Finding the Time: A Challenge

First and foremost, a million thanks to the amazing Lyn Midnight for presenting me with The Versatile Blogger Award yesterday. YAY! I feel like I just won an Oscar. I’d like to thank the Academy…

Kidding! On a more serious note, I’ll be passing it along myself later in the week to three fantastic bloggers. So more on that later!

Now on to the main attraction.

Many of those who’ve never written a novel like to think that those who have must have all day to just sit around and write. “How nice,” they think. “I wish I had the time to sit down and write a book.”

Truth is, we don’t have any more time than anyone else. As much as we’d like it, writers aren’t gifted with the ability to cram more hours into the day (though if anyone figures that one out, totally let me know).

This is no secret to us writers. Finding the time to get words on paper isn’t an easy task. If you’re a student, it means writing before (and sometimes during) class. If you’re working full-time, it means getting up early to get some words in that WIP, or staying up late in the night to finish that chapter. When your friends are going out for the weekend, sometimes it means staying home to edit yesterday’s writing.

Fact of the matter is, we all have lives. We have friends and family and work and school and a million other responsibilities that compete with the time we have for writing. Some days it’s impossible to get anything in, and that’s ok.

The best writing advice I ever read was simple: make a writing quota and stick to it.

For me, it’s writing 1,500 words a day or 10,500 words a week. If I miss a day, which happens, it’s fine because I know I can make it up another day. As long as I make 10,500 words a week, I’m happy. And if I don’t? That’s ok too; I can make it up the next week.

The daily/weekly writing quota has helped me finish many a manuscript. It keeps me honest, and it saves me from the guilt of wondering whether or not I wrote enough that day.

Even more recently however, I discovered something that changed the way I approach writing completely. There used to be a time when I’d sit down and write until I met my quota. This was painful. Some days it’d be easy and I’d be done in no time. Other times I’d sit at the computer for hours, checking every five minutes to see how many words I’d written. This led to screaming in frustration when after an hour I only wrote 500 words (or on really rough days, even less *shudder*).

It turns out, you DON’T have to write it all at once. Whoa.

Let me say that again: you DON’T have to write your quota all in one sitting.

My new method was stemmed from a little beauteous Twitter hashtag known as #wordmongering. I intend to write a full post on this later (because it’s just THAT amazing), but it’s basically a thread where writers get together at the beginning of every hour and write for a half hour, then compare word counts. We cheer each other on and there’s virtual confetti.

Ok, a LOT of virtual confetti. Like an ocean of virtual multicolored strips of paper. Though that may be partially (read: completely) my fault.

Anyway, its effectiveness blew me away. Writing in spurts, it turns out, is much less stressful than trying to get it done at once. With just a few half-hour rounds a day, I’ve been able to get my word goal down without a problem.

So. If you haven’t assigned yourself a word count, I challenge you to do it. Try it for a week. It could be a 100 words a day or 5,000 words a week or 15,000 words a week. Whatever it is, stick to your guns and get it done.

You just might be surprised by how rewarding it is.

So let’s see it! What are YOUR word count goals this week? 


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a daily word count goal. #Wordmongering has been helpful in getting me to sit down and write at set times throughout the day, but this might be the next challenge. I think I'll start with 800 words per day and see how I do the first week.

Matt Bone said...

Good post, Ava. Timekeeping - and strict timekeeping at that - is a huge part of being a writer, a truth with a fairly steep learning curve. For myself I use a time quota rather than words, as my productivity varies quite a lot (I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a fairly slow writer). A set amount of hours per day subsequently fits me much better as motivation.

I do totally support your idea of shorter writing periods. Taking frequent breaks (whilst being sensible about the amount of time) definitely helps my own productivity, and means my brain can go on that bit longer each day before it finally melts.

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Good luck with your word goal! I look forward to seeing your progress on Twitter. :)

@Matt Bone
Thanks! I agree completely with the learning curve. I know it took me a while to get it.

If time quota's work better for you, that's great! I'm glad you've found what works for you, that's really awesome.

I know the shorter writing periods have helped me not to wear out nearly as quickly as I used to. I never could have anticipated just how well it works for me. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm all about good time management. #wordmongering (if I can ever spell it right) has been lots of fun.

Joseph said...

I'm a pretty fast writer, I write 3,000 words a day and on a good day i can stretch up to 10,000 words -- all unedited, and I just write and write and write and then when I've finished it all I just edit, the editing process goes on for months and everyone is unique in editing but I don't think that you should edit whilst you're writing it can severely sidetrack your progression.

I also think that you can only write as much as you've planned which means that there is usually a couple of weeks before any writing where you have to plan each of the chapters out -- also helps to spot any flaws.

Good post, Ava!!! =]

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...


I second that. #wordmongering is incredibly fun and super supportive. My #wordmongering friends are amazing. :)


Wow. 10,000 words. Can't say I've ever written that much in a day. Very impressive!

I agree that planning helps when you're trying to write, but whether or not you take the time to outline ahead of time I think depends on the story you're working on. Of course, pantsed stories tend to need more editing then those that are pre-planned...

And thanks!

Jennie Bennett said...

Love #wordmongering especially to meet other awesome writing peeps! I've always shot for about 1,000 words a day. It's a good number especially since I'm so busy with my kids and the volunteer work I do. #Wordmongering is great way for me to reach that goal in short amount of time.

Julie Glover said...

I have really enjoyed the #wordmongering too. It's fascinating to see how quickly it's spreading! I finished my second manuscript with some help from this method and hope to employ it again with my next project. Best wishes to you!

Lindsey said...

I love writing in spurts too! It seems like no matter what my word quota is (and it changes depending on what I think I need to get done in the next month or so), it's totally daunting when I sit down. But when I break it down into chunks, it's much more manageable. That hashtag is cool, isn't it? A couple of half hour sessions make the word quota less intimidating.
Great post! Look forward to reading more!

Steven Belanger said...

I write in spurts, too, and try to spend an hour or two straight when I can.  Writing it down helps; then when I put it on the computer, it really blows open for me.  If I wrote my first draft on the computer, it wouldn't be the same; I wouldn't be able to just WRITE, and then see where the expansion needs to be.  Bottom line: 1,000 to 2,000 words per day, but if I cement just a few hundred--but they're golden--then that's great, too.

Ava Jae said...

I usually write my first drafts on the computer--it helps me just get my thoughts down and I type much faster than I can hand write. 

HOWEVER. Now that I'm working on extensive rewrites, I've found that hand writing actually works a lot better for me. I'm not entirely sure why--maybe it's because it forces me to look at a blank page without referring back to the original--but something about putting a pencil to paper and re-imagining the scene manually like that really helps me get it down. 

Regardless, spurts are very useful. 

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