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Monday, November 22, 2010

1,000 Words a Day

November caught me off guard, and I never did take a chance to review what I'd learned from writing 312,000 words last year (I started my word count on November 1st, 2009).

I'm a scientist at heart. A year's worth of daily word counts for me is a year's worth of data points. I have charts. I have graphs. I could do a statistical analysis, but I really don't hate you that much. This is just the summary of how I did, and the lessons I took away from the experience. I hope it helps other writers with their goals.

1) 1000 Words a Day.... not so much

The original goal was to write 1k a day. Not hard, right? Looking back over a year's worth of writing I can safely say, yes, it is that hard. Even though I intended to write 1k a day what really happened is I averaged 855.07 words per day.

Why? At a guess I'll have to say LIFE. Things happened. It wasn't that I didn't have something to write, it was that I didn't have time to write.

2) 52 Days Off A Year
Part of my agreement with myself was that I was going to take one day off of writing a week. A veg-out day to enjoy not writing. To spend reading or sleeping or whatever else happened to catch my fancy.

In reality I didn't write 103 days last year. There were 46 days last year that I wrote less than 500 words. One of those days I totaled 6 words. SIX.

What happened there? Some days were busy, but I think several of those Zero Word Count days were spent editing, refining, or researching. Writing isn't just writing. Not every moment that contributes to a novel is one of creation.

Anything that makes the novel better is a Good Thing, even if it doesn't boost my word count.

3) 61 Days
Out of the 365 day year, I managed to write between 2000 and 3000 words on 61 days. That includes NaNo 2009 and random days throughout the year where the writing just clicked.

Note: These really were random days. It wasn't that November and March were excellent months to write, it was that in November I made 2000 words for NaNo every day and then I did this at random throughout the year.

Lesson learned? I guess some days the writing is better than others. Some days the scene is perfect and you can write. Those make up for the bad days when you write six words.

4) What You Can Do in Ten Days
There were ten days last year where I wrote over three thousand words. The total comes to 33,903 words. That's a third of a book in ten days.

March 12th, 2010, was my best writing day. Four thousand words. I'm tempted to go check my journal and see what I ate, if I bothered to write that down. 4k in a day? That's amazing! If I could write like that every day I could easily finish several rough drafts a year.

But they would never get edited.

5) The Basic Principle Applies

The end result of my year long quest for 312,000 original words is this: Sit down and write. Some days are good. Some days you get a sentence.

Don't quit writing because you had a bad day, or a bad month, or a bad year. If you do the math, I didn't write for three months last year. Ten good days of writing offsets a whole season of bad days.

Clip art courtesy or and copyright to USF.


  1. Just stumbled on this article, and it is pretty damn inspiring, actually. :) I GREATLY admire your discipline to get down the numbers, as it may seem counter-intuitive, but I see much positive out of your failure to meet your original goals: You at least help people (i.e. me) set reasonable expectations.

    I have often dreamed of getting some stuff down on "paper" and it rarely happens. The encroachment of real life is so overwhelmingly distracting that I've never got past a chapter four of anything as my discipline fades as I see something else shiny to think about.

    Anyway, well done on the thousands and thousands of words more than I've written!


  2. Personally, I'd love to see your statistical analysis, but I'm mad for charts and graphs, too. :)

    I love your basic principle about just sitting down to write and letting the words sort themselves out. I've had my best year at NaNo this year. Love the story I'm writing and that excitement has let me accumulate extra words on some days. That helps to offset the days that I need a break or the days that life makes me take a break even if I don't want one.

    Thank you for sharing your results and conclusions!

  3. You might also like the ROW80 group Kait Nolan started; I know having weekly check-ins to report progress is helping me figure out what's realistic and how to build a writing plan that takes into account Real Life.