A wonderful example of a word count marathon is November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I plunged in this past go-a-round and produced 50,024 words in 30 days. The title of the work-in-progress is FISH, a story about love, loss, betrayal and redemption set in the beautiful but cruel seaside resort Provincetown. Would this budding novel have even happened without the pressure cooker of 1667 words a day? No.
The experts say that 500 to 1500 is an average daily word count for novelists and authors. A person who is starting from scratch is at zero. How do you go from nothing to a sizable output of writing a day? Here are some tips:
1. Set a timer. Author Natalie Goldberg recommends this practice in her iconic work, “Writing Down the Bones”. Set a timer for eight minutes. Write. If you work with software like Microsoft Word, the actual count is calculated as you go.
To supercharge your word count: Do this daily. Increase the timer. We did one-half-hour word count competitions at Cape Cod NaNoWriMo write-ins. Not all of your work is going are to be good but I promise you jewels amidst the rocks.
A marathon runner doesn’t buy a pair a sneakers and run 26 miles their first day (bionic people aside). It takes practice and discipline. Counting words is one of the ways a writer trains.
2. Report in. Twitter has #wordcount and #amwriting as hashtags for tweeting your progress for the day. It is a powerful tool and you can see what other twitterai are doing. Whatever works, right? Beware of TMI (too much information). Go on Twitter, search for #wordcount and #amwriting. You will see what I mean. Or, check in daily with a supportive friend by telephone or email.
3. Get over yourself. I was at a coffee shop talking to a famous poet with published books, an agent and all kinds of recognition. He looked at me with big eyes, filled with torment, and said, (I kid you not) “You know what I wish?” Of course I replied, “What?” He says wistfully, “I wish, I wish writing wasn’t so hard.”
I was speechless. Please, you make a living as an author. Writing isn’t working on a chain gang. But, I felt his pain with him, rolled my eyes after he left and humbly went back to work.
Takeaway: Word counts keep writers in the game. Use a timer, a support system and be willing to give up the angst and just do it.
This post? 447 words :)