When I was in grade school, I wanted to be a writer. That desire has never left me. And I’ve succeeded. I’m a writer!
What makes a person a writer?
Writers write. That’s it. If I’m writing, I’ve succeeded as far as becoming a writer.
Now, becoming a full-time writer, where my writing supports me and my family? That’s another matter! I ain’t there yet by any means! Yes, I’ve gotten some “paying gigs,” but not enough to cover little things like food and rent.
I’ve started doing a lot more research into what it will take to go full-time, and I’ve learned a lot.
One of the big lessons is: You need to write a lot. Some people push out a novel every month. Now, I don’t think I have the ability to do that with quality, until/unless I am no longer a minister. Even then I’m dubious I could produce anything worth reading at that pace.
However, even if the goal is significantly less than a novel a month – say, a novel a quarter or twice a year – I still need to up my game. I need to be producing many more words on the page.
How the heck am I gonna do that? I already cram my days full. Sometimes I wish ministry was only forty hours a week. Instead, I put in fifty to sixty hours a week, plus I still want to do silly things like spend time with my wife and children. Right now I set aside roughly an hour a day for writing, and even that can be difficult to do.
One thing I can do: Decrease the rituals I perform to start writing.
See, I do this thing before I write: I will watch a short Youtube video, usually one focused on the writing craft. Then I will turn on some music and play a few games of solitaire on the laptop, letting my brain “sink” into writing mode. And then, after all that, I’ll write.
Step one: Get rid of the Youtube video. Step two: Limit it to a single game of solitaire. I think having a ritual of some kind will help me switch modes, but it doesn’t have to be that long. Back in the day (we’re talking over a decade ago now) I’d watch the end of Return of the King to get me in the right mood. The thing was… the end of The Return of the King is like fourteen hours long. Not exactly the most efficient way to get writing. So I’ve already slimmed things down, but they can certainly be slimmer.
Another thing I can do to increase my word counts: Think ahead. Sometimes when I sit down to write, I really have no idea what I’m going to do. In those instances, I’ll get maybe 400 words in an hour. That’s better than nothing, of course, but it ain’t great. On the other hand, if I’m thinking ahead and know what I’m going to write, especially if I have an opening line, I can get up to 1700 words in an hour. I have no doubt I can increase that with effort and practice.
It sounds strange, but planning ahead for what music I’m going to use would also help. Sometimes I’ll spend a few minutes considering what mood I want the music to convey, and then thinking through what soundtrack or artist would help me write this particular story well. Having music that matches the mood helps me push out more words.
Finally, limiting distractions also helps. That’s kind of a dur, but sometimes the obvious thing is the last thing I notice. For instance, I used to have social media open in the background.
Turn it off!
Since doing that, my word counts have gone up quite a bit!
So while at the moment putting more time into writing may be difficult to impossible, getting a higher word count isn’t.
What about you? What do you do to try and increase your word count without losing quality?