High Volume Writing: Why Track Session Wordcount?
My peak writing days give me 20-25 thousand words of fiction. I can kick out five thousand or more words in a day without really breaking a sweat. I’ve also found that the parts of my books where I wrote more words per day are cleaner, clearer, require less revision and get less critique from my editors.
And I’d like to share with you some of the techniques I’ve learned to use to generate high volume writing! As always, every writer is different - these are things which work for me, and may or may not work for you. Try them out and see!
Charting your Results
I talked about charting your results by writing session - that is, writing down how much you wrote in any given session, and what time of day it was. I had some people reply saying they might track results day by day - but not session by session. I recommend that you break your writing day into specific blocks, or sessions, and track the word count results of each one. There are a good number of reasons why it’s actually important to track a little deeper than just daily word counts, and I’m going to discuss a few of them here.
Many writers report that they do better work at certain times of the day. That’s actually normal - most of us find that we have more or less creativity depending on where we are in our daily schedules. But unfortunately, when you THINK your best time of day is - and when it actually is - may be very different!
A writer may think she is a night owl, but when she actually tracks her results, she finds out that her best writing sessions are in the morning. But she might never know unless she tracked how much she was producing in each session, not just per day.
Ever notice that some scenes just fly by? You love writing them, and the words just pour out onto the page?
Then there are other scenes that you just can’t stand writing. You slog through them. You work to drag each word out.
The problem you’re having in those latter scenes might be a sign that your subconscious is telling you the scene is boring.
Here’s the deal: if you are bored writing a scene, the reader is probably going to be bored reading it. Having major issues writing a scene is a pretty good sign that you’re not passionate about it - and if you’re not loving that scene, no reader is going to love it either!
There are a variety of fixes for this sort of thing. You can work at brainstorming ways to fix the scene. You can cut the scene entirely, or find another scene to replace it with that adds tension and conflict, that re-ignites your passion.
But unless you’re tracking your words per session alongside your words per day, you might miss these scenes entirely (at least until revision or editing - and it’s easier to fix them now than later!).
How do you get to five thousand words a day? Or ten thousand? Or even a thousand?
Whatever your personal goals might be, the way you improve your writing output can be summed up as follows:
Put butt in chair.
It’s not enough to do the first without the second. And so often, we can hit the chair, set up to write, and then… Stare out the window for a while. Or look at the titles of books on our bookshelf. Or stand up and stretch. Or pet the cat. Or do any of a myriad other things that have nothing to do with getting words on the screen.
But that’s what we NEED to be doing: getting words on the screen.
By tracking the words per session, you can tell, afterwards, if you have been productive or not. If you usually produce about five hundred words per twenty-five minute session, and you only got two hundred this time, then something went wrong. What was it?
Learning to figure out what slowed you down is one huge key to writing more productively. But setting up a competition against yourself - to produce as best you can, every minute you are writing! - is awesome. It’s like a runner working out on a treadmill for twenty-five minutes, trying to get that last mile finished before the timer runs out. Trying to push that little extra bit.
You’ll find that it’s easier to say “no” to distractions if you are in a hot competition to make a certain word count.
Keep it Fun
Give it a shot. Time your sessions - and count the words per session. Take a look at your process, and figure out why you do better some sessions than you do during others. Work on improving your count, session by session - but not at the expense of writing well. Story first, always.
I’d love to hear what you’ve learned, if you give these techniques a try!
I hope you found this article useful and enjoyable! Try these techniques out - feel free to share them around. If you have thoughts on the above, or want to share your own tips, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
I'm running a Kickstarter campaign - where I will be demonstrating “High Volume Writing”! When the campaign is funded, I’ll be taking a little trip on a train, and writing an entire novel, start to finish, over the course of a three day trip. Best yet - the writing will all be done in public view (for everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter). So you’ll get to see all of these processes and tools in action, as I use them to write a rocking new fantasy novel! Check out the kickstarter here: http://kck.st/1u1KVgs