A Novel in Ninety Days

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.

Keeping Track of 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.



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  1. Bettieleetwo
    06/09/2011 at 6:34 pm Permalink

    You rock. I approve this message. 🙂

  2. Sandra Wickham
    07/09/2011 at 1:26 am Permalink

    Aw, thanks. 🙂

  3. John Remy
    06/09/2011 at 9:59 pm Permalink

    Sandra, this is inspiring, and exactly what I need right now. Thanks!

    I tracked/obsessed over my word count in a spreadsheet during NaNoWriMo. May be high time to try that again

  4. Sandra Wickham
    07/09/2011 at 1:26 am Permalink

    Great, I’m so glad, and go for it! 😉

  5. Galendara
    07/09/2011 at 5:12 pm Permalink

    this is truly awesome sandra! thank you for sharing the process, ((feeling a fire being lit under my butt…. liking it :))

  6. Steventhomashowell
    07/09/2011 at 5:19 pm Permalink

    I’ve been settling for 1k per day, but no longer! You’ve inspired me to write instead of sleeping…so much.

  7. Ganymeder
    09/09/2011 at 12:13 am Permalink

    Great job! I like all your approaches. I do similar things to motivate myself during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). Congratulations!


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