best. It was partly down to her that I found out the above things. I also discovered this, my favourite discovery by far:
It has to be carefully chosen music, and every song must fit, but then, it is the perfect - and easily the most enjoyable - way to write. I wrote 3,000 words during one listen to Radiohead's The Bends this week. This discovery is one of the highlights of my life as a writer so far. I have always thought music a distraction, because I get too into it, I get caught up in my own emotions and nostalgia. But when perfectly chosen for the scene and characters, it is magic.

So, how have these findings improved my wordcount? From typically 700 words in a sitting, I'm now writing about 3,000 in the same amount of time: between one and two hours. It still isn't every day, but that's because I still don't have a concrete plot for my novel. I'm getting to know my characters and discovering themes (there are too many competing at the moment) and working out setting.

Once I have the plot sorted I feel sure, in a way I never have before, that I will be able to write 3,000 words a day. At least. I feel certain, by continuing to pay attention to my own writing habits, and how various factors effect these, I will be able to write more than that.

So, how about you? What is your typical daily word count? How do you write best? Do you think you could ever get to the point of writing 10,000 words a day? Would you even want to?


  1. I tend to find that the closer to completion I get the more rapidly the words flow. Especially in the early stages when, as you say, you're getting to know your characters, writing can feel forced or laborious - a lot of the time I avoid writing anything at all at this stage since it can lead me to feel even more confused about structure and character development - I tend to stick to rough notes and conceptual "flow charts" that look like meaningless gibberish to anyone else (including myself, if I return to them after a long break).

    After a point though, it's as if you reach a saturation point where everything comes together and the characters and plot feel fully formed in your mind; then the writing flows like water bursting through a dam or a light bulb flicking on in your head, illuminating the story in its entirety (that's enough run-of-the-mill analogies for today, Andy!).

    I've been researching and writing non-fiction these days but now you've made me think about fiction I might have to revisit some old story ideas :)

  2. Hiya Andy,

    The analogies are apt! And do it! Visit the old story ideas. You're so right about writing feeling forced or laborious at the start. I will try holding off for a bit, until I have a direction to write in again, think that's good advice.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. I try to write at least 1000 words a day, although I can manage more if the words are flowing. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours; sometimes… all day. If I'm really tired, though, it can be as little as 500. 10,000 words a day would kill me! :op

  4. Wow! Chelsey, I think you and I have similar writing tendencies--except I can't write to music at all. What does help me is listening to a song or two to get me in the mood right before I start writing, but I have to turn it off when the actual writing begins.

    Like Emma, I try to write at least 1000 words a day. On most days, I can knock out about 2000 words before I get exhausted. I've only made it to 3000 a handful of times, and I can't imagine being able to do it every day!

    So glad you have Dorothea Brande's book; it's one of my favorites.

    1. I know, Emma, 10,000 would kill me too! And maybe I've spoken too soon about the 3,000 being my new norm...

      And Caroline, are you SURE you can't write to music? I always thought I couldn't too, until I found the perfect music for my scene. (Saying that, I haven't repeated the experience, yet!) Yup. Dorothea's book is incredible, I am going to re-read it until I feel I have officially become a writer...