Good morning! It’s Saturday, I’ve got a steaming hot espresso at my elbow, and I’m ten days into my fall writing challenge. This feels like a good moment to check in on how it’s been going.
First, the numbers:
Writing Challenge Wordcount
Day 1: 4003
Day 2: 5212
Day 3: 5449
Day 4: 4154
Day 5: 0 (day off)
Day 6: 3157
Day 7: 5195
Day 8: 4931
Day 9: 5398
Day 10: 0 (day off)
Writing Days: 8
Writing Day Average: 4687
I’m a bit shy of my 5000/day target, but that’s fine. Over the spring and summer, I averaged about 2000 words per writing day, so this is a big upwards jump. Also, I’ve been taking one day off per week instead of two, not because I’m feeling hurried, but because I’ve been enjoying the writing so much. I’m feeling great about those numbers.
Fellow productivity nerds, you might be wondering: what allowed me to go faster? Here’s what seemed to help:
- Getting started no later than 9am.
- Having a rough outline before I start my work day.
- Using a timer to do “sprints”.
- Tracking my word count.
- Getting mentally excited about each scene before I wrote it.
and, most importantly
- NOT letting myself backtrack. This first draft is moving in one direction: forward!
A Few Observations
Editing As I Go vs Editing Later
It’s difficult for me to avoid going back and fixing up prior chapters. I get all sorts of ideas about what I should fix in yesterday’s work, and I want to go and do that. But here’s the thing. Whenever I’ve let myself cycle back and edit as I go, my edits aren’t as good.
I have a theory about this. When I complete a first draft, I end with a clearer sense of the story as a whole, who the characters are, what they’re struggling with, and so on. If I go back and edit chapter one when I’ve finished chapter five, there’s a lot of knowledge I’m missing. But if I wait, if I let the full story unfold in first-draft form, I can go back and edit chapter one with that knowledge in place. In short, until the first draft is done, I’m unprepared to edit a dang thing.
This isn’t the way it works for everyone. But after trying it out a zillion different ways, I’ll stick with this method. Draft all the way through, keep notes on any fixes that pop up in my brain, then do editing as a separate step.
The Power of Simple Tools
I’ve got two paper notebooks on my desk. In one, I track my wordcount. I jot down my starting wordcount, make note of the time, and then jot down my ending wordcount at the end of the session.
My other notebook is for my reverse outline. I jot down a sentence of two for each scene as i write, building an accurate, high-level outline as I go. This comes in handy because I can “read through” my outline each morning and get refreshed on the story.
I use the extra pages in that notebook as scratch paper to work out chapter details, as needed.
- Track wordcount.
- Build a simple outline as I go.
- As needed, use paper to work out scenes before I write them.
Oh, and I listen to upbeat, thumpy music as I write. That helps too. 🎧
Avoiding procrastination has been a big part of my initial success. I’ll happily spend my days listening to writing podcasts, reading another few books about writing, or developing a fancy word tracking spreadsheet. Those things feel like writing, and education is important, but at a certain point, they become a distraction from the real work.
Here’s what works: Butt in my chair by nine, coffee at my elbow, turn up the music, and party on the prose. Speaking of which…
I’m ready to get back to it! Thanks for following along, everyone, and enjoy your weekend. ☺️