When I started my first novel in 2009, I emailed my mentor Diana Rowland and told her I was writing 1000 wds a day and was that enough? I remember her saying, “1000 words is good, but you might want to try for more.” That set me off on a new mission to write 1500 words a day, which often became 2000 words a day.
For my second novel, I started off with the goal of 1500 words a day, six days a week, treating it just like my training schedule when I was a professional fitness competitor. Six days a week, no options, no excuses, followed by a full day to rest and recover. I finished the first draft of that novel at a pretty quick pace, but wasn’t exactly sure how long it had taken.
When it came to writing the first draft of novel number three, I decided to keep track of how long it took. Am I sharing this with you to show off? A little, yes, but I also have unselfish reasons for posting it, the biggest being, if I can do this, ANYONE can do this. I’m no one special. I simply like to set goals and I get pissed off with myself when I don’t meet them, which keeps me driven and determined to reach that daily word count.
Just like in fitness, you need to find what works for you. What motivates you? What keeps you going? I use small rewards like getting to watch episodes of my favourite TV shows after I reach my word count goal. (and no, please don’t use food as a reward!) I have the PYR catalogue prominently displayed in my writing area. I have my mom waiting to read each new chapter of my first draft as I spit it out. I keep in touch with my writing friends who will kick my butt if I slack off and I have a mentor I want to make proud of me. These things keep me focused on churning out the words. It’s crucial that you find out what works for you and put those tools and tactics to use. Worry about future drafts after the first one is done.
Just like in fitness, there is NO quick fix solution. It’s about persistence, dedication and being able to forgive yourself when you slip up and miss a day, rather than spiralling into a funk that prevents you from picking yourself up and getting back at it.
I also remind myself that it’s okay for the first draft to suck, a lesson repeated by Mur Lafferty on her podcast I Should Be Writing that sticks with me. I also keep in mind the adage “you can’t edit what isn’t there.” There are many drafts and many hours of revisions ahead of me, but it’s a complete novel, beginning, middle and end and now I can fix it. Find what it takes for you to get it down and get it done.
Take a look at my ninety days. Take a close look! I wasn’t perfect, I messed up a lot, I had good days, bad days and terrible days, but I got there. You can too!
A Novel in Ninety Days
May 18 Day 1 1500 wds -excited
May 19 Day 2 1600 wds -hopeful
May 20 Day 3 1500 wds
May 21st Day 4 0 words At competition to run athlete meeting, judge
May 22nd Day 5 0 words At competition to run athlete meeting, judge
May 23rd Day 6 0 words At competition to run athlete meeting, judge
May 24th Day 7 1500 wds -getting back at it
May 25th Day 8 1600 wds
May 26th Day 9 1100 wds -fell a bit short
May 27th Day 10 1500 wds
May 28th Day 11 2006 wds -good day
May 29th Day 12 Scheduled Day Off
May 30th Day 13 1513 wds
June 1st Day 14 1571 wds
June 2nd Day 15 2300 wds
June 3rd Day 16 1142 wds -little off
June 4th Day 17 0 words At competition to run athlete meeting, judge
June 5th Day 18 0 words At competition to run athlete meeting, judge
June 6th Day 19 1100 wds -really struggled
June 7th Day 20 650 wds -still struggling
June 8th Day 21 0 wds -Canucks game
June 9th Day 22 0 wds -Canucks game
June 10th Day 23 1500 wds
June 11th Day 24 2015 wds
June 12th Day 25 1017 wds -whoops
June 13th Day 26 0 wds -Canucks game, also, laziness
June 14th Day 27 1586 wds
June 15th Day 28 1227 wds
June 16th Day 29 1600 wds -received rejection on full MS of last novel
June 17th Day 30 1019 -still bummed, not sure where this is going
June 18th Day 31 0 wds *no explanation written down
June 19th Day 32 Scheduled Day Off
June 20th Day 33 1611 wds
June 21st Day 34 1589 wds
June 22nd Day 35 2082 wds
June 23rd Day 36 2057 wds
June 24th Day 37 2007 wds -at library with my mom
June 25th Day 38 1600 wds
June 26th Day 39 Scheduled Day Off
June 27th Day 40 1570 wds
June 28th Day 41 2074 wds
June 29th Day 42 1539 wds
June 30th Day 43 1891 wds
July 1st Day 44 1632 wds -Canada Day!
July 2nd Day 45 1080 wds -little burnt out??
July 3rd Day 46 Scheduled Day Off
July 4th Day 47 Re-plotted last 1/3 of novel
July 5th Day 48 1528 wds
July 6th Day 49 1717 wds -on plane to Vegas
July 7th Day 50 1028 wds -in Vegas
July 8th Day 51 1515 wds -in Vegas
July 9th Day 52 1568 wds -in Vegas
July 10th Day 53 1509 wds -in Vegas (Main event begins)
July 11th Day 54 Scheduled Day Off in Vegas
July 12th Day 55 1500 wds -at the Rio during Main Event
July 13th Day 56 1000 wds -on plane home from Vegas
July 14th Day 57 0 wds -BC Provincial Championships
July 15th Day 58 0 wds -BC Provincial Championships
July 16th Day 59 0 wds -BC Provincial Championships
July 17th Day 60 0 wds -recovering from trip/show
July 18th Day 61 0 wds -recovering from trip/show
July 19th Day 62 1550 wds -Yay! Back on track!
July 20th Day 63 2011 wds -better!
July 21st Day 64 2029 wds -knocking it out!
July 22nd Day 65 2003 wds -on plane to Saskatoon
July 23rd Day 66 0 wds -at National Championships with team BC
July 24th Day 67 2450 wds -1st night of camping (cabin)
July 25th Day 68 2556 wds -2nd day of camping
July 26th Day 69 1010 wds -trip home from Saskatchewan
July 27th Day 70 1027 wds -re-plotting, planning
July 28th Day 71 2003 wds -at 82, 369 wds (curious)
July 29th Day 72 Scheduled Day Off
July 30th Day 73 2178 wds -online Google hangout
July 31st Day 74 1023 wds -bad day
Aug 1st Day 75 1948 wds
Aug 2nd Day 76 1707 wds -online Google hangout
Aug 3rd Day 77 1116 wds -to the end! Going back for rewrites
Aug 4th Day 78 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 5th Day 79 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 6th Day 80 1.5 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 7th Day 81 New “to do list” to fix/rewrite etc
Aug 8th Day 82 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 9th Day 83 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 10th Day 84 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 11th Day 85 2 hrs Triage editing/fixing
Aug 12th Day 86 4 chapters Triage editing/fixing
Aug 13th Day 87 4.5 chapters Triage editing/fixing
Aug 14th Day 88 1.5 chapters -little burned out
Aug 15th Day 89 3.5 chapters Triage editing/fixing
Aug 16th Day 90 4 chapters Triage editing/fixing
Total word count: 94, 111.