Want to write 2,000 words a day? I have good news: it’s not impossible, even if you’re a beginner.
Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and many writers are gearing up for this year’s first bout of writing insanity. Whether you’re just joining the April NaNoWriMo for inspiration, or you’re joining the thousands of writers who share a word count goal of 50,000 words in a month, you’re not alone.
I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in November 2015, when I was drafting Green Lady. The novel was already written, but I wanted to add depth to many of the character perspectives. I compiled a list of scenes I wanted to write and I set a word count goal of 1,666 words/ day.
Despite being the mother of a one-year-old and eleven months pregnant with my second child, I overshot my word count goal and ended up with 60,500+ words. This means I was writing over 2,000 words per day.
How did I do it? Well, I’ll tell you this: It was no walk in the park. I haven’t joined the NaNo frenzy since, but I have set some pretty intense writing goals and done this in smaller portions several times since.
1. Map your novel to ensure you’re able to write quickly
Before you say, “I’m a discovery writer, I don’t plot my stories,” know that I am not a plotter. So, from one
You don’t have to know every single word or connecting point, but you do need to know what’s driving your plot. Where are your characters going and what gets them there? What are your major scenes? What do you want the reader to feel? How is
Having these answers will help things fall into place as you write.
If you’re new to plotting and outlining, try creating a mind map. Just spend an hour or so mapping everything you know about your book. Once you have it all out in front of you, turn it into a bulleted outline.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a strong possibility your outline will evolve as you get deeper into the novel. This is totally fine, but keeping an outline on hand throughout the drafting process will give you something to refer back to, especially if you get writer’s block.
2. Research beforehand so you can stay on top of your word count goals
Mapping your novel ahead of time will help you pinpoint what you’ll need to research.
Don’t spend an eternity on research. But do, by all means, pinpoint things that tie in directly to the main plot.
For example, there’s a time-travel steampunk fae novel in my future. I started writing the beginning, but soon realized I’m terrible at history (I know what happened, of course, but not the exact dates). The fact is, I’ll have to do some extensive research on Victorian times, and possibly many other time periods as
If you’re like me, you may feel you
However, for the purposes of NaNoWriMo, I highly recommend writing yourself a note when you encounter something you need to research. Personally, I use brackets and a glaring red highlight so I can come back to my notes later on.
[RESEARCH: When electricity became common in homes in Victorian England? Depending on findings, the character will either strike a match to light a gas
And I leave it at that. This detail isn’t integral to the plot. It doesn’t really change anything. Readers of Victorian literature will notice the little details, so I’ll get it right for them. But first I need to focus on the plot itself.
Add notes to your manuscript however you prefer. I like the big, glaring notes because I can’t ignore them.
The main point is to free up time, keep yourself from dwelling on things that can wait, and get your story onto paper as fast as possible.
This is one of the biggest benefits to NaNoWriMo: the faster you can get your story written, the more consistency it will have.
You won’t have to backtrack and figure out what this one character said in a previous scene, because you wrote it just a week or two ago. Additionally, those moments of epiphany will be fresh in your mind and more likely to make it onto paper before you forget them.
3. Create reference cards so you can write without stopping
Character reference cards are a fantastic way to set yourself up for success. I think of these as a miniature, portable version of a storyboard.
Particularly if you haven’t been working on your novel in a while, or if it’s brand-new to you, these cards can be a lifesaver during your writing spree.
You can create reference cards for characters, weapons, settings, myths, creature attributes, technology, or the rules of magic.
These cards are designed to outline important story traits that will help you drive the plot.
Similar to not spending too much time on research, don’t run off and create a 1,000 card deck of cards. For one thing, you need the cards to be useful, and if you have too many, they’ll be difficult to use/ find.
But do consider one card for each main character that includes brief descriptions of the following:
- False belief
- Personal goal, what they will try to achieve no matter what the main conflict brings
- Attributes, strengths, limitations
- Flaws and obstacles
- Physical mannerisms, common gestures
- Other hyper-specific details that might be relevant to the plot (for example, if your character is a shapeshifter, what happens to their clothes when they change form?)
Remind yourself over and over that every
You could also create cards with setting attributes you want to remember later.
Or, cards for specific scenes, outlining a big reveal or a series of important events. If you use scene cards, you could consider starting with the last scene and working backward to outline where you’ll work in foreshadowing.
