The “no timers” thing

When I revisited getting rid of my timers, I thought the beginning of 2017 and the middle of 2017 was the last time I’d addressed the issue. But I was wrong. As I published my last post and checked through it as I usually do, I clicked the “corrective action“ tag.

It showed me a post I wrote in November 2017 called, appropriately, “Done with timers” that kind of shocked me. I had forgotten all about writing it.

First, no more timers. I’m not even talking about temporarily. I’m doing away with timers.

I know that didn’t work for me at the beginning of this year, but that was because I was using timers in conjunction with no schedule and no goals either. That was a mistake.

I know what I need as far as word counts: 500 words a day minimum, 3,000 words a day goal.

The goal is there to help make a particular dream I have a reality. I want to move. I want a new house. I want a pool. I need money to make that happen. :-)

I really don’t need to track anything else. Those are the numbers I need, each day. One is easily accomplished, the other is a stretch. Tracking my daily words is the only metric I need to know if I’m doing what I need to be doing (500 a day) or want to be doing (3,000 a day).

Swap out that 3,000 a day with my 2,000 words a day plan and this is pretty much what I’m doing now. I didn’t set a 500 a day minimum this time, but now that I’m reminded of that, I think I will.

I’m not going to forget and I’m not going to go back. I am done with timers. I mean done done done.

That 500 word minimum has the benefit of making yesterday’s word count an important success (I wrote 571 words, after all) and gives me something to push for tonight that’s more realistic than 2,000 words, because I’m not even going to pretend I’ll be able to go from the 53 words that I have to 2,000 words before I call it a night considering how late it is. But 500? Definitely possible.

And to top it off, this also means I have a 500 words a day streak going that I won’t want to break tonight. I mean, it’s only two days, but it’s two days in a row!

Day 13 of 500 words a day

619 words. It was easy enough yesterday that I thought I would end the day with a whole lot more but I was tired after not getting enough sleep the night before and it showed in the latter part of the day. I watched an episode of Rizzolli & Isles on DVD when I stopped for dinner and then just kept watching…

But today I’ll do better. I’m going to aim for no less than 5 hours of writing and see where that takes me. :)

Day 12 of 500 words a day

I made it. I wrote 526 words and kept my streak alive for another day. I didn’t think I would, to be honest. It’s 2:32 am and I’m dead tired.

I started out at a negative word count of hundreds of words because of deletions and it took hours to catch back up and get above 500 words. I did too much editing and not enough fresh writing. But I didn’t want to jump ahead, so I persevered.

I really need to learn how to write a little more freely. And those thousands of words I was thinking about deleting today didn’t get deleted but I’m seriously thinking they might go in the next session.

Day 11 of 500 words a day

Yesterday I wrote 524 words. That brought my daily streak of 500+ words to day 11.

Today is looking dicey. It’s 5:53 pm and I’m sitting at -305 words right now, meaning I’ve deleted significantly more words than I’ve written, and I’m toying with the idea of deleting even more. I’m just really not sure how to handle days like today because if I delete thousands of words, as I suspect might happen, to end up with a net positive I’ll have to write thousands of words if I want my spreadsheet to show 500 words for the day.

Not great.

It’s just something I’m going to have to figure out and then stick to as a general rule.

Day 10 of 500 words a day

My 500+ words a day streak is alive and well. I wrote 563 words on day 10.

As for today, I haven’t done well avoiding distractions. It wasn’t that I got distracted during writing time so much as I just took a break for lunch and never came back.

Except that’s not exactly right, because I did come back at about five o’clock this evening, only to end up in a discussion with a family member that pulled me off track for nearly two hours.

As I said yesterday, I need to take away the potential for distraction if I want to stay focused.

That brings me to my new plan.

No more posting while I’m trying to write, because it leads me right into an area that’s rife with potential distractions. I’ll save the posting for after I’m done trying to write.

Since I’m often not in the mood to post once I start shutting down for the evening, I’ll probably end up doing a lot of morning posts, but that’s okay, as long as I do them before I start trying to write my daily quota of fiction. :-)

Also, it’s time I try a little harder to get my writing done earlier in the day. I prefer daytime writing, to be honest, and there’s just no reason I shouldn’t be doing it when I like doing it best, most of the time.

So yeah. New plan.

Day 9 of 500 words a day

Yesterday was day 9 of my 500 words a day streak. I wrote 2,626 words.

My daily average since beginning this effort is now 803 words. This just goes to prove that it doesn’t take much more than the 500 words a day on a few days a week to really improve my long-term average.

Through day 8, 575 words was my daily average.

Add in day 9 and my daily average shot up to 803 words, which is 188 words above my all-time daily average. Meaning that if I maintained this pace, writing mostly 500-520 a day but having 1-2 days where I write quite a bit more, I would write an additional 68,620 words in a year. Or another entire novel.

