10,000 Words a DAY?! (or How to Use Science to Write More, Better)

The most Novembery of all months is bearing down on us, and soon everyone around the world will be getting to work on novels they’ve been putting off for far too long. Authors will be completing first drafts of novels in November, because who wants to go outside in **the weather**?

Wait. Novel first drafts in a month? How is that possible? That’s like, 5000 words a day, without deleting anything.

If you had asked me 6 months ago, I would have said “That’s impossible.” But I’ve been working up there (I think I’m at around 2000 words on a good day), and if you asked me a few hours ago, I’d say “That’s improbable. Only full-time writers can even get close to that.”

Then I read this post about an author who figured out how to get to 10,000 words a day. Regularly.

At first, I thought it was going to be a gimmick, something stupid and click-baity. Something like, “lol, I just talk to myself really fast and record it”.

But it’s not.  The author of the article (and plenty of books), Rachel Aaron, gives great advice for figuring out how to maximise your time spent writing.

What stuck out to me was how scientific her approach was. She used spreadsheets to track her writing time, word counts, everything. She tested herself repeatedly, until she could pull 10,000 words.

I was surprised to find many of techniques used to write more words in a day were equally applicable for learning how to write better blog posts. This post on Copyblogger came up in my Twitter feed, and of course I had to read it. It’s all about analyzing your own weaknesses to improve your blog posts.

But, is there a problem here? Does quality suffer for quantity’s sake? Wouldn’t your art suffer because you’re just pumping it out so quickly?

AHA! Not  so! Read this article from Brain Pickings. They say that once you work on something so regularly, it becomes comfortable to you. Then they argue that, in order to grow as you work on longer projects (books), or work over and over again on the same project (blogs) you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

So, I’m curious – How do you use science for your writing? How do you try to squeeze more words out in the same amount of time? What do you do to push yourself outside of your writing comfort zone?

Photo by Riccardo Cuppini. 

18 thoughts on “10,000 Words a DAY?! (or How to Use Science to Write More, Better)

  1. Let me guess, this author doesn’t have a full-time job doesn’t she? In fact, I rather suppose she doesn’t even have a part-time job, apart from her writing that is. That’s a dream-life, writing non-stop and not having to work for a living. Unfortunately though, for most of us, it’s not a choice we can make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been considering this analogy of boxes lately:

      Everyone has boxes, with tight lids and bold labels. ‘You are a smart kid, you are an athlete, you are a nerd. You can not eat that, you can not go there, you must do this and that and these.’

      The boxes seem to be impenetrable, permanent, sometimes they constrict us.

      But they are also imaginary.

      Arbitrary.

      Maybe even useless.

      Do not put yourself in a box you do not want to be in. You are a human being, with will and intelligence. There is always a way.

      As to the first notion, yes, I absolutely assumed she was a full-time writer. How do you think she got there though?

      I think she made her own box, the exact box she wanted to be in.

      I apologize if I’m coming off as ‘preachy’ or ‘patronizing’, I only wish to help. And I thank you sincerely for your slew of comments, Darkly.

      Like

  2. New to blogging, new to actually completing a book and even newer to publishing, but I can say I was stunned at myself. the first book took almost 3 months to compile (And, I started with the first 10 or 12 chapters written already!) The second book poured out in just under 2 moths. At this rate, I’m wondering if book 3 will arrive in an even shorter time frame.

    Not only are the book’s arrivals coming closer together, they are becoming more difficult technically – book 1 was almost exclusively zeroed in on the MC, book 2 added a second strong character, and book 3 will have 4 new ones. Going to be an interesting month, to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must be proud of yourself! I know I would be, to actually be able to see that kind of progress.

      And WOW, 2 months for an entire book? Does that include all the rounds of editing?

      Like

      1. Not a chance! Started book 2 around the end of August, and it just went to the beta readers for the second round of evaluation/edits Saturday (end of October). Sadly, the final polish round may have to wait until after I get a bit of cash built up. But, I’m still going to polish as best I can from the second edit, and send it out for sale. (Reminds me, need to start arguing with the formatting. This one is going to take forever to catch all the italics after I “nuke” it…)

        I’m actually expecting the NaNo book to take longer to edit, because of the technical difficulties involved in the actual plot. If any of it tries to unravel on me, I’m going to have a world of hurt to weave it all back together again. That one may take two or three rounds of read through before I’m willing to risk someone else’s eyes on it. Don’t want the beta reader’s eyes bleeding on me, after all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, certainly not. I think that might be detrimental to their health.

