As a child, I always marveled at writers who released a book every year. I felt that writing a book was a perhaps once in a lifetime project, something that you did as a capstone to a ridiculously academic life. I knew that someone people wrote tons of books, but these people didn’t seem real. And besides, it seemed like something I could never do.
Then I grew up and decided to become a writer myself.
I could handle short articles, but writing a book still seemed like something far out of reach. 50,000 or 60,000 words (a common length for a book) was an impossibly large task. Still, I decided to write 40,000 words. I gave myself a year.
I achieved my goal, but it felt like pulling teeth. I had no schedule, and the knowledge that I had thousands of words until I hit 40,000 was demoralizing until I passed the 30,000 mark. It “worked” but I could’ve done it in a much easier way.
Here’s the easier way:
Just write 500 words a day. Make it a habit. In only 100 days–less than 1/3rd of a year, you can have a book-length work done.
If you miss a day, don’t stress out. Last week, I wrote 1,500 words instead of 3,500. (Not a great week!) Still, that equates to just over 200 words a day, which is still enough to finish a 50,000 word book in 250 days. That would give you 105 days to edit, revise, or rewrite the thing and you could still have it done in under a year.
If you are more ambitious than 500, you can try 1,000 words a day. I wrote 1,000 a day for an entire year, but I don’t actually recommend it unless you have a lot of time on your hands. I focused too much on hitting 1,000 words instead of focusing on quality, which meant that a lot of the work I wrote that year was basically unusable.
500 words a day may or may not be the right number for you. But if you want to be a writer, it’s important to realize that a consistent daily output in the low hundreds can get you a book in under a year. If you’re an article writer, 500 a day can get you a couple great blog posts each week.
The biggest mistake you can make is dreaming of being a writer but never taking action to become one. Some sort of goal you can hit–whether it’s writing in your Notes app on your iPhone at work, doing 100 on the train back from the office, or even better, taking time to do morning pages–is essential to realizing your writing dreams.
Do you have a daily writing goal? What works for you?
(If you’re wondering how long 500 words is, this article, and the message below, is precisely 500 words.)
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