Fluctuating Word Count

some days are awesome

Do you get discouraged by your word count? Do you have one week that is really fantastic and another that is just not something to be proud of? Yeah, well that’s me. Some days, some weeks I have so much going on at work, with my life, in my head that I don’t get the word count I’d hope for.

Doing NaNoWriMo this month, we feel a certain need to get at least 1667 words per day in order to make our 50,000 word goal by the end of November but some days I’m lucky to have five minutes to sit down and write. So what do you do? How do you keep up your word count? How do you keep from getting discouraged and just saying forget it?

some days I just can’t push any more

Several years ago I started participating in a monthly word count challenge, Book in a Week, with my local RWA, the Heart of Carolina. At first I would get embarrassed adding my 200-300 words per day to their two to three thousand words per day word counts. When I expressed this embarrassment, one of my fellow writers told me to celebrate each new word. That has stayed with me. Sarra Cannon in her Heart Breathing YouTube videos talks often about our joy of writing and how important it is not to lose that. It is the love of writing, of telling a story that first brought us to this place, or at least it was for me.

Doing what we love is fun but it is still work. Some days, if you are busy with your other job, your family, other obligations, squeezing in time to write, especially before you’re published or making money with your writing, feels like a luxury you don’t always have time for. Our time is valuable and we only have 24 hours in a day. How much time can you devote to writing? How many minutes can you actually sit your butt in the chair and write? Do you have an hour, thirty minutes? I’ve been training myself over the past few years to write in 5 to 10 minute increments. It’s not always easy to get back in the swing of the story when you have to stop every few minutes and do something else, but carving out time throughout the day has helped me build my word count.

Whether you add five new words or five thousand, it is still progress. If you have five minutes two or three times a day to write a few words, you can accomplish more than you realize. I recently timed my writing and I did 361 words in 10 minutes, now I have not yet tested it to see if that is my average but I do know three hundred plus is possible. While that’s not a lot on it’s own, I remember when I could only do that many in a day. If I can write 300 words in ten minutes and I can do that three times a day for three days, that’s 900 words per day and 2700 for three.

Build up your writing skills by writing daily or as often as you can during a week. I truly believe you need at least three sessions a week to build up your word count. Like a baby just learning to walk, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be finishing a novel in one month the first time we try, but even if you do not win NaNoWriMo, how much will you have accomplished because you tried? What other benefits will you receive as a result of participating in NaNo?

My first NaNo taught me I could write on a schedule. It made me more accountable for my daily word count. It taught me what I could do if I made the effort to write daily. Now, like anything we try to do on a daily basis, sometimes I just cannot squeeze another minute out of the day, or I’m so tired I can’t think straight and need to take a break. But because I have tried to make writing a priority, I make a point to write at least three days a week for a couple of hours per day. Now, sometimes those hours are broken up into smaller increments but I’ve learned I can write 30 minutes in the morning before work and some mornings I can get an hour. Breaks and lunches allow another 10 minutes to an hour. After work I can usually squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour. No matter how you have to do it, if you want to write, you can do it but it takes effort and dedication on your part.

Word count, like weight and age, it’s just a number. Yes, we want to finish our books quickly and move onto the next. We want to win NaNoWriMo and see that winner’s sticker on our stuff but the true prize isn’t the number of words per day or winning NaNo. The true prize is doing what we love, finishing the book we dreamed of writing, and knowing with each day we can be better writers, faster writers and accomplish so much more because we tried.

Happy NaNoWriMo if you are doing it. Happy Writing!

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