Real tips to help get you into that elusive habit of making productive word counts.
I can’t count how many How-To articles I’ve read over the years, alleging tips to get out of the writer’s block ditch, or increasing your word count into something resembling productive. Why, I even bought a book boasting on how to write 20,000 words a week. That’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back. (I’m a slow reader).
Recently, a short article crossed my path with the glamourous lure on how to write 100,000k words a month. So being the sucker that I am, I stopped by to read it. And it went about like this, me-me-me blah-blah-blah, sit down, and write until you reach 100,000 words.
Wait, what? Are you f’ing kidding me? This guy’s article was seriously all that. Just sit and write until you reach that goal? (another 5 minutes of my life I can’t get back)
Pfft… sing it with me… “IF ONLY IT WERE THAT SIMPLE.”
But we know it isn’t. Even if you’re not in a rut, a 100,000words is some hella word count goal and I personally only know of maybe two authors who might hit close to that. But how does one get out of the rut, or simply increase their personal word count, if you feel you’re a bit on the sluggish side? They never tell you how to get those crusty rusty wheels turning to start with.
Truth be told, the biggest roadblock towards those mega word counts, or any at all, is that life gets in the way.
So, I am here to help. No, I can’t make life go away and leave you alone, but I’ve been there (hence all the reading and looking for the crystal ball of sage word count manna and wisdom). And in this article, I am going to guide you with tried and true, easy steps that actually work to get you jump started and on your way.
FIRST STEP: Contract with Life
We of the ‘Able-to-ignore-chores-like-no-other-in-order-to-write’ Clan have to take a step back to acknowledge that Life throws spectacular curve balls. Thus forth, our first step is to have a contract agreeing with Life that sometimes its gonna get in the way. There is no way to dodge it 24/7, but, Oh Boy, wouldn’t that be great? Well, aside from ignoring the basket of unfolded clothes, it’s just not gonna go away. So, you have a contract acknowledging its gonna happen.
Now, you’re probably wondering what the heck am I rambling on about and should you click out now before you lose any more personal time. But hold off a second, and hear me out. I really do encourage you to set this bizarre contract up for yourself because then you can free yourself to set realistic goals that are able to flex when needed and in this, the following steps will help you reach your goals even when Life upholds its end of the contract.
So, let’s get started….
STEP TWO: Setting your Goal.
Instead of saying, “I’m going to write every day.” Set the goal for “I’m going to write 4 out of 7 or 5 out of 7 days.” This way, anything you do over your initial 4 or 5 goal days is bonus time that you get to reward yourself for.
So, let’s say you accomplished to stick to your writing the first two days but then on day three you discover dragons are eating you out of house and home; the Happy-Ever-After love of your life has discovered your secret stash of Salted Lemon Icing Almonds and has since transformed into a Sofa Nome you suspected he truly was. On top of that, Little Miss Unicorn Sparkles has punctured a tire on the car on the day you had a doctor’s appointment.
Are you going to write today? Its not looking promising. But it’s okay. Why? Because you have a contract with Life forewarning you it was going to get in the way at some point. So, no surprises there.
Besides you’ve already gotten two days of writing in and still have five days remaining to complete the other two writing days of your goal. Hip— Hip— Hooray!! You’re ahead of the game!!!
Now grab your sword or witch’s broom and go after that dreadful Sofa Nome, there still may be some of your magic almonds left.
Getting those Life tossing road blocks into non combative perspective is going to be a game changer for your approach. No more fearing of falling behind the goal as you’re always going to be ahead— lighting the stress load A LOT. And let’s be honest, its so much easier to write when you’re not stressed about writing.
But Tarian? How do I write a 100,000 words a month?
Well, Love, you don’t. and don’t let anybody make you feel small, thinking they do. It’s click bait. Very, very, very few authors write that much and do so consistently. But you can set realistic goals and meet them successfully. Start small and build up. Be the Superstar in your world!
STEP THREE: Get a writing buddy.
