Daily Word Counts and Writing Sprints

Word Count

The first couple of novels I wrote were targeted in the 80K range which I ended up nailing spot on. For my third novel, I wanted to write something a bit more epic and it ended up at 140K. For the first two novels, I took Stephen King's advice to heart and wrote 1,000 words everyday no matter what. So each of those books took almost three months to write. For my last book, I upped my daily quota to 2,000 words day and took nearly the same amount of time to practically double my word count. The problem was, that amount of effort burned me out and I didn't write for almost another eight years.

Since I started in earnest last fall, I've been actively searching for a process that will work for me. I had originally started this new journey looking to write screenplays and only screenplays. But as detailed in another post, I have come full circle back to novels. I was looking to start again with my 1,000 words per day tactic I had used before but that seemed like a light load when I had all day to write. I was also afraid to take on the 2,000 words per day for fear that I would burn out before I barely got started. So what to do?

Thankfully, I stumbled across a few different resources that coincided nicely with some writing exercises from my screenwriting class. The first was a book "Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing" by Libbie Hawker. I loved her unique take on outlining as it breeds organic story structure, something Corey Mandall preaches with his screenplay class. Her outline and story start with the character and their arcs, thereby ensuring that your story will be meaningful and strong.

The other piece that fell into place was Chris Fox's book "5000 Words per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter." Chris gives you exercises to practice writing sprints. They start out at five minutes and eventually build up to 30-60 minutes. This also coincided nicely with recent homework assignments from Corey doing intuitive writing. While I'm not sure I could ever get up to 5K words per hour, I do like the sprint mentality. It makes the writing less daunting somehow and my word output is starting to easily exceed 2000 words per day.

By outlining your story first with Libbie's technique and then following that up with using Chris' writing sprints, I anticipate that I'll be able to write a "regular" sized novel in about a month. And as I plan on self-publishing, I'll need to be fairly prolific, as that is the new normal in today's world of publishing. If you're a bit intimidated by either outlining or writing several thousand words a day, I would give either or both of these resources a try. I will follow up later after I have completed a couple of projects using these techniques and report my findings. For now, I'm excited to continue on this wondrous journey.

David