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10 Ways To Up Your Word Count

Writing takes time, and in the case of novels, a lot of time. I don’t think there’s a writer out there who doesn’t wish they could write quicker. If you’ve ever attempted to write a novel you’ll know just what a huge investment it is. Personally, as much as I love writing, there are times I wish I had a magical power where I could blink my eyes and the book I’m working on be complete.

But unfortunately the only magic ability associated with me, is that which I give my characters. Instead, like the rest of you, I look at ways I can be more efficient with my writing and more economic with my time. With that in mind here are ten tips on ways you can try and up your word count.

1. Take Breaks

1986 by Matt LeunigI would set entire evenings aside for writing and then find that the time it took to write my target number of words would expand to fill the time. Part of the problem is that my brain would need a break every so often and would use procrastination as a way to facilitate that. Whilst I still have some evenings where I set aside everything else to write, I now make sure I take regular breaks so I can then come back to what I’m working on, newly refreshed.

2. Install Freedom

If you’re like me and get easily distracted by social media when you are writing (oh look! A new cat video!) there are a number of software applications (such as Freedom or Self-Control) you can install to lock yourself out of the internet for a set period of time. Just remember that whilst it might seem noble to lock yourself out of Facebook for the entire evening, you want to instil habits that are achievable rather than just punish yourself.

3. Daily Target

A low achievable target is better than one you’ll miss four days out of five. Couple this with saying to yourself that you can’t watch TV, or surf dog memes or play videogames until you’ve done your word count for the day can be a powerful motivator for some. Again, you want to instil habit here rather than punish yourself for ever wanting to do something other than write. It may seem initially counter-intuitive, but little and often is a much better grounding for upping your word count than setting unachievable goals that just demotivate you and cause you to miss days.

4. Work For Set Time

Alarm Clock by GrahamWickhamForget word count! Word count is what you end up with. Instead work for a set time. Say to yourself you are just going to write for, say, thirty minutes, and after that you can go do whatever else your procrastination muscle is pulling you towards. Don’t worry if those thirty minutes give you a hundred or a thousand words so long as you focus purely on writing during that time. If you know your average word count per hour, you’ll find this method will actually increase it. If you have a lot to do, just work in blocks of time, taking breaks in between.

5. Get up Early

As obvious as this one seems, it’s surprising just how many people haven’t figured out that getting up earlier is a solution to their problem of finding more writing time. Just half an hour’s good writing each day can get you a novel well within a year.

6. Don’t Get Involved In Online Spats

There’s plenty to get us upset on the internet, whether it’s reports of social injustice around the world or the latest genre spat over whether hooded cloaks on covers are cool or not. Some of it is entertaining to read, but there are some things that really make my blood boil. And when that happens all I can be is angry and it’s not productive to getting words done. I’m not saying ignore everything, just choose your battles carefully and know that any time you spend typing that reply just takes away time you could have put towards working on your story.

7. Mix Up Projects

A Thoughtful Life by Deborah DeWit (detail)So you’ve been working on your novel for hours and you’ve got to the stage where you aren’t even sure if you know how to write anymore. You don’t want to take a break because you really have a mountain of work to do, from stories to essays to blog posts. The answer is to maybe mix it up. Take a break from the novel to work on another project. Personally I find I can swap between fiction and non-fiction or non-fiction and non-fiction fairly easily, but swapping between fiction and fiction is a lot harder. If you know what works for you, you can plan projects accordingly.

8. Negotiate Writing Time With Family

Finding writing time is difficult when you have a family or a significant other but there’s often scope to negotiate a little time to yourself. Even if it’s an hour a couple of times a week you can still make good progress on a novel or short story. Your family just have to be clear that writing time is your time and you are only to be disturbed if the house is actually burning down, and even then they should think twice.

9. Close Curtains

Close the curtains by DrooperWhen we think of ideal writing spaces, we often think of desks set before a window overlooking some beautiful, inspiring vista. To hell with that, I say. Inspiring vistas just make me want to go outside, not be shut up with my word processor and my thoughts. Today, as I write the first draft of this article, is a rare day of beautiful blue skies. I’ve shut my curtains.

10. Put Phone To Voicemail

I love hearing from my friend, John, but if there was an award for worst time to ring me, he’d have won it so many times they’d have named the award after him. It’s not just that a phone call stops you writing, it’s that it takes your head out of the story or piece of non-fiction you were writing and fills it with new information that just…well, gets in the way. Even a quick two minute call is enough to have me return to my manuscript and ask, “Where was I?”

There’s no one ‘best’ way to up your word count so experiment with a few and implement those which work best for you and your specific circumstances. Let us know in the comments your top tips. What’s worked for you?

Title image by Deborah DeWit.

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8 Comments

  1. John Cowell says:

    Great article, great advice. Best one I’ve found is the break thing. You can get a hell of a lot done with a fraction of the energy just by taking regular breaks (whenever you finish a page, for example). Really makes a difference.

  2. Mark Lester says:

    Thanks for these wonderful tips! They are very helpful. Lately I am struggling to finish my manuscript due to my procrastination habits and I figured out that my main distraction is the internet. Settling a little bit of restriction is indeed the key for a more productive writing hour 🙂

    Happy writing folks! Stay awesome.

  3. Excellent advise. I especially like 1, 4, and 5. Early in the morning is my favorite time to write. Thank for sharing.

  4. Great read and good tips all around 🙂

  5. Ugur Basak says:

    Greate motivational article. Also some of your advices is true for reading book. Internet and social media distracts my attention while I’m (trying to) reading.

  6. Getting up early is not always an option for for writing more words. It assumes that everyone is a morning person. Sometimes it’s better for someone to write in the evening. The best work I’ve done is in the evening. I’m often still too half-asleep in the morning to be creative.

  7. […] latest article has gone live over at Fantasy-Faction, looking at 10 ways to up your word count.  I was a little nervous about reaction to this article […]

  8. Anne R. Tan says:

    I find an app that keeps track of word count and other writing stats really motivating. I can only write in short bursts (15-20 minute increments through out the day because of my young children) so having an app that keeps track of that process feels like I’m moving forward.

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