I recommend having no more than 10-30 reference cards depending on the size of your book. Depending on where you write, you could even stick them to a magnet board right above your desk for easy reference
4. Set your word count goal. 2,000 words per day easily
surpasses the NaNoWriMo goal, but is it reasonable?
Most people aim to write 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo. If you’re new to word count goals, that’s roughly 250
Now, you must be somewhat confident that you can write this much, or you wouldn’t be here. As a writer who’s been tracking word count for years now, I can tell you it takes time to work up to this type of output.
That’s not to say you can’t do it if you’re a newbie. But I strongly recommend getting
The last thing you want in the middle of NaNoWriMo is to feel like you’ve failed. This could cause you to give up entirely!
Determining your actual writing speed will help you achieve your word count goal.
If it does take you two hours to write 1,700 words, that’s okay. The point is, it’s difficult to be successful at meeting your word count goal if you don’t know how long it will take you.
So sit down and write for an hour or so. Try to go at your top speed, and try not to stop and think while writing. After the hour is over, use the Word Count function in your document editor to see how many words you achieved. If it’s just 600 words, great. Don’t sweat it.
Do this for a week or two. Record your results each time you sit down to write, then at the end of the week, take an average.
This is your writing speed. You might think it looks dismal, but don’t worry. The more you practice increasing your speed, and the more tools you give yourself to prevent stopping in the middle of writing, the faster you’ll get.
Use your actual writing speed to set your NaNoWriMo word count goal.
Determining your average writing speed is vital to achieving your goal. If 600 words
You don’t need to feel like a failure if you only manage 600 words a day because you only have one hour to spend writing.
Instead, you need to decide: a) whether you can find a way to allocate 3 hours a day to writing; or b) whether you would be okay with a word count goal of 18,000 words instead.
Sure, if you lower your word count goal, you won’t get NaNo kudos for finishing, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you met your goal and practiced writing as much as you could every day. If you practice this consistently over time, you can steadily increase your goal to 700 words/ hour, then 800, 900, etc.
It’s also important to realize your stamina will wane over time. I’ve gone on writing retreats and poured out 2,000 words an hour for 10 hours, only to fail to even write 1,000 words an hour the next morning. Be kind to yourself when this happens.
The numbers matter less than the act of writing itself. Far more important than word count is the time you spend immersing yourself in your novel.
5. Practice hitting a smaller word count goal NOW
There’s still time to practice hitting a word count goal before NaNo! Now, don’t burn yourself out. It’s going to be a long month if you’re trying to achieve 50,000 words.
That said, there’s no harm in practicing a routine. I personally find that I do better at a writing retreat if I spend
Make your goal achievable, something you know you can hit no matter what. You might even consider making your goal as small as one word per day. As ridiculous as this sounds, you’ll never write just one word. This goal practically guarantees you’ll start upping your word count.
6. Choose a productive setting that will help you focus on writing
A disciplined writer can write anywhere. That said, for something like NaNoWriMo, the best strategy is to purposefully write in a setting that helps you be productive.
Many writers find coffee shops conducive to writing, perhaps due to the combination of white noise and caffeine. Whether it’s a public place or your own private office, think of different places where you’ve felt the most productive.
Since NaNoWriMo is 30 days long, you’ll want to come up with a variety of choices. Chances are, you’ll end up writing in different locations throughout the month.
If possible, try to create your ideal writing space, where you can write the majority of the time. That could mean printing out some inspirational photos of your world ideas and putting them on the wall above your desk. Or, it could simply mean packing a bag with everything you want with you when you go out of the house to write.
Whatever it is, make a plan and stick to it. Consistency will help you meet your NaNoWriMo goal.
7. Create a schedule & meal plan in advance so you can spend more time writing
Now that you know where you’ll be going to write, take a good look at your schedule and think about where you can fit in writing time. It’s a good idea to identify multiple times of day when writing could happen.
Especially if you’re anything like me, it’s easy for one small thing to throw off your schedule. If you’ve thought of alternatives ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to still find time to write when this happens.
Here’s a schedule I’ve been using lately. Now, before you call me crazy, I don’t necessarily wake myself up at 7 AM every Saturday (trust me, I love sleeping in).
