While you’re here, check out some of what I wrote last year and get a free book!
2019 is just around the corner! For the past ten years, my new years resolution was to write a novel. Last year, I accomplished that, and was able to publish Weird Theology. This year my new year’s resolution is to publish two novels, Weird Theology’s sequel Strange Cosmology and either book three in that series or book one in a new series, the Dragon’s Scion, but since both of those are written and just need a lot of editing, I feel like making that my resolution is a bit too easy.
So instead, I set a different resolution: write, on average, two thousand new words a day. If I stick to that, I’ll have written seven-hundred and fifty thousand words for the year. Given my first book clocked in at about one hundred and fourteen thousand words, that means I should have about four books finished by the end of the year. (I’m allowing for the remaining words to go to editing, blog posts, and ideas I discard entirely.) My stretch goal is to hit 2700 words a day, which means I’ll get up to one million words for the year, but I’m not going to push too hard for that.
Let me share with you how I intend on meeting this goal, and include some suggestions that will hopefully help you.
One thing I’ve always found helps me is hitting discreet, measurable goals. “Writing a novel” is a huge undertaking that can come across as being extremely overwhelming. “Write 2000 words a day” is much smaller and more manageable, but that’s also overwhelming in its own way. If I’m sick, if there’s holidays, if work gets crazy, two thousand words might not be possible. On the flip side, if I set the goal as a strict two-thousand, I find it tempting to quit when i hit that goal because extra words that day are ‘wasted.”
So I decide to go for an average of two thousand words a day, and then spent about an hour creating this tracker in google sheets:
A couple things I love about this tracker: it carries over any balance, positive or negative, from week to week. I went into Christmas week with a balance of -2,416 words, which gave me a much needed buffer for the holiday season, especially given everything else that happened. It also means that if I have a great day like November 30th and write over 5000 words in a day, I have “credit” I can use for later.
You don’t have to go to my level of type-A to track your own writing. I just know that having a progress bar is a huge motivator for me. Find what motivates you and incorporate it into your style. You also don’t need to go for a strict word limit – instead, try setting the goal of writing for an average of an hour a day, or writing on average half a scene in a day. Regular progress with room for life to get in the way is the important part!
Why 2000 words?
So you probably noticed the tracker started back in late November. When i started the tracker, I set the goal of 3000 words for myself. As you can see from how the tracker looked, I was regularly falling short of that goal. I was, however, hitting an average of 2000 for three out of four weeks, so decided that was probably a more realistic goal.
As I mentioned a bit ago, it’s important to set goals that are realistic for what you can accomplish, otherwise it’s setting yourself up for failure. This year, the three thousand word goal isn’t obtainable, but two thousand words absolutely is. I’m hoping that, as I maintain this pace throughout the year, I’m able to increase that number up. Maybe in 2020 I’ll shoot for three thousand words a day!
Everyone is different, everyone writes at different paces. Try and pick one that works for you. I’d suggest trying to at least hit two thousand words a week – that will get you to the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in a year – but know your own limits. If you do something like my tracker, make it easy to adjust your goal so you can correct as needed. Don’t be afraid of doing so if you’re finding that you set the goal too high or too low!
How do you plan on actually pulling this off?
A few simple rules for myself:
First, unless I am physically or mentally unable to, write something every day. Even if it’s just a few sentences, some progress every day will help me get closer to the goal. However, if I’m physically or mentally unable to write on a given day, I’m not going to beat myself up like I used to. Bad days happen. There’s no benefit to kicking myself. Just remind myself I have the rest of the week or even next week to make it up to myself, and move on.
Second, sprints. I’ve sung their praises before. If I’m in the zone, I can easily hit one thousand words in a single twenty minute sprint. If I’m not in the zone, I can still hit five hundred. So I’m going to do at minimum three sprints a day, which should put me just around the the two thousand word goal.
Third, take breaks. If I’ve built up a buffer on my goal, I’m allowing myself to take time to read or play video games or watch some TV. It’s a kind of self care, it lets my wrist recover from marathon session, and it turns the things I like doing into a reward.
My first two suggestions were “here’s how you can adapt what I’m doing.” This suggestion is much more straightforward: follow those three rules. You should adjust how many sprints you do based on your speed, but beyond that, these three rules are fairly universal for writing in my experience. Pace yourself reasonably for what works for you, then push yourself a bit to move past that point.