One of the most pervasive pieces of writing advice is to have a regular writing habit. It’s also one of the best. There are so many reasons why writing regularly, every day if possible, is the best thing you can do as a writer.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow, regular writers will quickly outpace writers who make mad dashes when inspiration strikes, and not any other time. Chuck Wendig was a NSFW foul mouthed, but very solid plan for how to write your first novel in a year, writing a mere 350 words a day. If you don’t like his language or attitude the break down is simple. Write 350 words a day, at least. By the end of the year you will have written 91,000 words.
Writing is critical to learning how to write. I’ve written about that before. I firmly believe that you can’t actually learn to write without writing regularly. If you read books on writing, take courses, but never write, all you are doing is collecting trivia. Writers write.
Writing regularly beats writers block. Writers block is the bane of beginners, but many serious writers claim they never suffer it. That’s because they write regularly, whether they feel like it or not. In doing so, they learn how to deal with those days when the inspiration tank is running on empty.
We all know we need to write regularly. What is regularly? And how much should we write?
The most common answer to the first question seems to be daily. If your schedule allows, and you wish to be serious about writing, that’s a good answer. However not everyone has the luxury of schedule that allows daily writing. Twice a week, on this day and that, is much better than “when I can” in my opinion. Any sort of schedule is beneficial. Leaving it to chance almost guarantees it won’t happen.
How much you should write is a stickier question. There are several ways to measure your progress and each of them have their merits. Back in my day (god, I feel old just typing that) we measured progress in pages. Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones said to fill a wirebound notebook (75 pages) every month.
Today most writing is done on the computer and word counting tools are a common way to measure progress. I’ve counted words on and off throughout the years. A fellow writer recently posted about new web tool for word count. I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and I’d love to give it a shout out.
It’s simple and easy use. You can register for free. It tracks your progress from day to day, allows you to create projects and set goals. I’m loving it. A huge thanks to developer Seth Swanson for putting together such a great tool.
Here is my Wordkeeper progress for the month. It looks good laid out like this.
Just keep in mind that alpha, in software refers to early versions. The occasional glitch is to be expected from time to time.
p.s. What else can do besides count words? I also track my time spent on writing. There are stages in writing when that is a more accurate reflection of your work, especially when you are doing a lot of editing. If I am working on tough, emotional writing, I will count a scene as good enough regardless of the word count.