Whatever stage I’m at in the novel writing process it always seems to be the hardest. Right now, I’m in the making things up stage. Making things up is so hard. You have to use your brain and that imagination thing which writers are supposed to have in spades. I tell myself that, once I’ve got a body of work down on the page, I’ll be able to move onto the editing stage, which will be much easier. Ha ha.
What can writers do to ease the drudgery of getting the story out? Well, a lot of writers turn to goals and target setting. The most basic and obvious of these is the word count. Many writers won’t let their bum leave the seat until they have produced X number of words. And why not? In a pursuit that’s rather airy-fairy and ethereal, it’s a good, solid measure of progress.
I’ve tried it before though and encountered some problems. Whilst meeting the word count can lend you that sweet sense of success, struggling, or failing, to meet it can bring you down and positively stunt your progress. It can put you off making any kind of attempt at all.
So, this time around, I’ve made my daily target word count really small. Pathetically small: 500 words. The idea is that it’s a totally achievable target. I can write 500 words in ten minutes, although it has been known, on occasion, to take me a whole day. Once done, I can, if I like, get up from the chair and get on with other things in my life. I can even stop half way through a scene, a la Hemingway, or even half way through a sentence.
The key to success for this method is not to look upon the word count as a cumulative goal. Don’t think 500 words a day = 3,500 words a week = 14,000 words a month. Think of it more like a course of medicine. If you miss a day, which happens, don’t try to catch up by doubling the dose the following day etc. Just go back to the 500 target the next day that you can.
It is, of course, perfectly permissible to exceed 500 words. The sky’s the limit. But, that is a question of choice, rather than obligation.
The fact is, even at this gentle pace, the words add up surprisingly quickly. The key is regularity. I write on all but the busiest of days. This regularity helps with the flow. After I’ve stopped writing, my mind carries on, subconsciously at least, so when I sit down the next day, those words come easier. How this method will manifest itself when I come to review the work, I don’t know. Maybe, the prose will appear disjointed. Or, maybe, it will be tighter: less waffly. Either way, at least it will be there. Ready to edit.
And if you want to know how long 500 words is, just look at this post.