Some say that it takes a million words before what we write is publishable. That is obviously up for debate but something to keep in the back of the mind. Getting to a million words is going to take time though. However there are ways to increase your word count and cut the time it does take. 4,000 words a day can take a writer anywhere from an hour to a full eight hour or more day. There is a great blog post by author Rachael Aaron which details how she went from writing 2,000 words a day to up to 10,000 words a day. I love this article. There are a ton of tips for any writer and I highly recommend reading at least this post . She also came out with an ebook that includes revised blog content and new content that you can get on amazon.
My first suggestion is to keep a record of your daily word count. Include in this, the time you wrote and where and look for patterns. Find out where and when you work best. It’s also a great motivator to see word counts grow, especially if you are able to make a jump from a small daily amount to more than double or more your previous ability.
Of the three points on Rachael Aaron’s triangle, knowledge is the most important one for me. Before writing any scene, I ask myself these important questions. What does my character want or need in this scene? Who or what stands in their way? And do they accomplish their goal? If yes, but then what happens to complicate things. If no, and then what happens in response to their failure. I got the yes, but/no, and from writer Mary Robinette Kowal. There are other questions you can ask yourself before starting the actual writing of a scene, but I always ask at least these four. Then I know there is going to be conflict and change in every scene. No more meandering and pointless conversations where nothing happens.
An example from my current WIP: My character wants to catch an unregistered super before he can escape. The unregistered super isn’t going to make that easy, using the people between them as weapons against the MC. The MC almost catches the super as he flees into a building, but the building explodes before the MC can follow him.
The next point on the triangle is time. Writers forget that not all of your writing time is typing words in a word processor. A lot of our time is dedicated to thinking about our stories, living in them and with the characters. Not everyone has a full day to dedicate to their craft, with full time careers or a family to take care of or full time school, there are other requirements of our time. I often spend the time I’m doing chores to immerse myself in the world of my current WIP.
Finally, she talks about enthusiasm. This amounts to making sure every scene we write is one we are excited about. This is crucial but easily overlooked. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we must have this scene for such and such to make sense. However no scene in your novel is necessary. Any information you need to convey, can be conveyed in any scene. So skip those boring scenes and stick to those that get your heart pumping, that you can’t wait to write. And if you begin to dread the scene you are on, you have a couple of options. You can skip it. Move on to the next scene. Try to add any necessary information from the cut scene, but honestly this is a first draft. It is okay to miss pieces. Once you have the skeleton written, it’s easier to see what is really necessary. You could also change up the scene. Change the characters. Change the setting. Change the character motivations. I find if I’m dreading a scene, it’s because the motivations of my characters are murky or weak. Once I electrify their needs or raise the stakes, the scene starts to fly.
You are going to have rough days. Days where the words feel like crap. Days you can barely scratch out anything worth keeping. However on the whole, writing should be enjoyable. You should look forward to it more often than dread. If you’re starting to find excuses to not write, examine why. It could be that you’ve taken a wrong turn in your current manuscript or it could be that this isn’t working for you. And that’s okay. No one has to be a writer. And no writer has to follow anyone’s path. Do what works for you.
What are some of your favorite ways to increase word count?