I am currently in the middle of writing my upcoming novel Stone Cold, a crime thriller set in Las Vegas, due out in early 2016. I recently posted an article on the website about NaNoWriMo, the annual contest where writers attempt to write a minimum of 50,000 words during the month of November. This got me thinking about my writing habits and how I have successfully increased my daily word counts since starting writing. If you are also writing a novel, or are considering doing so, below are some tips which I hope you will find useful. Most of these methods are employed by writers and authors in their daily routines and are common sense approaches to being more prolific as a writer.
This might seem like an obvious one, but in order to write a novel, or any other lengthy piece of writing, you need to make sure you keep turning up for work. Dipping in and out of writing will mean that the word count struggles. Also, unless you are able to keep the story alive inside your head when you’re not writing, the quality of your writing might also suffer. If you can find the time, try to sit down to write every day for at least an hour, longer if you can. That consistency will show in your writing as plot lines and characters develop more organically.
I work fulltime in a career other than writing, so I know what it is like to have limited time to write. On weekdays I tend to write for an hour and a half before work and between two and three hours in the evening. At weekends I try to write 2,000 words a day and I work until that’s done. My weekly word count target is a minimum of 9,000 words.
What do I mean by this? Making a cup of coffee? Wearing your lucky pants? Turning up the heating? These things might help, but by preparation I mean planning your writing for the day.
I’ve developed my writing workflow to make the best use of my time and to turn that time into quality writing. I’m not being big headed when I say this. By quality writing I mean I make sure I write what I set out to write. I make a note at the top of the next scene or chapter of what I want this next section to achieve. This tends to be only a short note — about conflict, plot development, character development, how I want to structure the scene, character viewpoint etc. You get the idea.
This way I don’t waste time writing myself into dead ends or structuring a scene in such a way that it doesn’t work. Knowing what to write before you start to write will increase your word counts for the better. It cuts down on wasted time, sitting in front of a blank screen. It saves time reworking what you’ve written. Time which can be converted into adding more content.
Keeping a record of your word counts
I tend to keep a record of my daily word counts in a spreadsheet. Although just scribbling them down on a piece of paper or in a notebook will do just as well. I use a spreadsheet because it calculates the figures for me. I track number of words, performance against the target for the day, projected number of words and average word count. I also make a note of the times I write between.
Looking back I can work out the most productive time for writing and see if I’m ahead of or behind target. This way I can manage expectations for each writing session and make sure I’m on track.
Give it a try. It might work for you also.
Choosing the right equipment for the job
Here I’m referring to how you physically write. Some writers use pen and paper, others typewriters, some use Microsoft’s Word or something similar.
I use a nifty little program called Ulysses to write. I find that Ulysses is the perfect solution for how I work. Some computer programs clutter the screen with menus and options and boxes to fill in. All of which are, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. I don’t want to be distracted by bells and whistles. When I’m writing there is only one thing which is important — the words that I’m writing.
I wrote an article about Ulysses recently. You can find out why I love it so much here. I also detail how I utilise the program to extend my writing day by nearly two hours when possible. A word of caution though. Ulysses is only available on Apple platforms, not on the Windows platform.
Make sure that you find a method of writing that works for you. After all you’ll need to be able to keep going for up to a hundred thousand words per novel. I personally love using technology to make my writing life easier. Methods such as digital revision, outlining software, timeline software, note taking on mobile platforms, content management software and iCloud syncing are all methods I employ. You will be able to find posts on these topics elsewhere on the website over time.
Writing a novel is hard work. There are ways you can make your life as a writer easier though. So I hope these tips will help improve both your writing and your daily word counts.
Photo credit: Sebastien Wiertz, www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz