Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough
Stephen King does 2,000 words per day. Ann Rice kicks ass with 5,000 per day!
I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.
I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.
280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!
That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)
But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.
Ernest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.
… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.
“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”
Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day. She has a ROUTINE.
Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” JUST WRITE… edit later.
So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…
Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.
The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.
Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.
Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:
TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =
BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT
Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.
Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.
Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.
This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.
My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.
So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.
As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”
Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.
In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:
ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:
- A variety of word count meters can be found here.
- The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
- The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
- The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
- Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
- And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.
Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!
In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:
Over the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.
Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author
Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog