Increasing My Daily Wordcount


Increasing My Daily Wordcount

Increasing My Daily Wordcount


Increasing My Daily Wordcount

You need to understand two things about me:

A. I used to be a slow writer. I liked to take the time to read and re-read what I had written, revising as I went. On a good day, I would write 1000 words. Not bad, but I wasn't reaching that milestone every day.

B. My goal is to be a productive writer. Writing isn’t a hobby for me, it’s my full-time job. So I need to keep producing stories.

Do you see my problem?

A doesn't lead to B.

If I wanted B, then I needed to up my game. I needed to change my writing habits. I needed to not only increase my daily word count, but make it a regular, every day thing.

I’ve been working on that this year. It’s been a slow process, but the change is happening.

It’s a lot like climbing a mountain.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

When I start on a book project, I have the story in my head. Not complete, but the big picture. The long view. 
This view can be a bit daunting, can't it? So many ideas swirling around, so many characters. Sometimes, even complete scenes are in my head, begging to get out.
But there is no secret. No Fairy Godmother. No "poof!" and the story is written.

There is no elevator to the summit.

The only way to reach the top of the mountain is to do one thing: Walk the trail. Step by step. Word by word.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

BICHOK! Which goes right along with the three D's (see Ruthy's post about the three D's here.)

Are we sensing a trend here? 

I'm learning how to achieve my goal of several thousand words per week. But to get to that goal, I need to use some tricks and tools.

1. I need a map. 

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

Call it an outline, or a storyline. Sometimes it looks like a stack of index cards. Sometimes it looks like a story board. Whatever method I use, the story goes a lot better when I know the beginning, middle, and end before I begin writing.

2. The first part of the trail is the smoothest, so I use that to my advantage.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

Not every chapter will flow easily. I know that. I also know I’ll be revising these first few chapters several times before the end of the book. But writing these opening chapters quickly, even before my story plan is complete, gives my characters a chance to stretch a little bit and let me get to know their voices. 
It also gets a lot of words down in a short time.
I will often write 25% of the book before my characters and story line are fleshed out. If I need to, I can revise and tweak. But I almost always keep going in the direction those first few chapters started for me.

3. Characters are tricky.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

They require me to navigate their Lies, their Greatest Dreams, and their Dark Moment Stories. Sometimes I must investigate every nook and cranny of their lives before they reveal their secrets. Sometimes they don’t reveal their inner selves to me until we’re negotiating a particularly difficult part of the story and they let something slip out.

But do I let that slow me down? No! The story must go on. When this happens, I make notes (I keep a pad of paper by my computer to jot these items down,) but I keep on writing. I know I can come back to incorporate the stunning secret that the heroine just revealed!

4. Sometimes, even with all my story planning and plotting, I come up against a stone wall.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

I have to try one way, and then another to get back on the trail. But just like this tree sending out roots, I persist until I find that way and continue on. One step at a time.

5. When I hit one of my plot points, I take another look at my map.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

Am I heading in the direction I thought I would at the beginning? Do I need to make some adjustments? This evaluation is satisfying – even if the only landmark in front of me is the half-way point.

6. As tempting as it is, I’ve learned not to take too long of a break along the trail.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

Muscles stiffen up and the goal isn’t as clear as it was before my rest stop. A quick break for a drink of water and a breather is enough before getting back to that word count.
At the same time, though, I've learned to give myself mini-rewards for mini-goals. 250 words in 15 minutes earns me three chocolate chips. Yay for mini-rewards!

7. Sometimes it looks like I've lost the trail.

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

What will my character do now? Where is the bad guy? Is the baby awake or asleep (a big problem if one of your characters has a young child!) Did anyone feed the dog? A quick look at the map and a few steps along the trail solves the problem!

By the way, the best way for me to get past a writer’s block like this is to WRITE! I let my characters go, and they usually find their way back to the story.

8. Finally, the end is here!

Increasing My Daily Wordcount

But the end of the trail is only a new start. It’s time to retrace my steps, revising and editing the story. However, going down the mountain is a lot easier than the climb up. There are still some tricky spots to negotiate, but the big job - the first draft - is done.

How do you keep your word count going? Share your tips and tricks in the comments. We can always learn from each other!


22 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: Increasing My Daily Wordcount

  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 08:14 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Good morning, Seekerville!