If you have a bestie author friend, be it living close by or just online— perfect. Recruit them for writing sessions, commonly called ‘sprints’. Share this newfound Life contract wisdom on writing in this journey to get you into a new and prospering writing habit so the two of you flex with each other. I started doing sprints with my bestie Author Layla Dorine roughly a year ago, but we really put the pedal to the metal about six months ago, and wow, we’re quite proud of the goals we’ve reached. She managed to get books, she’d recently gotten the rights back, reviewed and reformatted for re-release. As well as finished a new book project with two new ones in the works. Me, I was all over the place scattered across fifteen different works in progress, but then managed to get one close enough I could focus on it and yes, by gosh, after three years of nothing, I finished one of my Teddy Bear Collection books, Shagging the Dead, and have since gotten it off for editing before Christmas.
But how? How did you get that rusty wheel going? I know, I know. I’m getting to that part—
STEP FOUR: Luring your characters to talk.
Forget waiting on Motivation to show up, he’s not. He’s just a bitch so toss his number out. Step four is actually all about doing the time. Don’t worry about a word count goal just yet. The goal is to get a habit going of putting in the time. For starters, sit down where its comfortable. First few days are all about reacquainting yourself with your characters. Yes, we are going to start with something you already have going. Blow the dust off and let’s start reading— from the top. MARK YOUR WORD COUNT! Just write it down or text it to your sprint partner and begin. Edit, if you see it, add or rewrite, as you go. Its inevitable. So let it happen. Ask your character, we’ll call him Bob from here on:
“Where are you going with this Bob?”
“Say Bob, you want to make the moves on that person or what?”
“What would happen if that bridge over there were to collapse all of a sudden? Were you on it? Or did it happen mere seconds after your crossed or did you not go when you felt the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Weren’t you supposed to rescue someone?”
“Bob… what did you do?” **stares at the exploded bridge**
“Are you gonna eat that?”
Asking Bob random questions is a great fire starter; Bob won’t be able to resist mansplaining. Maybe not right away but usually within a day or two when first getting started. This is a tried-and-true magic spell. I don’t know how or why it works, just know that it does. I asked the Universe once, what would the story look like if one of my characters had Down Syndrome, and five days later it came back with, “Oh, it’ll look like this—” and within the month I finished the book Big Spoon & Teddy Bear. Sometimes it’s a whole story, a plot, a scene, or a characteristic or reason. But ask and they will answer.
In the meantime, feel free to switch out to do some research on how to do fireworks the correct way. Maybe throw in some first aid as well. Read another article on improving your writing craft.
Don’t be surprised if Bob picks this time to interrupt you to tell you all about his plot to sky scribe a marriage proposal off the bridge just as… we’ll call him Peter, would be crossing said bridge on his way home from work, and well— Bob needs airline tickets for Greece.
If Bob and Peter aren’t talking to you, don’t give into their tantrum. You can also use this time to work on creating promo posters or cover art for the future project. You can also do nothing and stare at the words. Just remember to blink every so often. Eat magic almonds and watch funny videos while lying to your sprinting partner that your character is running a picket line of protest across the desk and have taken the keyboard has hostage for attempting to cross the line. (not really but do joke about it. Jokes about what you are doing in your sprints are encouraged) You can, however, watch videos or surf Pinterest for inspiration for Bob’s pyro mishap.
STEP FIVE: Level Up.
There is no need to set a time line for your goal’s upgrade. The success is in the zero pressure. Trust me on this one.
When you have reached the point when you are writing more than fucking off in the name of research, then level up your goal to write a 1000 words each sprinting day. There’s no dead line for this. Took Layla and I both a good tumbling rolling jiggly two months before we were being honest about our 1000 words a day (every time) on our 5 out of 7-day schedule. Again, I cannot highlight the zero-pressure clause here enough, here as well. As some days I had only 700 words, but the next day I threw down 2000. So long as you average out to where your goal is, it’s a win. Make sure you give props for that!
What’s super cool about that 1000 words routine though is once you’ve reached it and staying pretty consistent, it has a funny way of morphing into the next level on its own for a goal of a chapter a day.
Did you just yank back on your leash? No, no, no— come on— you can do this. Remember that zero pressure deal, I keep mentioning? That’s right, because that chapter a day doesn’t have to be a freshly churned out batch of new words. It can be a chapter edited— A rewrite— a fluff and tuck— and yes, it can be a bunch of new words— or words salad, depending on your typing skills. Mine’s atrocious; on top of being severely dyslexic. I get notes from my editors all the time, “I don’t know what this means.” To which I respond, “Me needer.” And yes, I am certain I missed seem typos in here, there is only so much suffering my editors are willing to endure from me. I’m on my own in here. HAHAHA
But keep it up and you’ll find yourself actually putting away a full new chapter with editing per sprint day. Tomorrow you can go back and add in your foreshadowing as to where Bob found the faulty explosives.
