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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Producing 5-10k words a day...by Virginia Nelson

I’m often asked, how do I manage to constantly produce 5-10K words a day? Do I live at the computer?  Of course not, no one can. I will admit I am a fast typist and I have a regiment I follow religiously but that isn’t where the secret lies. I’ll try to explain.

Back when I first started writing non-fiction, I took a lecture I developed for college students, adjusted it for my personal use. That lecture was on time management and utilizing it has saved me a lot of frustration. But this article isn’t on time management. Its primary focus is to get you, the writer to increase your daily word count. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is your typing speed? Don’t know- here is a simple way to find out.

Open a large print book. Set it up next to your computer where you can see it comfortably. Now set your timer for 5 minutes and type. When the timer goes off – stop. We are now going to figure out how many words you have written. A simple way is, if you’re in Microsoft word is to click on your tool button, then on word count. Now take that number and divide it by 5. Presto you have a rough estimate of what you can type in one minute.

Sadly, you are not going to be able to create a new story and hammer out that many words a minute but you can come pretty close if you follow my directions.

Now let’s establish your sprinting speed if you already know your typing speed.

Take the number of words you normally type per minute. Let’s say your last typing test was 50wpm. Knowing you won’t be reading off a sheet of paper nor will you have a Dictaphone plugged in.  You are creating your new piece of art. You can’t really create something new and type 50 words a minute no matter what you do. So take your WPM typing speed and divide it in half. This should be your average speed for sprinting if you follow my directions…. (Big if, I know but it is how I keep my word count up.)

Before you begin, there are a few rules that will help you make the most of your time.

Rule #1. DO NOT SIT DOWN AND OPEN UP A BLANK SCREEN and stare at it expecting something to transpire. It isn’t going to happen and it is one of the worst things you can do to yourself.

Rule #2. Make sure you are alone and going to be alone for some time. Constant interruptions will cause you to loose focus.

Rule #3. Get yourself situated. (Coffee, smokes, drinks – what ever makes you comfortable) and most importantly a kitchen timer or some similar device.

Rule #4. Do not, I repeat do not worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling or anything else. You are here to type. Once your 60k words are down and the story is on paper (yes it is rough – really rough) but it’s down and you have something to work with. We will worry about editing it later.

NOW formulate the scene (or chapter) in your mind. See it coming alive.

Sit, turn on the computer and open up a clean page or your document.

Now take a minute to make sure everything is arranged how you want it.

Now get up and go potty! You heard me – take that break now before you begin but keep that scene in your mind.

Ok. You’re back from the restroom, and reseated. Good.  Set your timer and start typing. I tend to do 30 minute sprints with a 15 minute break between them. This gives me time to stretch my legs, hit the bathroom again, refill my coffee, have that smoke and most importantly form the next scene in my mind. When I’m ready I go at it just like I did before.

So how long is it going to take you to type out 60K words you ask? That of course is going to depend on your dedication and your typing speed and how many sprints per day you do.

Let’s say you can do 4 sprints per day at 25 wpm actual sprinting speed. That works out to 750 words per 30 minutes or 3000 words per day. At this rate it will take you 80 –thirty minute sessions.

To figure out how long it is going to take you to type a 60,000 word story you can do it this way.

(1) You can take the 60,000 words and divide it by your daily average, 3k. 60,000/3000=20

Guess what? Your rough draft should be completed in 20 days.

Ok, so the editor gave you forty five days to get that story to him. You have taken twenty days to write out the story in a very rough form. That leaves you twenty five days to go back re-read your story and make adjustments. Since I write full time it is easy for me, but maybe not so easy for a working mom.

Again, you will need to set aside working time just like you did for your sprint sessions. You can work your edits exactly like you did your initial rough draft writing. Sit down with the first chapter, set your timer and read it through – yes through the mistakes. You are bound to see several mistakes but you are reading for FLOW the first time through. Ignore them! Yes, I said ignore the typos – they will be fixed soon enough.

Ask yourself is the flow right? Did you capture the essence of the scene? Good. If not highlight those areas.

Now take a quick break, do what ever it is you want to do… smoke, drink, potty. Come back when you’re ready and begin to re-read that chapter again. This time you are looking for typos and misspelled words – correct them.

A normal chapter takes me three sprinting sessions to correct – it may take you more or less depending on the number of mistakes you have made. Remember to take your breaks – it is important for you and your eyes.

When you are ready, go on to the next chapter and repeat the process. This process usually takes me a few days so allow your self enough sprinting time to get through it with time left over. Once you are finished, TAKE A DAY OFF, you have earned it!

With fresh eyes go back again and reread your manuscript. Again, you will probably find sections that need tweaking or correcting. Make those changes but don’t get bogged down with tiny little details. We all know we can edit something to death and still not have it “right.”

The original idea was to get something written and clean enough to send to the editor for their approval and you should have it. He/she of course is going to have his or her own ideas for the story and ask you to make more revisions. Worry about them after you have them.

So there you have it, my method for constantly typing out 5-10k words a day. I hope this simple method has helped you and you will at least give it a try to see if it works for you.

Virginia S. Nelson

Writing as V.S.Nelson

Virginia is a member of three RWA chapters. She is also the current VP for the FF&P chapter. She no longer writes non-fiction but devotes her time to writing paranormal and urban fantasies. She lives with the love of her life in Mesa, Arizona. You can find her around cyberspace at the following locations.

Cupid and Penelope and book one of her Sekhmet’s Guardian series, Eternal Lovers, were both released in January of this year. She is expected to release at least three more titles this year. 

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