But I know that if I do wake up that early one week, it presents a huge opportunity to get a lot of writing done before my kids wake up. This gives me
|6 AM||Wake up||Wake up||Wake up||Wake up||Wake up|
|7 AM||Write||Write||Write||Write||Write||Wake up|
|9 AM||Play with Kids||Play with Kids||Play with Kids||Play with Kids||Play with Kids||Breakfast|
Writing out a schedule like this might seem tedious, but allowing yourself time to really sit down and think through your habits will help you have a more successful NaNoWriMo.
When I did this, I realized I was wasting a lot of time watching Netflix and playing games on my phone. Now, I have allocated time for that on the weekends only. Writing out this schedule helped me see how little time I truly have during the week for things like watching TV.
Meal prep helps you save time and frees up space in your brain so you can achieve 2,000 words per day.
I also strongly recommend doing your meal planning in advance. If you can, plan out the entire month. If you have it in you to prep and freeze a whole month’s worth of food, even better (this will take you an entire day).
Getting small logistical stuff out of the way can be a huge lifesaver and frees up a lot of time for writing. Just take a look at my own schedule–I give myself 30 minutes to an hour every night to cook dinner. If I prepped all my meals in advance, I’d be giving myself a lot more time.
8. Pull out your bag of writing tricks and bring out the “muse bait”
Ah, the ever-elusive muse. We all have one, whether you envision Calliope standing over your shoulder, or whether it’s just a feeling you get when you write.
If you’ve been writing long enough, you know there are certain factors that awaken that feeling within you. For me, it can be a variety of factors, but I’ve noticed I’m more likely to start writing with a hot beverage in front of me (even if I never drink it).
Many of these factors probably stem from your habits. For me, I spent a lot of time writing at a local coffee shop in college, because it was just an amazing place. The environment itself inspired me, from the artwork on the walls to the random bongo player who became a staple of my writing nights.
I’ve also noticed that listening to music isn’t enough for me sometimes. It’s usually best if I have headphones in. There’s something about literally plugging myself in that makes me feel more cut off from the world and helps me get in the zone faster.
Think about what factors play into bringing out your muse. Now’s the time to write them all down. And on April 1st, pull out all the stops! There’s no reason not to use every single thing you can think of to make it easier to start writing.
9. Eliminate distractions that could hurt your daily word count
We are all guilty of succumbing to distraction. Heck, I’m doing it right now–instead of editing, I’m finishing this post. (I’ll edit today, though, cross my heart).
I tend to stream music online when I write. I make it my personal rule to only allow two tabs open at a time– Pandora & Thesaurus.com. As I mentioned above, I don’t let myself fall into the research trap while drafting, unless the plot absolutely cannot be written without said research (this is pretty rare, especially if you spend time researching before drafting).
Sometimes, even I fail to follow my own rules and succumb to distractions. Maybe it’s because I remembered in the middle of writing that I need to send an update to my writing group, or maybe I remembered some random, urgent business need. Or something completely unrelated to writing, like forgetting a birthday party that’s coming up the next day.
This is when it becomes really useful to use an app like Write or Die. I started using this in the browser, but eventually bought the paid version. It’s totally worth the $20 I spent, and it’s become my secret writing weapon.
This is how I achieve 2,000 words an hour.
Not 2,000 words per day. Per hour.
Write or Die has different settings that allow you to really focus on your work. You can make it fullscreen, change the background color and text color, and adjust the background noise. The app allows you to set a word count goal and a timer, and then you just go.
I’m not some superhuman. I don’t have Flash-speed fingers (though sometimes I wish I did, as it often seems my fingers can’t keep up with my brain).
But there’s something about this app that not only removes all distractions, but helps you remember not to spend time daydreaming about could-bes in your novel.
Maybe it’s because I’m a pantser, but I find this app really helps me hone in on what matters most in a given scene. Best of all, it helps me get my story out onto paper as fast as I can, improving my plot consistency and writing habits.
10. Write as if you already know you’ll surpass your word count goal
Now that you’ve set yourself up for success, it’s time to write!
Remember, your novel will not be perfect at the end of the month. No first draft ever is. By writing in such a high volume, you’re bound to encounter major plot difficulties. Just remember that this is 100% normal, and it’s actually a really good sign.
If you encounter writer’s block, don’t worry. There are plenty of strategies for overcoming a block within a matter of hours. You can find my best tips for writer’s block here.
Still have questions about meeting your NaNoWriMo goal?
Click here to shoot me a message!