Thursday, September 27, 2012

750 Words, Every Day?

September Critique Giveaway still open! Scroll down one post.

This past August 8, I got an idea that is, for me, a little out there: commit to a target word count per day. Every day (mostly; keep reading). On my WIP -- not blog posts, student letters, conference-session planning, or any other kind of writing. That stuff would be extra. Over and above. Same with writing-related tasks like research. And querying. That would be over and above.

This is hardly a new idea, but I've always been one to schedule writing time rather than a daily word quota. And had I been happy with my productivity lately? Well, not so much, to tell the truth. Hadn't I been wishing for awhile that I could write faster without losing quality? Very much so. And, I suspected, I could. In fact, I might gain quality if writing a daily quota, and therefore writing faster, kept me more constantly immersed in the story.

So, I came up with a plan.
  • Write 750 words per day on the WIP, every day, for the rest of 2012, with days off as follows:
  • 12 specific dates that include 2 holidays, 2 election days (I'm a pollworker and we have 14-hour days), 3 conference days, and 5 vacation days to visit our kids this fall.
  • Calculating on August 8 the number of days left in 2012 gives 145. Subtracting 12 leaves 133. Multiply 133 x 750 and you get 99,750. That's the number of words I propose to write on my fiction between August 8 and December 31, inclusive!
Now, take one more look at that total. 99,750. Am I going to stop there? No, because add just 250 little words to that -- about a page! -- and you hit 100,000. How can I stop so very short of 100,000? And because my daily minimum is 750, there's every chance I can write a fair amount more. Because when you're more regular, you get more days when the words flow, and 750 can seem like not much at all. At least, I had more days like that back in the time of contracts and deadlines. And I'd like to get them back.

What 100,000 words represents almost makes me giddy. When I began my challenge, I needed less than half this total to finish my current WIP. I love revision more than drafting, so once I get to the revision stage, I could and can do more than 750 words most days. Another way to look at it is that 100,000 words will give you roughly two complete MG novel drafts. Maybe close to three!

How's it been going? If you'd asked me on August 7 whether I'd be almost done with my draft by the end of September, I'd have said no way. Sometimes I think I'm more of a binge person than a steady, everyday one; and often it's a lot more realistic and constructive to evaluate progress by the week than by the day. Still: I am almost done. And it rocks.


Faith E. Hough said...

I write 1000 words/day, except Sundays, with a break in between drafts (because my mind needs time to adjust). I am amazed how much more I produce this way, and how much better the quality is--simply because writing every day keeps me in good practice. Good luck with your 100,000 word goal!

Vijaya said...

Oh, Marcia, you're almost done?!! Good. When I am drafting I shoot for 500 words a day. I know ... just two pages. Usually it's more, but that's my minimum and I find that writing daily is a far better way to write than in spurts. I only really had this experience with Damaged, and I can say the quality is much better when you keep your head in the story. Of course, I cannot complain because all those years I was doing WFH, they paid many bills and I was becoming a better writer.

I have a feeling that each novel is typically more than 100,000 words if you count all the drafts and notes and stuff you chuck. But there is a joy in nice, round numbers.

Mirka Breen said...

Whatever makes you sit down and *do it*, I say.
I find that the key is not to be overly or 'underly' ambitious in what I set up as my must-get-done. Finding that spot has been key to starting, continuing and getting to the finish of everything.
Seven hundred and fifty may be your number. Only you know.

Barbara Watson said...

Your math correlations and figuring are always awesome. :-)

Sounds like you've accomplished SO much! Yay!

Emily R. King said...

Almost done with a draft that ROCKS? I say you're doing better than good, you're doing great! :)

Kelly Hashway said...

Yay! Keep going. You're doing well.

Marcia said...

Faith -- I like that number a lot. I'd like to hope I can raise it to that, but I think I'll stick to the 750 for now.

Vijaya -- Two pages adds up. It really does. Keeping your head in the story makes the writing more FUN, too.

Mirka -- Yes, realism really helps. You've got to figure out what's too ambitious and what's not enough.

Barbara -- LOL, I hadn't even really thought about the math that much. Maybe I should have given this post a math stuff label?

Emily -- Oops. I guess I was ambiguous. It's the amount of progress that rocks. Not in a place of judgment with the draft yet.

Kelly -- Thanks!