It’s something to keep in mind, for sure. For someone like me, who finds it difficult to maintain a consistent pace, having a low set minimum appears to be a great way to at least ensure a minimum of production, while increasing the chances of producing more. I’ve already talked about the benefits I’ve been seeing, so I won’t go into that, but suffice to say, I’m feeling really good about this new plan to write 500 words a day. It’s going better than I ever expected, to be honest.

The benefits of writing 500 words a day

It’s been seven days since I started requiring myself to write 500 words of fiction every day. I call it my daily minimum word count.

I’m deliberately choosing not to call this daily minimum a goal, because I am expecting more of myself long-term—I’m just not requiring it.

500 words is a number that seems almost too small to accomplish anything, but the benefits of setting such a low requirement have really started to make themselves known.

  1. My daily word counts are looking more consistent. (Last column.)
  2. My story is staying more active in my thoughts and ideas are coming easier.
  3. I’m building a habit of writing every day. (Getting started late and finishing late isn’t the habit I want, but at least I’m finishing the words!)
  4. There’s actually a feeling of success associated with this that’s much stronger than I expected. I mean, I want to write more than 500 words a day over the long term, but I still feel really good about where this is going.
  5. 500 words is actually a decent number of words, so even at this pace I can finish a real novel in just a few months, and that is motivational in a way that racking up a bunch of 100 or 200 word days isn’t. (50,000 words ÷ 500 words a day = 100 days of writing; 100 days is approximately 3 months and 10 days; making this a pace of nearly 4 novels a year.)
  6. I’m writing every day. (Because of #5!)
  7. I’m not getting stuck in an editing loop. There are only so many times I can edit 500 words into something I’ve already written. That means I’ve been moving forward with the story. Do enough 100 word days and you’ll eventually move forward, sure, but it’s going to take a loooong time—long enough to be demotivating.
  8. 500 words has yet to feel overwhelming. Even the night I put off writing until nearly 1 a.m., I felt like I could get the words quickly enough to make it worth trying. It’d be the same with an even smaller word count goal, but see #5 for why I’m not giving in and just going to bed. 500 words feels significant in a way a smaller word count doesn’t. It’s not pointless to bother or a waste of good sleep time. It matters if I get them done. So I did them.

The week’s numbers

517
533
520
1,004
515
503
505

Total words: 4,097
Daily average: 585

These are the most consistent numbers I’ve gotten in a while, and after a week of this, I believe I can make it last.

500 words a day might just be my magic number.

I already know that writing faster isn’t really the answer for me, but writing more sure might be. If I were to replace all 697 zero words days in my word count log with 500, I would have written 348,500 more words to date than I’ve actually written. That’s pretty mind-boggling considering that my highest annual word count since I began writing is 268,191 words. :-)

I’m just going to call this an experiment that has shown me a path to success. It has been an experiment in small wins and training oneself to do more by expecting less.

500 words is my daily minimum and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Six days now

I’ve extended my daily writing streak of 500 words or more to six days now, squeaking by with 503 words.

Here’s my log of word counts since I began the 500 words a day minimum.

10/31/17 – 517
11/1/17 – 533
11/2/17 – 520
11/3/17 – 1,004
11/4/17 – 515
11/5/17 – 503

As happened the day before and the day before that, I waited until so late last night to get started that I was falling asleep with my computer in my lap and kept having to rouse myself to write the words. It was tough, to say the least.

I’m going to try not to do that again tonight.

In fact, I want to try for 3,000 words today, and I’m going to do it by focusing on writing 600 words at a time.

(600 x 5 = 3,000)

Or, you know, I could just finish the book before I reach 3,000. I’m perfectly happy to do that too. :-)

Resistance didn’t win

(I thought I posted this last night but must have missed it, so here it is.)

Last night, I extended my streak of writing more than five hundred words a day to five days with 515 words. Resistance didn’t win. The total word count is adding up slowly but it’s better than a streak of zeroes any way you look at it.

I’ve learned something over the last few months, or maybe just been reminded of something I already knew but haven’t taken seriously enough. I can’t tolerate boredom. Spending two hundred and fifty-six days on one story is just asking for trouble.

Once I lose the thrill of the idea, writing becomes hard, and I become too critical of myself, the writing, and the idea.

I have to start writing more often. I started to say faster, but the truth is, speed isn’t the problem, not in the sense of how many words an hour I write. Writing even 200 words an hour would get me 1,000 words a day in 5 hours! Two months is pretty doggone reasonable for a novel. Even three months wouldn’t be so bad if the story grew to the length my current book has reached. Anything more than that is just too much time. I can’t sustain my excitement for a story that long and I’ve proven that time and time again.

But there’s good news.

What I did last week, last month, last year doesn’t have to be what I do tomorrow.

See you tomorrow. :-)