    The coffee and tea are ready (Earl Grey for me!) and we have a selection of trail foods on the breakfast buffet. My favorite is some dried fruits and almonds, but we also have Clif Bars, trail mix, and beef jerky. We need carbs and proteins for mountain climbing!

  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on August 16, 2021 | 08:38 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "This is a question I get asked all the time. Not quite daily, but you know what I mean and for me the answer now comes easily: Emotion.

    If I'm following the emotion of the story (not the plot, that takes care of itself) then whatever my characters are doing is driving them toward the end, which is the goal.

    I take that action/reaction we all learned in science and I apply it to their emotions. Let's say hero just realized that his ex-wife died and his son is being shipped across the country to live with him.

    Emotional FRENZY erupts. Sadness at the original separation, grief that he never got to patch up a very bad relationship, frustration that she was able to take their son 3000 miles away, worry that his son just lost the only parent he's really known for five years (or however old he is), worry that he's going to mess this up, and will the kid like dogs? Because he has two. (Or one, or a cat or horses).... So right there we have the emotion from so many directions and we tap into that like a February maple and the flow just keeps going until the sun rises too high and the ground grows warm.

    Writers can apply this to any story... it's always about the emotion.

    The plot comes. It's A to B to C to D....

    But the emotional triggers we touch in characters and readers are the things that are never forgotten.

    Now I need that coffee! My diet Mt. Dew is gone!!!!!"
  • Glynis
    on August 16, 2021 | 09:41 Glynissaid :
    "Beautiful photos, Jan! I'm still working on my process, but that first item on the list is the biggest one for me. I need to have some idea where I'm going otherwise I'm completely paralyzed. But lately even just getting started is too much. The mountains always look so big from the bottom and I have to keep telling myself not to look at the whole thing, just do one step at a time. Probably wise for a lot of thing--not just writing!"
  • Sandy Smith
    on August 16, 2021 | 10:10 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Great analogy, Jan, with great advice. Love the Black Hills pictures, too! It was great seeing you at the Mississippi River Readers Retreat. "
  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on August 16, 2021 | 10:43 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Agreed, Ruthy. That emotion is what draws readers in and keeps them reading. It makes them care and invests them in the characters. Yep, I love me some emotion. Now pass the tissues, please."
  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on August 16, 2021 | 10:45 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Jan, you are spot on with this post and I love the hiking trail analogy. And congratulations on upping your word count. I think I'm weird, because I never look at how many words I write in a day. I look at the overall word count and the word count in a scene, but never with the mindset of how many words I've written. See, I told you my brain works differently. ;)"
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 11:06 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Yes! As I'm plotting away, my characters' emotional turmoil is there, but often in the back seat (or at the end of the line of hikers, to continue the mountain climbing motif.)

    That's a great tip, Ruthy! Keep that emotion front and center!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 11:16 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Sometimes we need to stare at that mountain for quite a while before we see the trail to follow, don't we?

    My advice? Just start. Write fifty words, or a hundred. You might end up backtracking and taking a different trail, but you also might be surprised at what your characters want to do and say.

    And you are so right about how looking at the big picture can be too daunting. Elizabeth Elliot used to say, "Do the Next Thing." I recently re-read her devotional on that poem, and it is so appropriate. I just shared a copy of it to my Facebook author page, if you'd like to read it."
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 11:17 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "It was wonderful seeing you, too! Seeing a familiar face in a room full of not-quite-strangers was so much fun. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 11:18 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "We've always known your brain works differently, Mindy! But it must work, so keep doing what you're doing!"
  • kaybee
    on August 16, 2021 | 14:00 kaybeesaid :
    "Late to party and guilty as charged. I did NOT keep my word count going in late July and early August. Last week I had to do the edit letter for "Redemption's Hope," my third Western Dreams book. and also the page proofs for my nonfiction history book. I chained myself to my computer and got them done. This is a good wake-up call, Jan, I shall use it as stimulus to get back to a regular word count regime.
    It is cooler here and I am feeling more energetic.
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Keeping up in New Hampshire"
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 14:59 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "That summer heat can do in the word count, can't it?

