2020 Goals

Writing 500k words in 2019: A Debrief

A long time ago.

To put things into context, I will pull back to my mindset in January 2019. A full year ago, I was in a different place in my writing journey and stuck in a rut. A large one, filled with snakes, spiders, and lava.

I had a few ill-written books done and published, which were getting battered by reviews as they were poorly written. I have since pulled them down and am in the process of re-working them. I had also had seven incomplete novels sitting in my pile of work to do. There was 30k in one, 20k in another. Nothing was finished, and I didn’t know how to keep working on them, let alone finish them.

In total, for my entire writing life spaning to 2010, I had written approximately 250k words. In the last year, 2018, I wrote 100k of that. This would have been sporadic and fleeting as life got in the way. 

I was done and ready to call it quits. I had enough of it all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, I couldn’t figure out how to finish things, and I had enough of it all.

Instead of quitting, in December of 2018, I had decided to give it one more go. I would change things up, though.

Instead of writing one project, then editing the project. I would work on multiple projects at once while I worked on one project and edited another. The idea was to give the novels a break to give me some distance in them. I hoped this would fix any prose issues I may have.

To make sure I accomplish this goal, I decided on an ambitious goal. A half-million words written in a year.

2019 words

That’s a screenshot of my year. The green represents days I wrote over 1400 words, while the yellow is anything over 150 and lower than 1400. If I wrote a day of under 150 words, it would be red. I also didn’t miss a single day under 150 words.

This goal and the fact that I haven’t missed a single day in over a year became the sole reason I wrote some days. I sat at my computer at 10pm at night to hammer out 300 words.

My rules for the Year.

  1. Words counted only in projects that I could publish at some point. This excluded my school stories. (They are usually short, so didn’t matter.)
  2. I didn’t count any type of words for editing. I wanted to write new words every day, and I also didn’t want to punish myself for deleting words in editing. I didn’t want to delete words, but if I had to, I would.
  3. The minimum day to count was 150 words.

10 Lessons Learned.

  1. By writing every day with a minimum goal in mind, it built discipline to keep going. Motivation was fleeting, like eating carbs. It wasn’t enough to sustain me in the long run. But by becoming disciplined in my task, it allowed me to keep going when motivation told me to stop. Most novelists quit not due to rejection, but to not finishing the novel. They don’t get to “the end.”
  2. Writing a minimum word goal on many days changed, and before I knew it, I had written a full day’s worth. By forcing those first few words, I had managed to open the gates and let more out.
  3. Writing a novel shouldn’t take years to accomplish. Not if an author is disciplined enough to do it. But writing isn’t a casual task or a hobby. It is like training to run a marathon. It takes time, discipline, and changing your lifestyle to do it. This is important and has become apparent in this journey. Writing 500k in a year is not something you half-ass. This is something you need to do all in.
  4. Protect the writing time. Writing a substantial amount of words takes time. Dictating the words to something like Dragon Dictate can speed up the time, but I don’t use it. As such, to write a project of any length, the time allotted each time needs to be gathered together and protected. The family means well, but unless the house is on fire or flooding or both, then the author shouldn’t be bothered.
  5. I discovered a new concept. Story burn out. It isn’t a real burn out, but it is working on too many long projects at once. I found that by throwing in shorter projects between the longer ones, it gives the mind a break. It allowed me to get back at the longer works after.
  6. I ran into an issue with editing, it was easy to put off editing the project, which is why I have five projects in my editing pile. This was something that took me to November to figure out a suitable method. I changed how I counted my editing a bunch of times throughout the year. I ended up have an approximate chapter length for all of my books and then count it by chapters.
  7. By writing lots, then seeking to learn from the books to make them better, I managed to figure out how to improve my writing. The quality of my prose has increased substantially. I can see this as I edit some of my older work. This part does take help, but by writing lots, I saw the same mistakes I did over and over.
  8. Not to get tied up with other people’s word counts. I spent time wishing I could write as fast as others. This was detrimental as my circumstances were and are different than others. It took me a while to realize that.
  9. A big word count isn’t the end-all. Just because I wrote a half-million words doesn’t mean I will be successful like magic. It is still going to take me time to get my projects making money. Publishing is more than just the words on the paper.
  10. (The most important one.) The world will not end by a low word count day. Nor will it end with a low word count week or month. In December, I saw my goal easily in sight. I decided to half-ass it to the end of the month. But in the last two weeks, I got inspired and ended up making my monthly goal by a thousand words.

Final Thoughts

When asked if others should do the same challenge, I always answer with yes. But not because it’s easy. I say yes cause its hard. Writing every day and making a yearly goal with all the life issues in the way can be a challenge. A year ago, I was in a rut of my own creation. I built it up over the course of ten years of self-doubt and self-flagellation. It wasn’t going to be busted apart by anyone but me. My method to remove that rut was by forcing myself out of it.

There is always a chance I will be forced into another one. I’ve seen it happen to other authors, and I’m taking steps to avoid it if it becomes a problem.

This journey is not something I can do alone. It takes support from many people for it to become a reality. The easiest way is to visit my Amazon Author Page and purchase one of my books. They are available in all countries and for free in Kindle Unlimited. I do have a tip jar set up at Ko-Fe, where you can buy me a coffee. Or you can also visit me on Facebook. Your help and support are much appreciated.

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