Since January 2013 I have written *counts* twenty novels. Plus several short story collections and novellas. That looks like a lot of words on screen or page. In some ways it is, especially compared to a lot of literary fiction writers, or people like George R. R. Martin. Compared to Larry Correia or the old (and modern) pulp writers? I’m a lazy piker.
So how did I come to write so much? Habit.
Seriously, I got into the habit of writing, and trusting my Muse (aka subconscious, who is a mean *itch when it comes to ideas at bad moments.) I’d started writing stories as a way to vent. It is far, far more socially acceptable to write sci-fi, or mystery, or other tales of mayhem and revenge than it is to actually [verb] that irritating, frustrating, self-centered [employment position]. I showed a few to friends, and they loved them. So I kept writing. While working on my non-fiction books, I developed the habit of writing in the morning and research in the afternoon (when the archive I used the most was open). This spilled into fiction, except in reverse order: stuff in the morning, write in the afternoon.
When possible, that holds to this day. Day job in the morning, day job stuff in the early afternoon if needed, and fiction in the afternoon and on weekends. If I’m doing non-fiction, I did research reading during pauses at day job if I had no day-job work to do, outlined the paper/article/chapter and wrote in the afternoon and on weekends.
Even when I lose an afternoon to an appointment or day-job, I still try to write a little, or at least review and tidy up what I did the day before. Things like typo hunting, or phrases that worked fine in the heat of the moment but now go clunk, dialogue that confuses more than it moves—not revisions but tidying. It helps me keep the pace and ideas fresh, so when I do have some time, at least half an hour preferably, I can write hard.
I do not have a set words-per-day count that I aim for. I write on spec, so I’m not under a deadline for fiction (nonfiction is a different critter. There I set a block goal for the week and use that.) I do try to get at least 1000 words per sitting down on paper.
“But Alma, that’s not much! A novel would take forever at that rate!”
Not anymore. Yes, if you are writing a 400,000 word interstellar epic, War and Peace in Space sort of thing, or a multi-generational family saga. I tend to write shorter, between 60K – 95 K, with only one book longer, thus far. A thousand words a day is sixty days, or two months from start to novel. And more often I get between three thousand and seven thousand words in. Physical restrictions start to be a problem at that point. I don’t write through pain if I don’t have to. I need my wrists and other joints, and my back, to last a few more years at least.
The habit is what matters. Is it afternoon? Am I where I can write? I try to write, be it on the computer and the WIP, or a back-up project, or on a notepad with a pen. The only exception tends to be when I’m on a trip outside the US, and then I do my day’s notes in the evening, because I’m probably a “wee bit” too busy to write-write.
the last novel I finished comes in at 86,000 words. According to my daily word count, it took *stops to count entries* thirty-four days, or a titch more than a month. My best days were over five thousand words. My worst was eight hundred. The average was between two and three thousand words per day. Could I do better? Yes. Is this realistic for people with a schedule like mine? Oh heck yes, especially if you don’t futz around on the ‘Net or keep getting up to see who is calling on the land-line.
My daily goal is to write. When that’s not possible, due to illness or schedule, I acknowledge it, don’t flog myself for failing, and try to do better the next day. The book will be done when it’s done. It will be as long as it needs to take to tell the story.