        As to your cash problems, I hear you on that. If only we lived in a world where money didn’t matter. But then I wonder, what would people do then?

        Would people write as many books?

        Like

      3. For those called to write? I am pretty positive the answer to that would be “yes”.

        For the authors on the pulp treadmill? They would likely be relieved to no longer be shackled to the grinder. (They might actually take advantage of the break and work on those wonderful pieces that they haven’t had a chance to develop properly.)

        For the other authors who are writing just for the money? Those would probably have coronaries at the thought.

        Like

  3. I myself am a very slow writer. I have the ability to write faster, but I can’t let stuff go. Until that paragraph works I just can’t go on. When I try to write and let the mistakes go, I find that I will never get back to those stories for some reason. I’ve just got this thing where I have to get it as close to right as possible the first time. It’s a sickness….

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  4. Great post. I’ve read Rachel’s post on getting to 10k words a day before – I think her method takes an exceptionally disciplined mind, a skill in itself!

    Im not approaching my writing as scientifically as this – I have a loose word goal (its modest but slowly increasing) – but my efforts are planned somewhat to stretch myself progressively further.

    I was pleased to see that my efforts are line with the BrainPicking’s article on practicing outside of your comfort zone to get better than simply good enough. To become excellent at an instrument, you must try harder and harder musical scores. To become excellent at a sport, you must challenge better and better opponents. To be come good at writing… write things that challenge you.

    Cheers
    KT

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The hardest part is figuring out what challenges are productive. I know I’ve told you this before, but I’ve been practicing poetry lately (probably nothing I’ll post here, because,seriously, there’s enough poetry on wordpress) – but I’m doing it to learn more about words and sentence structure, etc.

      But what other challenges are there? Do I need to write in other mediums? In new formats? Should I be practicing technical writing?

      So many questions, and sometimes, I just want to write normal fiction, ya know?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. These are very interesting concepts . . . I myself have never attempted such a scientific approach, but am now curious to try it. I’ve noticed over the years that, as I’ve made writing a more regular part of my day, I’ve been able to produce more in the same amount of time, as if my mind and hand grow accustomed to working together. But when working on larger chunks of stories, such as the climax/final smash-up/resolution, I NEED to write a ton all at once and am usually forced to sacrifice sleep in order to get it done, because while I can make myself write a little faster, it’s not a significant change. I don’t think I’ve ever, even in up-all-night mad writing frenzies, gotten more than 8,000 words down in one go. I do find myself writing in the hours of O Dark Thirty, however, when it’s really important I finish something. Being very tired quiets the inner critic, helping me to focus on the story and the story only, which in turn allows the words to flow a bit quicker.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know right? I just started a spreadsheet for this stuff, I’m so eager to see if I can’t improve my writing productivity just by measuring it.

      As for climaxes: It’s odd, I’ve never thought about it, but I tend to do the same thing. I usually meander through my stories, writing no specific amount of action at a time, but when I get to the climax, I always write it in a flurry. For most of my short stories, the climax-to-finish point is usually written in an hour or two.

      Of course, editing is a completely different beast…

      Like

      1. I’m always torn. I love seeing my writing improve (and I LOVE finding the perfect changes to make to a scene, or an outline) – but sometimes you know you’re going to have to rewrite 50% of something.

        And that can be so daunting.

        Like

  6. For about eight weeks I kept track of the time I spent writing and the words I produced in that time each day. I never compiled the data into a spreadsheet, chart or graph (who the heck has time for that?) but I would estimate that on average I wrote around 800-1,000 words in an hour. While that is good for me to know and I usually do try to keep steady at that pace, I’m not inclined to use that information to try to mash my productivity into a smaller box of time. I don’t have 8 or 5 or even 3 hours to write every day and sometimes thirty minutes is all I can manage. While it would be great to write more than 1,000 words an hour since I am so limited on time, I can’t imagine putting that kind of pressure on myself. It’s hard enough to just find time to write every day, and really, I’m totally fine with the pace I have. I commend those who can do it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You know, that is a completely different side to the argument I hadn’t considered. Sometimes it’s better to write because you enjoy it, rather than turning it into an efficiency test.

      And besides, nobody ever said the best authors were quick writers!

      Liked by 2 people

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