[Repurposing an old post about writing 1,000 words each day. But calibrated for NaNoWriMo inflation.]
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was given a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (And no, it is not to shamelessly rip off The Great Gatsby‘s opening line; that I do all on my own.) The advice was this: During the month of NaNoWriMo, write two thousand words of your work-in-progress each day. No more, no less. Just a cool two grand.
Here’s the why of the advice:
- Two thousand words is a fair bit, to be sure. But it’s not so much that you can’t see the end of your target when you sit down to begin. It’s not so much that you can get deeply lost. It’s not so much that you’ll have to set aside hours and hours of your day that really should be spent working for a living or cleaning the house or reading other people’s books or petting the cat. It’s just enough that you can do it in a good hour or two of work. That is to say, it’s eminently doable.
- Two thousand words each day means you can draft the entirety of a sixty-thousand word novel in one month, in measured two-thousand-word bites.
- What about mistakes and blind alleys and pages that have to be burned? You can cut those pages easily and produce new ones during revision. Even if a cut bit is, say, seven thousand words, that’s only a three and a half days, and you will quickly make up that lost time.
- After that one-month draft is complete, you can then revise the work at a more leisurely pace. Me, I rekey the entirety of the manuscript every time so that I weigh every line and nuance to make sure I want it. Other people find this tedious. But however you work, if you revise only a couple thousand words a day, you can push through three serious revisions of your novel before spring of next year.
Two thousand words is an arbitrary number, chosen to get as much out of NaNoWriMo as possible. But you can adjust it to suit your needs. If you find you can only hit a thousand words, why then, that’s what target you should use. Graham Greene wrote exactly eight hundred words and boasted that he would stop mid-sentence when he’d reached that number. (He had a finely calibrated internal word counter, apparently.)
As I wrote above, it’s an arbitrary number. But it is by setting such arbitrary goals that we can reach our larger goal of finishing a draft by the end of November.
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