Level Up: 1,000 Words in a Day

I'm a slow writer. Like, really slow. I mean, I wrote the freaking book post on writing slow. So I'm a little weirded out to have to admit the following:

I have written 1,000 words a day, every (writing) day, for the past two weeks.

Now, granted, I'm usually only able to pull 3-4 writing days a week, but my previous average was 1,000 words per week, so this is kind of a big jump. How am I doing this?

Well... I'm still trying to figure that out.

With Travelers, my only goal was to finish the novel. That took 4.5 years. Air Pirates wasn't much different, but I got that done in 2 years. I had a for-real word count goal with Cunning Folk, but it was a soft goal (meaning I didn't do anything if I missed it). I finished the draft in 9 months, but my production rate was about the same as Air Pirates.

Now? I have a hard goal of 800 words/day. "Hard" meaning on the first day, when I didn't meet my goal during my isolated writing time, I squeezed in extra work wherever I could.

The weird thing is, that's the only day I've had to do extra work so far.

My writing time is two hours. Often, by the end of the first hour, I'll only have written about 100-300 words. It sucks. It's hard, and I feel like I'll never make it. But something weird happens around 600-700 words: I stop paying attention.

I've never had a runner's high (what with my loathing for the activity), but I've heard it's a thing. So maybe there's a writer's high too -- a point at which you stop feeling the pain and just get lost in the story. There seems to be for me. Every time I sit down to write, I dread it and wonder if I can maintain this breakneck (for me) pace. Then by the end I wish I had a little bit more time to write.

I've written enough novels to know the kinds of things I tend to get stuck on and the kinds of things I'm good at just writing through. With this novel, I went over my outline until I had 9,000 words of the thing detailing every major plot point and motivation I could think of (plus a few minor foreshadowing tidbits), until I could read through the outline without any gaps.

There's still a lot I have to make up -- action scenes, conversations, the dreaded segues -- but those things haven't been slowing me down as much as they used to.

I used to revise as I go. Heck, I had a whole ritual every time I finished a chapter: revise, record statistics, send to alpha reader, update blog sidebar, try to remember what the next chapter is about...

I've cut out a lot of that now, but most importantly I've cut the revising as I go. It's hard (especially when sending really rough drafts to my alpha), but it keeps me moving.

I'm a big fan of the idea that you can do basically anything if you practice hard enough. I don't know why it surprises me that writing fast is one of those things.

How about you? How do you maintain your pace (whatever it is)? Got any tips for someone trying to get faster?


Hepius said...

When I wrote Eternal Knight I would put in 5,000 word days (and ended up with a 250,000 word novel). It was eventually edited down to 116,000.

I could do this because I had the summer off and had no child to take care of.

I am really struggling with writing the sequel. My life is different now. I think I need to do the following:

1) Establish a set writing time when nobody is allowed to go near me.
2) Get back to written goals and word count tracking.

I'll never hit another 5,000 word day (under current circumstances). But I do average 500 words/hour. Now, where to squeeze in two hours/day?

Joshua McCune said...

I'm absolutely thrilled if I can get 1500 words in a day, though that usually takes me a good 4 - 8 hours. Words often flow like swampwater for me, too

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Ah, you've discovered the thrill of drafting! I'm a fast writer (now), but it took me a while to figure out how to do that. Like, Matt, I can do 5000 words in a day if I have enough time and no distractions. It goes even faster when you've extensively outlined, as you have. So revel in it, my friend! You've hit the sweet spot!

Heidi W said...

I'm usually a fast drafter--my problem is typing fast enough to get the sentence down before the next one comes. But I slow down when working from an outline--it is like I'm trying to think about too much (character and story arcs, foreshadowing, etc). When I'm just writing--no outline, no plan--the only thing in my head is the current scene and the words just flow.

Ever tried not outlining? It would be interesting to see how your writing speed changes.

