I’m sort of cheating here and writing about something I posted on my blog not too long ago. Of course, that post was mostly about writing out of sequence, but also touched on what I’m about to discuss here. So in the interest of full disclosure: this ain’t my first time writing about this subject.
Moving right along.
There are two kinds of writers. Well, okay, there are millions of different kinds, but for the sake of this argument, we can safely divide writers into two different camps: those who use word count quotas and those who do not.
I land very firmly in the first camp. Ever since NaNoWriMo 2008, I have kept my face to the grindstone by setting daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly word count quotas. Typically 5,000 words a day.
Believe you me, there are some days when I just DO NOT feel like meeting that quota. 5,000 is a lot, especially when I’m halfway through that first cup of coffee and haven’t written the first of those 5,000 words. But I’ve learned to break that quota down and make it bite-sized. You know, so I don’t choke on it. Or something.
Note this technique works best if you write out of sequence, as you need to be able to move between scenes and chapters, but keep reading until the end for some tips on using it for chronological writing. And if you struggle with writing chronologically, I hereby grant you permission – nay, encourage you! – to give out of sequence writing a shot. The day I realized I didn’t have to write chronologically was indescribably liberating, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote a story, even a short story, from start to finish without flitting around a little.
Anyway. Let’s say your book has 20 chapters. And let’s say your quota for the day is 2,000 words.
Open up chapter 1. Write 100 words.
Open up chapter 2. Write 100 words.
Carry on all the way through to chapter 20.
Congratulations: You’ve just written 2,000 words. Do it again, you’re up to 4,000.
And chances are, you probably went a little over 100 on each chapter. Maybe on one or two chapters, you got really into it and wrote 200, 500, even 1,000. It’s not a lot, but it does add up. During a particularly rough week earlier this year, I used this technique four days in a row, which came out to 20,000 words. That’s almost a quarter of what would clock in at an 85,000 word manuscript, all broken down into tiny, bite-sized pieces. (And to give you an idea of how easy it is, this paragraph is exactly 100 words.)
And I promised you this technique works well for chronological writers, too, didn’t I? It does indeed. Think about it: even when you don’t feel up to writing 2,000 words, you can write 100, right? Okay, now you’ve written 100, so now you can write another 100, right? Keep doing that over and over, giving yourself little milestones, and before you know it, you’ve written 1,000 or 2,000 or what have you.
The bottom line is that every little bit counts. Every word you write takes you a word closer to the finished manuscript.
But whatever you do, DO NOT CHEAT.
This is not carte blanche to barf garbage all over your manuscript. I’m not telling you to avoid contractions, give your characters two-word names like Mary Sue and Captain Jack, or avoid hyphens to up your word count. You only have to write 100 words at a time, so MAKE THEM COUNT.
So whether you write out of sequence or chronologically, this might help you on those days when your goal or quota is extra daunting. Happy writing!