Saturday, January 31, 2009

2K a Day

I started writing a new novel a month ago and I’m a third of the way through my first draft. At this stage of the game my writing style is to just get some words on a page. The first draft of my previous novel clocked in at a big hot mess of 152,000 words. Although I believe in writing anything and everything in the first draft, this time around I knew I needed to give myself a limit. So my goal for the first draft of this book was to hit 80,000 to 100,000 words. Not being good at math, I turned to Excel to calculate some things for me. If I wrote 2,000 words a day, five days a week, it would take me eight weeks to hit 80K, ten weeks for 100K and (go, math go!) nine weeks to hit 90K. I, being a firm believer in the middle ground, decided to shoot for 90,000 words.

I am driven by deadlines and 2K a day gives me something to work towards. I already know I don’t hit that 100% of the time. But what if I didn’t have a daily goal? How many words would I write then? I’ll tell you: about 37. My goal with the first draft is to get some words down on a page. I don’t care how grammatically incorrect or plotless or without setting they are. I just need them there to shape them into some sort of story. Then, the super hard stuff of rewriting begins.

For now, I have a method of writing that works for me. I know the output of my early drafts is not writing at its finest, but I’m consistently producing words. I write like it’s a job, something I have to show up at the computer and do each day. Whether I want to or not. Whether I’m inspired or not. And at the end of the day, I have a bunch of words to work with.

Next week (and likely next week only) I’m going to document my word count each day. I’ll post it here, too, and chat about it a bit. The good, the bad, the ugly. It will help me see how close I come each day and hopefully keep me honest about how I’m spending my time.

I wonder about the different methods people use to get their words out. What works for you? Can you write at the drop of a hat, the way some people can sleep on command? Or do you have days where you only get out a single paragraph, but it is a perfect, lovely paragraph wrapped in beauty? Do you write the ending first, then write the chapters in reverse order, kind of like that movie Memento? Please share your writing methods. And then keep comin’ back and I’ll share more of my tales as I climb that Mt. Everest of a first draft.


  1. Tell us more about your new novel. How do you start? Do you outline a lot, if any? Do you make character charts?

  2. Also, it would be great if you shared in your blog the complete process of writing a novel. From start, all the way through, to trying to get it published. I think that would be awesome, for some of us beginner, like me.

    Just a thought.

    Keep the posts coming.

  3. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the suggestions on topics. I will write something longer in a future post. I personally do not outline, I do not make character charts, or have them write letters to each other, or figure out if they were a tree what kind of tree it would be. Everyone has their own process that works for them. For me, it's just to start typing with no gameplan (at least the first draft) and see what happens. I don't think I could ever make up the stuff I end up writing if I sat down and purposefully thought about it.