The way to be prolific

I’ve pulled this from my previous post, because I want to isolate it and remember my reasoning.

I’ve decided pretty definitively (sure sounds like it, huh?) that I’m going to try again to start averaging 2,000 words a day. Not just as an average though, but as a “more days than not” thing.

I have books I want to write, sooner rather than later, and I’m just not writing them as fast as I want to. I mean that. I want to write these books sooner than I’ll ever be able to write most of them if I don’t improve my daily average. Not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate an increase in income, but I really want to write these books and other books, and more books, and just… I want to be prolific as a writer. Don’t ask me why. I don’t really know, and even though I’ve thought of a thousand reasons why it might be, none of those reasons feel right to me. I just know I want to do this. I want to be prolific.

And there’s a reason 2,000 words a day feels prolific to me.

2,000 words a day gets me 730,000 words a year, and that’s 14 books of about 52,000 words each. Some could be shorter, some longer. The actual average for all my novels is 60,844 words. But even at 60,000 words for every book I were to write, 2,000 words a day would still allow me to write 12 books a year.

At 12 books a year, I would get through all the books I’d like to write in about 3 years.

That’s where I’d like to be.

2,000 words a day.

This should also work well with my 12–4 writing schedule.

I average about 500 words an hour. Not all the time, but enough of the time that I shouldn’t have to push too hard all the (damn) time to average writing 2,000 words a day.

Synergy, if you will, between my actual speed of writing, the time I want to spend writing, and the actual number of words I want to write on an ongoing basis. Can’t ask for a better plan than that.

:)

Taking another run at “The End”

It’s the day after the day after Thanksgiving and I’m disappointed to say that I really didn’t get much done yesterday when it comes to writing.

I’m taking another run at “The End” today. The last time I tried, I was still using timers. Today, I’m not planning on using any timers. Can I stay focused without them? I actually don’t know, but it’s important to me that I try to learn how.

The plan for today is simple.

500 words minimum.

Finish the book.

First up, as soon as I hit publish on this, I’m putting my Word doc front and center.

Second, I’m going to use willpower and stay off the internet until the book is done.

Third, today is the day I start trying to write more. I really want to get my daily average above 1,000 in 2018. I’ve been trying for years to improve, but the numbers just keep getting worse. The less often I write, the harder writing feels. Gotta fight that the only way I know how. I have to write more. It starts with a 500 words a day minimum and an effort to always push for a little more.

Fourth, I can no longer care about the quality of my work. I have to focus on having fun writing stories. Typing fast. Finishing fast. I can’t let another book take this long to finish. Each of these are part of my effort to bury my inner critic. That critic is killing my desire to write fiction, and since writing fiction is how I want to keep making a living, the critic has to go.

How do I train myself to write freely? Not sure! But I have to try. Otherwise, I’m going to give up writing. I can’t keep going the way I have been. I remember when writing was FUN.

That truly is the worst part. Being able to remember the fun of it makes it impossible to accept that I just have to do it, whether it’s fun or not. Because I don’t. I can choose another job if this one loses its appeal.

But I don’t want to. I want to write. I just want it to be fun again.

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.

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. :-)

Interesting results on something new

More words, fewer hours on Friday over Thursday, so that’s good. Yesterday (Friday) wasn’t as good a day as I’d hoped for, but it was my best day in 222 consecutive days. Prior to that, on the 223rd day, I had reached what is my current record word count for a day, 5,816 words, on the day I finished my last book.

Yesterday’s final tally: 2,652 words, 4.55 hours, 583 wph (a little more than the chart shows below because I had one last gasp before I quit and didn’t record it).

Time

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

10-11

37

427

427

692

11-12

12-1

1-2

33

449

22

40

2-3

8

445

-4

-30

3-4

4-5

31

753

308

596

5-6

48

1484

731

914

6-7

32

1967

483

906

7-8

38

2509

542

856

8-9

9-10

10-11

11-12

12-1

41

2557

48

70

Something happened around 8 pm that got me off track in a major way. It went something like this.

I have some micron pens I received as a gift and I really love the blue. I use it for my journaling and session notes and lots of other stuff. I dropped it a few days ago and it took a hard hit on the point, and then day before yesterday I realized it wouldn’t write at an angle very well anymore (while the other pens did). So I was using my purple pen yesterday and right around 8, I dropped the lid down into the couch. It disappeared. I spent half an hour trying to find that pen cap and ended up moving the sofa multiple times, vacuuming everywhere I could reach in and under it, and finally discovered the cap had slid into a nook inside the couch where some joints came together.

Well, that pushed me to move to the dining room table with my writing, and once there I decided I was going to switch back to my blue pen. But it wasn’t writing well so I messed with it a little bit and, yeah, I messed it up. I managed to mash the nib or whatever you call it until it split and now it writes a very flat, sometimes split stroke onto the page. That frustrated me and I started searching for stuff about pens and waterproofing and whether archival safe pens are really necessary for journals, because my favorite pens are the blue and purple Pilot V5 Precise but they are not waterproof in any way. (I tested it a while back. Ugly fading and smearing was the result.) I know archival safe stuff isn’t necessary, but I do want to keep these journals until I die so I want to write with something that holds up a while.

