Monday, April 03, 2006

How to Write 500 Words Daily

Bane asks:
What do you consider a good daily clip for words written per day, assuming all is going well, and you have uninterrupted writing time?

And hours per day, too.

I'm not talking a Stephen King pace here, or Thomas Harris either, for that matter. Just a good, comfortable pace.

I just calculated that if you wrote 555 words a day, for six months straight, you'd have 100,000 words. That does not sound like 'reasonable pace' to me, but what do I know?

The answer to the latter question is, "Probably a lot more than you realize." As for the former: yes, ~500 words per day is not an unreasonable pace.

This question has come up before, and I said most of what I had to say in the blogbit, Zelnorm for Writers. To amplify on that, though: the key for me is not so much how long I write, but when I write. I used to be a night owl, but now I find my best writing time is first thing in the morning. If I can wake up before the kids and my wife; hit the bathroom, throw the dogs outside, and start the coffee pot; and then get straight to writing before I do absolutely ANYTHING else, I have no trouble at all hitting my 500-word goal, and usually do closer to 1,000. And I do this in about an hour.

Contrariwise, at 5pm, I can spend an entire hour agonizing over a ten-word sentence.

A couple of other things are germane, though. I'm one of those people who creates and edits in two distinctly separate phases, so we're talking 500-1,000 words of raw content which will be reshaped later, AFTER I've written, "The End." Also, I have to resort to a number of dodges in order to sustain this pace. Sometimes I compose in longhand; with my handwriting, two pages on a legal pad is about 500 words. Other times I work on an old 486 DOS laptop, in which case two screens full of 80x24 ASCII text makes about 500 words.

The two things I absolutely can not do are look at the morning paper before I get to writing, or work on an Internet-connected machine. Either one switches me from output to input mode, and it's hard to recover the momentum. In particular, if I do the latter, I am especially unable to resist the temptation to check the morning news feeds, peek at a favored blog or two, and check my email. And once I've opened up my email client -- well, email is the mind-killer...