Romance Book Haven said...

Sounds like you met your goals and accompolished much!

All the best!


Rena Jones said...

That seems like such a great idea. Once I get more settled in the school year, I hope to get back into working on some new stuff. Thanks for stopping by my blog recently. I've really slacked off visiting all my friends' blogs. I need to get back into that too! :)

Jennifer Rumberger said...

How exciting to have set a goal and to be following it! Congrats on being almost done!

Andrea Mack said...

Marcia, this is such a great reminder that working a way a little each day can really end up making a difference! I have been really derailed from writing lately so I might just try your idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited for you reading this. It's great to have goals in mind.

Unknown said...

Good luck with your goals. You're doing awesome!

I'm editing, so I'm not sure how many words I write each day. It's hard to tell when you delete a lot. I might write 700 words, but the net gain won't be the same if I've also deleted 400 words from my first draft.

I only worry about word count when I work on my first draft.

Marcia said...

Nas -- Thank you!

Rena -- I think the new school year means new writing for a lot of writers. We're kind of on the school calendar, too. :)

Jennifer -- The more time passes, the more I realize I have not been goal oriented enough. Time to pay more attention to that.

Andrea -- I find that whatever keeps me immersed in the story is what works best. Having to reacquant myself with it at every writing session really produces resistance!

Medeia -- Thank you. When it comes to goals, you are an inspiration!

Stina -- I agree. Word counts are really hard to measure and become meaningless when revising, unless part of the job you need to do in revision is beefing up or cutting back word count. I'm usually at a reasonable length with the first draft. I think any measure of word count during revision has to do with how much of the original draft I've dealt with in this session.

cleemckenzie said...

THat definitely does rock! Great for you, Marcia. You've inspired me. Guess I better kick start my computer and get cracking on that WIP

Susan Fields said...

Good luck with your 750 words/day plan - sounds like you're well on your way!

Janet Johnson said...

You inspire me! I need to have a word-count quota. I did that last March, and it was awesome. I got so much written!

Marcia said...

Lee -- So glad you feel inspired!

Susan -- Staying immersed in the story makes all the difference.

Janet -- Glad to hear it worked for you! That helps ME, too.

Bish Denham said...

That's wonderful Marcia! Like you, I tend to be a binge writer.

You know, Jack London wrote only 500 words a day, every day, and look at what he produced in his short life.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I find as soon as I make a plan, I break it. So for me, I just write when I can for now. But I am in awe of writers who keep their promises to themselves. Way to go, Marcia!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Way to be almost done!

I just sent my hf mg to a few critique partners. Can't wait to get their feedback, so I can improve it more and start submitting. :)

Dawn Malone said...

That's wonderful, Marcia! That must feel awesome!
I did 1,000 words a day when I did the rough draft of my first manuscript and it really burned me out. 750 sounds much more doable, but I might even shoot for 500 with the intention of writing more on days when the words are flowing. The key word in any word count goal is HABIT! Get into a groove and it becomes the new norm!
Keep going - you can do it!

Vijaya said...

Marcia, I tagged you on my blog for the Next Big Thing and I suspect you are itching to talk about your book since you're nearly done. I hope you will play.

Marcia said...

Bish -- I didn't know that about JL, but yes, it's sure a testament to slow and steady!

Terry -- LOL, I've made a lot of different plans too. I like making plans better than following them, apparently. But I need a way to keep my head in the story, and I think this may be it.

Sharon -- Congrats on being at the beta stage! One step closer...

Dawn -- That's so true about habit. And I tend to like to set the bar a little low and then overshoot it. Less nerve-wracking than setting it too high.

Vijaya -- Oooh, thank you. I also like these things because they give me blogging topics. :)

Daisy Carter said...

Marcia, I am so inspired by your goal! On October 1st, I started a "draft in a month boot camp" of sorts (kinda like NaNoWriMo).

I, too, need to get back in the habit of writing daily. I'm a firm believer, like so many others here, that the daily practice of writing is what makes us better writers. And it keeps the story momentum going! I can't wait to read the post on January 1st when we get to celebrate your success! Keep going! Sounds like you're doing great!

Marcia said...

Daisy -- It seems that lots of people are doing Nano-type projects in months other than November now, which I think is great. And I really echo you on keeping the momentum going! It's hard to overstate how important that is.