But back to the story. I ran across an interesting website about pencils and suddenly the idea of pencil journaling started to seem appealing to me. I wrote on a napkin, ran it under some water and sure enough, no bleeding or smearing at all. I even rubbed the watery napkin and the pencil marks stayed in place in a way I could read them.

So… I dug out a box of pencils and some other pencils I had and spent half an hour or more sharpening pencils. I have some mechanical pencils I love but they don’t make the pencil scratch sound when I write with them, so I’m keeping the wood pencils on hand too. Honestly, I miss the bright colors in my journal, but since blue was my favorite and it took a week to get those pens delivered (with only one blue in the pack), I’m just going to try pencil for a while.

But that’s what happened to those four hours last night that should have been spent writing. Sigh. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever change.

Well, on to today. I have a book to finish.

Something new

It’s interesting, because I thought I’d tried just about everything to get myself writing faster and more regularly, but obviously I haven’t tried everything, because I tried something yesterday that’s working out pretty well (between yesterday and today) and I really don’t remember having tried it before (or at least in this way).

Here’s what I did (and am doing again today): I simply listed out the hours of the day (10–11, 11–12, etc.) and am running the timer during that time, accumulating as much time as I can, without any specific session lengths, with the goal of reaching 500 words for each hour in the day.

Yesterday I ended up with this:

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

50

246

246

295

30

439

193

386

25

207

-232

-557

20

199

-8

-24

33

240

41

75

38

571

331

523

39

1138

567

872

31

1557

419

811

27

1894

337

749

22

2224

330

900

16

2270

46

173

12

2342

72

360

WPH

410

Hours

5.716667

Which really did not seem bad to me at all. If I hadn’t had such a slow start finishing/editing chapter 23, I would have done a lot better on my word count.

Today I’m doing the same thing as yesterday. I’ve had some interruptions and delays that I’m hoping won’t affect my day too much, in the end, but it remains to be seen how things are going to work out today. Overall, though, I’m really liking this structure around my writing. It’s loose in some ways but strict in others (I can’t change the fact that 11–12 and 12–1 have already passed and I got no writing done), and I like it.

Gotta go now, because I have a personal deadline I need to meet. I’ll post results for this informal little experiment in a follow-up post sometime later. :)

No time to spare

Here’s what I’m aiming for each day: 1,000 words minimum, with an eye toward 2,893 words. Of course, more would be fantastic, but 1,000 is the minimum daily word count I want to hit every day I possibly can.

I have four minutes to finish this post. Since I want to start writing at 11:15 I’d better make this quick.

Today I’m trying for multiple 60 minute sessions. If I have to stop in the middle, I’ll just pause and resume.

The goal is 7 of them at a minimum pace of 700 wph for a total word count of 4,900 words. This is so I can finish this book in two days, assuming I can keep it under a maximum length goal. (Lots of assumptions there. I can do these numbers, but I can’t always do these numbers. Let’s see if I can make today the former and not the latter.)

Session 1: 60 minutes, 301 words
Session 2:
Session 3:
Session 4:
Session 5:
Session 6:
Session 7:

Okay, this isn’t working. It’s 5:21 and I’ve only managed to complete one 60 minute session.

I’m just going to wing it with some 15 minute sessions. I’m feeling pretty desperate to stop a stall out before it becomes a problem I can’t recover from today. Time is seriously running short and I need some appreciable words before I get too tired to write them.

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

8-10-17 Thursday

Getting lazy on titles today. :)

The plan is 3 hours and 1,557 words. I’m going to read for a few minutes and then get started. Somehow it’s already 12:58 pm and I have no idea how that happened.


Okay, I’ve procrastinated like nobody’s business today, so I’m going to have to nail this word count today in record time or it’s not going to get done. Needless to say (I’m saying it anyway), it needs to get done.


Holy crap.

Would you believe I’m still procrastinating? :o

All is not lost. I did actually work on my timeline for this book (it’s a mess) and brainstorm a bit. That counts, right? It did get me 138 words.

Sadly, they’re mostly just notes-to-self so I don’t forget some of the stuff I figured out and they’ll be deleted as soon as I don’t need them anymore.


Updates

54 minutes, 141 words.

Total words: 279.

Well, not great, but it’s something, right?

Will have to do better tomorrow.

Today’s goal: 3 hours and 1,557 words

So today I’m going back to talking about goals. Mostly because I’m tired of trying to find ways to phrase things so that I don’t use the word goal. It’s just a word, and giving it too much power probably isn’t helping me. I honestly don’t care if I reach it every day. It’s just something to aim at and a place to stop if I get there early and want to take advantage of that. :)

Session 1: 45 minutes, 351 words

Session 2: in progress

The next morning update: Never made it through session 2. Just one of those days.