Deserae McGlothen said...

similarly, I've become a slow drafter. My process sounds similar... Write, hate, edit, repeat. I used to stay on a chapter for weeks until it sounded like something I could actually stand. But then I read an article somewhere where the author in question wrote at least 1,000 words a day in rain or shine, whether sick or well. I couldn't believe it because I thought getting 500 words down in a single writing day was good enough. And it was--- for me, at the time--- but it's funny how easily 1,000 words come out now. It's almost natural to have a sit down and get 1,000 more onto that word document. You're definitely right: practice makes perfect. You'd never know your limits if you didn't push yourself to get there. So glad to hear this new thing is working well for you.

jjdebenedictis said...

Yikes, all these speed demons. I am another sloooooow writer. I can do 1,000 words a day (and WHOO-HOO! for you doing it so consistently for so long!) when I know what's going to happen. So, like you, outlining is important.

But I have yet to outline an entire book. That's also something I find really hard.

Adam Heine said...

@Heidi: My earliest novels were not outlined, or at least very limitedly so. My process was always the same. The opening (all the way through the first Turning Point) came out smoothly and easily. Then the tires came off and I bumbled along for a while before coming to a complete stop.

It's like the things you worry about when you work from an outline are all the things I worry about when I don't. With a solid outline, I trust that the arcs and foreshadowing, etc, are all there and I can just focus on the scene.

Weird how different people work differently, yeah?

Adam Heine said...

@Deserae: I totally agree: pushing myself is a big part of it. I was never happy with 500 words a day, but during my last novel I had decided it was "good enough," so I didn't push as hard at the time.

@JJ: I guess if I keep this up, I'll have to consider myself a speed demon, won't I? But writing slow is okay! It's great! I mean everything I said in that post: live life, write slow!

Ryshia Kennie said...

I keep my day's word count at 2,000 or more by writing at the same time every day. First thing in the morning, the earlier the better. And crazily enough writing two novels at the same time. A recent discovery. Rather than wrestling with a bump in one I just move to the other.

Adam Heine said...

That's an interesting way to do it, Ryshia. I may try that someday.

And I definitely agree that consistency in time works best. Unfortunately my kids don't always allow that ;-)

L. T. Host said...

I don't have any tips to go faster because my writing tends to either completely consume me, or come in spurts. Either way, I'm prolific. (It's both a blessing and a curse, trust me).

I actually wouldn't even know where to start because I don't know how or why I write so fast. I just do. But I will say that I think I'm very motivated by the story-- finding out how it ends, how it gets to the ending, what happens to the characters, etc. I want to know, so I write fast so I can find out. At least, I think that's why.

This may be the ONE PLACE where being impatient serves me.

linda said...

Congrats on the awesome goal-exceeding and word count! :D That's awesome. Great tips, too. I realized that I'm having a hard time writing because I hate the feeling of having everything in a mess in my head, so I'm going to do more plotting before I continue. I find that I prefer to work out what I want to say in outline form because it's easier to see the big picture and it makes drafting go so much faster. But turning off my inner editor is so hard! I always want to get things right on the first pass as much as possible. I guess I need more practice. :)

Adam Heine said...

Thanks, Linda! You sound a lot like me. The outline helps me see the big picture for sure. My inner editor is ever-fussy, but he's a lot quieter this time. Practice is the only reason I can think of; I finally believe that all the niggly stuff he complains about will be fixed in revision.

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

It depends on the day and if I know exactly how the scene is going to play out. My maximum word count so far was 3500 words in one day, and that took me probably 6 hours. Congrats on the awesome daily word count :).

Ellis Shuman said...

Do all our writers keep statistics of their daily word count??

I wrote the entire manuscript of my novel without checking once how much of it I had composed on a daily basis.

Only when I finished, as part of my research into what was considered acceptable as word counts for first novels, did I check my total for the manuscript.

My novel had 139,000 words, and as a result of this discovery, my immediate goal was to reduce its length to no longer than 110,000 words.

So if there was any statistical tracking of word counts on my part, it was as I lowered the total count!

Adam Heine said...

I'm probably not representative, Ellis, as I'm sort of OCD about statistics. I didn't always keep track of daily word count, but I have always kept track of other stats.

For me, these stats help me see how I'm doing and motivate me to do better. For example, based on all the stats I've kept up to this point, I'm fairly certain I can finish this draft by January.