In addition to the zero-pressure approach to reaching your writing habit goals, comfort is everything. Because if you’re not comfortable, you’ll find yourself getting up and walking about, wandering the house for nothing because you don’t know why you got up in the first place. But this strange phenomenon does have a tendency to happen and will persist if you don’t make your writing spot as comfy as possible.
- Set sprint blocks at 45min (you can go the full hour once you’re in a habit of staying put but start with a set time with a built-in break period). Hell, half the time Layla and I don’t break anymore “I’m on a roll lets jump right in.” “Okay, awesome see you next hour.” And off we go for typically 3 sprints before taking a break because one of the werewolves needs to go potty and the tea pot is empty.
- Take breaks between sprints for bathroom run— frig raids— shouting at dragons to “get to their liar and don’t come out until dawn!”— Stretch— blow bubbles (other blowing activity, not recommended, you only have 15 minutes break time here)— scribble naughty letters on paper then fold into paper planes and send out the window of your NY high-rise apartment for random strangers to find; do whatever you need or tickles your fancy so long you return to writing station at top of the hour to begin your next sprint.
- Probably don’t have to tell you this one but its part of the list. SONG LIST. You have options here, get some great soundtrack music that fits the action or Bob’s mood. Or Bob’s favorite song he sings off key to Peter. If you can’t find music to fit the book’s theme or mood, I recommend trying one of those Concentration/Programming collaborations tunes used by coding whizzes. It’s often a rhythmic beat to keep pace, no drastic changes to tempo that would interrupt flow. Type in ‘coding music’ on Youtube and find one you like. Here are links to two of my all-time favorites, finding I can write on almost any project to these: Concentration / Programming Music 0000 (Part 0) and A Soundtrack for the Apocalypse – Dark Dystopian Music
- Get a pair of headsets, even if the Loch Ness creatures aren’t lurking about today, headsets have this magical ability to tune the rest of the world out so its just you and Bob. So, invest in some comfortable noise canceling head phones or ear buds, then exercise your inner cat spirit. Ignore everyone. (sprinting partner excluded)
- Comfortable chair. I cannot stress this enough! Your butt cheeks are going numb for a reason. Gets some padding under you.
- Writing station options. Sometimes you just need to change it up. If its an editing day, relocate from the desk to the Barco lounger and kick your feet up. Coffee shops are pure metal boxes of unnecessary noise to me, but I know an author who hits the café every Sunday for writing joy days. So, to each their own. But have 2 or 3 spots committed to your writing so you can unkink from the desk chair every so often.
- Keep your favorite beverage in stock.
- Don’t write Hungry. You’ll just do a bunch of staring-at-screen-fucking-off-foolery. Next thing you know you’ve created three new folders on Pinterest and watched 5 episodes of Dr Pimple Popper. Go eat, then sit down for sprinting. Or better yet, bring it to the sprint.
- Report in with your sprinting partner. Even if you’re going to play hooky that day, be there for them in chat support. They’ll do the same for you when she swears the cat ate her keyboard and the gremlins hid Bob and she’s still waiting for the ransom demands. **smh (that’s what you get for claiming a unicorn flattened your tire)
- Never forget your prenuptials with Life and remind yourself, You’re already ahead of the game. Then make a Facebook post about the video journey you had when you were supposed to be sprinting. Just own it.
- Go back to editing. The main rule to writing is to write now, edit later. When Bob and Peter are talking and stroking it up bur the keys up. But when they clam up and mudder not a single word in your head. Go back to edit. You’ll always end up adding and tweaking your story as you go, which may very well lead you right into the next scene you were looking for. Tweaking leads to vanquishing writer’s block. All in all, it’s been another productive day.
- Oh, and last but not least, if Bob and Peter still won’t talk, there is nothing keeping you from jumping ship to go play with Luke and Pedro in another WIP. Always follow the voices.
- okay I lied about that being the last: for those wondering about the magic almonds. Skinnydipped Lemon Bliss Almonds are the yummiest things I’ve ever pretended were healthy. But Do Not come at me if you fail to exhibit any self control by eating the entire bag in one sitting. I don’t have any restraint against these cursed magic almonds either.