When I first started getting serious about writing, I set a goal of 1,000 words a day. Output is how you get better. I’ve long ago surpassed that target. Some days I write 7,000 words. My minimum targets now are 5,000 words a day at least five days a week. This is very achievable. I type 70 wpm, so theoretically, I could hit my mark in 71 minutes. That assumes that the story just flows automatically out of my brain like water. Unfortunately, that isn’t how stories work. Writing is art. Building a good story is just like building a good building. It’s done in a very methodical way. For anything over 1,000 words I tend to go into Scapple first and put the bones of my animal together. Scapple is a simple little software tool for Mac and PC that lets you figure out all the basics in a visual way. I tend to spend a few hours to a day working on the ideas that need to be woven together. For instance, here’s the current visual representation of Demonology, a contemporary fantasy I’m working on.
As you can see, there is more to a good story than just sitting down and letting it flow out of you. Well, for me anyhow. Stephen King might sit down and just start writing whatever is in his head. But I doubt that. I’ll bet he has a process too. Probably very different from me, because there is a generational gap and he wrote his first novel on a typewriter. Then there is Neal Stephenson, who wrote one of the most complex plots ever devised with a fountain pen. The Baroque Cycle is marketed in a silly, greedy way as three books now, but it started off as one immense tome I enjoyed mightily, as I do all of that man’s work. But I digress. The point of this post is – have a process.
If you don’t have a word goal count that you follow like the Catholic church follows the rituals of mass, you aren’t going to be a successful writer. You might write one novel, and it might even sell. But this writing thing won’t be a long-term career. You’ll need to know your tools and your process as well. You can break a million rules, but have some to break in the first place. Otherwise, you are just dreaming. The dream of being a novelist ain’t going to happen without you sitting down and pumping out prose. You’re going to need to be a word whore, and you’re going to need to be good at it.
You found this post because you either like my writing or you’re looking for writing tips. If the first, go buy a book right now and leave me a nice review so I can keep doing this. If the latter, why are you still reading. You should be writing. Go do it. But before you start, write down your word count goals. Understand your tools. And if you can’t touch type, learn that first. Unless you’re Neal Stephenson. If you are, then you should know I idolize you.
But you aren’t. So, go on. Get writing.