the write a little bit every day writing chart

I can’t write 50 000 words in a month. This bugs me, since a lot of people can and do so regularly. Or at least once a year in November during  NaNoWriMo. I sign up for NaNoWriMo most years, but invariable end up writing exactly ZERO words. This is partially because of my very good friends: inertia, self-doubt, procrastination and stuff-that-need-to-be-done-before-writing. But mostly, if I’m completely honest, it’s because I can’t manage 1 667 words a day. 

So I don’t write any words at all. I’m going to fail NaNo, I’m going to have to admit defeat in the dark, late hours of 30 November and confess that I cannot, will not, did not write 50 000 words. So I don’t write any at all. Some years I try, but once I fall behind – which I will begin to do pretty much immediately – the rapidly receding goal posts just serve to discourage me to the point where I close the Word document and walk away from the laptop. 

This is not helping. This is not contributing. The people out there who can write 50 000 words a month and the platforms that encourage them to do so, is not supporting me. The very idea designed to get writers to put words on paper is actually causing me to not write. 

The other problem is that I spent so long revising and editing and learning how to write my first novel, that I have completely fallen out of the habit of writing new material. I have gotten very good at perfecting existing words, but a growing part of me was beginning to worry that I had completely forgotten how to write anything in the first place.

So I came up with a nifty device that will help me write. Not a lot, not for a finite period of time, and not anything in particular. Just words on paper. A few words a day. A few words every single day for the rest of my life. 

I present to you the Write a little bit every day writing chart!

chart for writing word counts, chart for writing everyday, excel writing word count spreadhseet

how it works:

So there is a date column (only half of May of present, since I began in the middle of the month). {Side note to procrastinators everywhere: You don’t have to wait until any point in time to begin something. You do not have to begin any new endeavour tomorrow, or on Mondy, or the first of the month, or next year. You can being right now. I know this concept deeply disturbs the procrastinating mind, but punch through it. Start RIGHT NOW.} (This pep-talk is more for myself than  for anyone else, FIY.)

So there is a date column.

There is a daily word count column for noting the daily word count achieved. 

There is a word goal column. This is as simple as it sounds, and displays my word count goal for every day. I have gotten into the habit of adding a red or a green fill to illustrate whether I have achieved my goal or not. You can see I decided beforehand to write 600 words on weekdays and 1800 per day on weekends. It is a fun feature of this chart that I can actually decide on a different word count for weekends, since I can obviously manage a bit more on those days.

With me so far? Because here is where things get a bit more interesting. Right next to the word goal column there is another little column that seem to feature 1’s and 0’s.  This is the one that really gets to the problem at hand: did I or did I not write today? A 1 for ‘yes’ and a 0 for ‘no’, and this little column tells me if I am, in fact, succeeding in my plan. 

So yes, the daily word goal is somewhat arbitrary. For the purposes of this exercise I don’t necessarily need to achieve the minimum. I just need to open the laptop, open a word doc and get the latest bout of thoughts (and there are ALWAYS thoughts) out of me. So while the word count VS word goal comparison is certainly interesting, the main issue right now is to just write a few words every day

There is also a column for contents, because it’s fun. 

And then at the bottom there are all the totals to give me a very clear snapshot of what I my writing habits were like for the pas month. 

so why 600 words?

You probably noticed that I decided to write 600 words per weekday and thrice that over the weekend. There three main reasons for this:

I can write 600 quality words per day.

This is part of the reason why I struggle with NaNoWriMo’s exorbitant word count. When I feel pressured to write a certain amount of words per day, I find the quality of the writing goes way down while the quantity only vaguely increases. So I have decided to remove the stress from the situation. I will write a small, very manageable amount every day, and so ensure that I make that small amount a good piece of writing.

I have a notion that this can actually save time in the long run as I’ll have less drivel to edit out. And the original words may actually be ones that I can use, instead of having to rewrite everything.

I can do it on the fly.

It takes me about 30 minutes to write 600 words…given that I have the rough idea of what I want to say. So if I split that into two 10 minute sessions, that 600 words turn into something I can actually do during a small break at work. Yes, you heard me, I based my daily minimum on something that I can do on the sly at work.

It’s an appetiser.

600 words is a small enough amount that it’s over before I run out of steam. By the time I reach 600 words I am nicely warmend up and feel like I want to write a few more. This actually has me wanting to write more, rather than leaving me chewing a pencil, desperate to force more words out in the name of a word count.

This is good. No. this is GREAT, since it gives my brain time to plot and plan and make sure the jigsaw puzzle fits together nicely before I write things that are as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

what I’ve learned

Some interesting things have come to light during the few weeks of May that I have been attempting this new plan.  

I love to write.

I mean, who knew, right? This may seem like a no-brainer, but most of the time I actually feel like this George Orwell quote:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

So the biggest thing that I seem to have forgotten is that I love writing. And now that I have been doing a few brand new words a day, I am beginning to remember the fun of it. I have spent so long editing and rewriting and struggling and fighting and bludgeoning Spadille into shape, that I had forgotten the unbridled joy of the first draft.

In fact, I have discovered that I love it so much, that after I have written my 600 words for the day, I am desperate to continue. So desperate that it drives me to distraction and interferes with my work/sleep/life. It may seem horrific, but in terms of creativity, that’s really where you want to be.

So if nothing else, this exercise has reminded me of the that fact that I do love to write. Which is priceless in itself.

Things don’t get lost.

I have many small scenes in my head that deserve to come out. I keep thinking them over and over until they are polished and perfect. Some of these are so polished by now that they are ready to be written down. So what if the filler isn’t there yet? So what if this one scene is at the end of a that I haven’t even started yet? These scenes are ready and I am going to start writing them. Every writer knows the horror of coming up with that perfect scene in the shower/car/store/gym and then losing it again because they didn’t write it down.   

Writing causes more writing.

I remember from the long and painful process of writing Spadille that a lot of the plot fell into place as I was writing. I am a sort of plotter-pantser who likes to have a vague idea of where the story is going, where it will end, but the why and the how of it often only comes once my characters are in the thick of it. For a long time I have been waiting for Ace to crystallise and reveal itself to me, but I remember now that it will only ever be smoke and mirrors, but once I start writing it will start to coagulate into a picture that stands still and make sense. And the clearer the picture becomes, the better I understand where we are going and how to get everyone there: more writing.

It all adds up. 

If I achieve my goals every day it will accumulate a total monthly word count of 27 600 words. This is not impressive by NaNo standards, but it certainly is by mine. That is 27 600 words more than I had the month before, and in three months I will have a brand new first draft. That is not nothing. That is pretty sweet. I can do this. 

the next step

Seeing as this has been an informative, somewhat productive exercise, I will be keeping a Write a little bit every day writing chart every month from now on. I will keep to my 600 words a day ritual, as that seems like an attainable goal at this point. But for those of you doing BuNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo or anything in between, the chart can be easily adapted for your purposes.

If you want to avail yourself of this nifty writing device, you can get your hands on the Excel spreadsheet of the Write a little bit every day writing chart here. Feel free to add you own word count goals and colours. 

happy writings!

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