    One of the things I've considered as I've tried to work a happy compromise between my husband's retirement and my career (and I know you're right there with me, Kathy!) is how to schedule all those non-writing writerly activities along with the daily word count, AND spend fun times with the hubby. It helps to schedule my days off early in the week (this week it's Thursday afternoon and all day Saturday) so I can plan my work times, and hubby makes plans for the hours I take off. :-)"
  • kaybee
    on August 16, 2021 | 17:32 kaybeesaid :
    "I love this! Jan, you are so wise."
  • Felicityp63
    on August 16, 2021 | 17:46 Felicityp63said :
    "Can you explain more about tricky characters? I find mine arent very giving of their lies and dark moments. What other things do you investigate? And what do you write down before moving on? What things are a must know before drafting?"
  • Cate Nolan
    on August 16, 2021 | 20:39 Cate Nolansaid :
    "I totally agree. I'd add to what Mindy said that emotion draws me into my own story too. That happened just this morning. I was stalling and procrastinating because I'd messed up something in the timeline, but when I had to fix it (which required some major changes), I hit emotional gold. I was off and running and I literally could not type as fast as the feelings and words were flowing."
  • Cate Nolan
    on August 16, 2021 | 20:43 Cate Nolansaid :
    "Glynis, I learned a trick at a writing workshop many years ago, and I still use it today. To get myself started, I just start talking to myself on the page.

    The author who taught me this used to sit in a coffee shop every morning and write longhand. He always started off by writing at the top of his paper in big letters - I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM GOING TO WRITE TODAY, but I'll just keep putting words down here until something occurs to me, etc. There was something about the pen to paper connection that made the thoughts flow.

    I do that now when I'm starting. I'll type something like, I don't know where I'm going with this scene so let me just try throwing some ideas down on paper. What if she...

    For some reason, that breaks the deadlock for me. I think it relieves the pressure of needing to produce something perfect. I can always come back and delete those words, use what works and ditch the rest. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on August 16, 2021 | 22:34 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Hi Felicity!

    Aren't all characters tricky? LOL! I say that affectionately, of course. I love all my characters...except maybe the antagonists.

    I find my characters' lies, dark moments, the truth they need and other things about them by starting with one question: Who are you?

    I learned this method by reading the book "The Story Equation" by Susan May Warren. She appeared here on Seekerville when the book first came out, and it was a game changer for me!

    Here's the link to that blog post from the Seekerville archives:

    Sorry, I still haven't learned how to do a live link! But if you copy and paste the link, it will take you to Susie's post - she wrote it in 2017, and it's a definite keeper!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on August 17, 2021 | 05:56 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "I agree with all of this. That emotional stake is what grabs readers and forms unforgettable characters. Fist bump!!!!!"
  • Glynis
    on August 18, 2021 | 09:18 Glynissaid :
    "Thanks for the tips, Jan and Cate. I heard our pastor say once that rudders only steer a ship that's already moving. So directions can change, but only once you start! Thanks, ladies :)"
  • Kayla James
    on September 12, 2021 | 11:45 Kayla Jamessaid :
    "As a newbie unpublished author who is still trying to figure out her process, why are slow writers hobby writers and can a hobby writer make income? On the fairy tale retelling I am doing now, I knocked out a large chunk during Camp Nanowrimo in July and then again in August, but felt absolutely exhausted or “knackered” if you hail from the U.K.
    I guess I could be a fast writer. I can range from 400 to 620 words in 15 minutes. Yet, I am also a non-outliner who is still trying to decide whether or not to revise as I go or not. Now I am writing for 15 minutes most days, but without forcing myself to write more. So does this make me a slow writer?
    What if a hobby writer worked on several projects at a time? Is it better for slow writers to publish their own books if their daily word count is not enough for deadlines imposed by others? "
  • Kayla James
    on September 12, 2021 | 14:54 Kayla Jamessaid :
    "I tried to leave a comment. Can anyone see?"
  • Anonymous
    on September 12, 2021 | 15:42 Anonymoussaid :
    "I am still trying to decide whether or not I am a slow or fast writer. I can get 400 to 620 words in 15 minutes, but I can’t do high word counts.
    I am still trying to figure out whether to edit as I go or not. I am unpublished.
    Do all career authors write fast? Can a hobby writer make income? Can fast writing affect mental health?
    Wrote most of my novel during camp NaNoWriMo in July and in August and feel exhausted. Can a slow rider work at her own pace but just do several books at the same time?"
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