Back in December 2022, I decided to have a go at writing just 200 words a day in the hope that it would kick-start my flagging writing habit (and I wrote about it here). Then in January, I gave an update on my progress (you can read it here). Now that I’m three months into the experiment, I thought it was time for another progress report and a bit of reflection, so here we go.
I’ve just totalled my daily wordcount spreadsheet, to find that over the last three months I’ve written 40,059 words. So, that’s over 91 days (I gave myself the day off on Christmas Day, so it’s actually over 90 days). That’s an average of over 440 words each day – considerably more than the 200 words I set out to do.
And that is (of course) what is so bloody amazing about this approach. Because it develops a habit and while, yes, there have been a few days where I’ve only managed the absolute bare minimum, most days, once you start, you write much more. Sometimes you write loads more. In the past, the danger with writing loads on one day was that the next day I could convince myself that I didn’t need to bother writing anything. After all, I’d just chalked up a fine total the day before, so I didn’t need to worry. Take a day off, Jenny – you deserve it. And that was the problem. The following day I maybe wouldn’t fancy writing either, so I’d convince myself that the massive word count two days earlier was good enough to cover it. So that would be two days not writing. And then it was easy for two to become three, and so on. Before I knew it, I’d not written for a week, and then I was on the slippery path to telling myself I couldn’t do it, and a huge black cloud of writer’s block.
But with #200wordsaday, it doesn’t matter if yesterday was your all-time best ever epic writing day where you managed to churn out 40 gazillion words. Today is a new day. Another 200 if you please. Simples.
So, yes, I’ve written 40,000 words (which is probably about 36,000 words more than I might usually have managed otherwise in the same kind of period. Well over 30,000 words of this was on what I had termed (in my own head) my equestrian novella. Today I have just completed the first draft of said ‘novella’ which is now 69,377 words long – i.e. a novel. A short novel, but a novel nonetheless.
This, for me is a huge milestone. I have published several books of short stories. I have in the past completed NANOWRIMO – i.e. I’ve written 50,000 words in a month – more than once. But I’ve never managed to get a satisfactory beginning, middle and end for a novel-length story.
Granted, there’s still lots of work ahead – a messy first draft is not a novel – but it’s a considerable advance on anything I’ve managed before. So I feeling pretty chuffed with myself right now. Not least because, at the beginning of the experiment, it was literally just about the number of words. And those first few weeks, the words themselves were of dubious quality. But as time has gone on, working on one project every day has really helped my brain make the necessary links to pull the story together. The characters feel more real in my head. The benefits of regular writing are really starting to show.
The only thing which is getting in the way of my joy is the nagging sense that if only I’d come across this idea in 1995 (when I’d just left Uni) or better still, 1990 (when being a writer was firmly established in my mind), I might have written 2,500,000 words, or over 30 novels by now!
It might be worthwhile just to fix in my head what 200 words looks like (as I set out to shorten my 1600-word story to 1000 for a competition)
I’d say 200 words is a couple of decent paragraphs. Shortening a longer piece is fantastic for making you think about the value of every word, or encouraging you to come up with a more economical approach. If you can do it, I bet the story will feel so much stronger. Good luck! 🙂
I have several versions of some of my stories with different wordcounts for different comps or mags. It’s true though, that a first re-edit is more likely to end up with fewer words than with more, whatever the target..
That’s amazing progress Jen. I’m well impressed!
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Thank you! Hope I can just keep going now! 🙂 x
I once tried writing ‘stream of consciousness morning pages’ (4 pages of an A5 notebook) to kick start my writing as it was said to do. I did it religiously for a couple of years, maybe more, but it was all utter rubbish and twaddle, not a useful idea anywhere to be seen. I gave up!
Uh-huh – I tried morning pages too a while ago – didn’t work for me either. It just doesn’t fit my lifestyle and the kind of person I am. And it didn’t set up the kind of writing habit which helped me with my actual writing! But the 200 words a day thing (which I mostly have to do in the evenings, after work) is brilliant (for me). Really spurs me on.
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