by Suzie Eller
Have you ever seen the movie where the writer bangs his head against the wall while a white, empty computer screen flashes in the background?
We can run into the same frustration if we find ourselves at a deadline with too little time, and too many words left.
But can we be honest?
One way to avoid deadline angst is to get into the habit of regularly meeting a word count, even when there are none.
In today’s Tuesday Tip, I share three ways to develop the habit of meeting a word count:
Determine a reasonable daily word count
How do you determine a daily word count?
You begin by taking an honest look at your life. If you are employed outside the home, have little ones around your feet, or are trying to juggle writing with other commitments, factor that in. If you are writing full-time, consider the other parts of “writing” such as marketing, blogging, and connecting with readers.
Weigh what is important.
Consider removing or downsizing what takes your time, but doesn’t add value.
Determine how much time you can devote to writing each week.
For example, if you can write uninterrupted for two hours a week, consider making a goal of 250-350 words. That’s a blog post. That’s a short devotion. That’s the beginning of an article, the first page of a proposal, or the lead-in hook in a chapter.
If you have more time to write, consider a greater number of words.
Create space on your calendar to write
On every calendar there is sacred space.
If you have a dental appointment from 3:00 to 4:30 on Tuesday, you won’t let anything else interrupt that. This is the same personal philosophy for church, or your job, or meeting with the plumber. When you write it on your calendar, you are telling yourself and everyone else in your family that those time slots are protected.
Create space on your calendar for your writing time.
Give them the same weight that you do the dentist or small group.
As you begin to honor those hours, others around you will start to give them weight as well.
If you are under a deadline, write on that project. If you are blogging on a series, or blogging on a schedule, write those posts. Whatever project you have in front of you, break them down into attainable and reasonable mini-goals and work on them in your allotted writing time.
If there are no deadlines, choose a free-writing prompt and simply write. You may be surprised at what comes out of that writing exercise.
In COMPEL Training, we offer mini-tasks with each of the myriad of writing courses. Choose one and use that as your writing inspiration.
Can you think of a realistic word count that works for you and your writing goals? In the comment section below, share with the COMPEL community how you determined what word count works for you. Now, start writing!
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Oh, that is great. I am going to try this. I’ve been starting each journal writing with a scripture, then just writing what ever comes to my mind. I like the structure of SOAP. Thank you
I have started writing about 200 words each night in my journal. The weekends I am trying to set aside at least 2hrs each day to focus on writing serious projects, using the tools I’m learning during the week. I hope to increase my nightly word count and weekend projects as time permits.
I don’t always strive for a particular word count each day. I just write almost everyday. Recently, due to back issues, I couldn’t write as much as I would have like to write. Now, I am trying to catch up slowly but surely. My back is still hurt but getting better. 🙂
Thank you, Suzie. The key is to actually write. God has arranged my schedule for me. I have about 4 hours every day that I can carve out for study, solitude, and writing. I am learning to set manageable goals every week. I am learning to be very specific and not just the vague, write.
Suzie, God is using you to prob me in my side and remind me to take my writing seriously by making it a priority. I struggle with this. My consistency ebbs and flows. I will never get where I want to go or accomplish what God has for me without discipline. I’m going to fill out my schedule for next week and through the year. I can do this!
I’m cheering you on, Calvonia! You can do this. <3
This step is vital to developing a career in writing. The first step which Suzzie had mentioned before is to see yourself as a WRITER. Once I wrapped my head around this aspect I utilized the tool Evernote because I work outside the home. I also have a crazy schedule between meetings, developing software, working with students. This tool allows me to meet my word count every day because I can use it while I’m in the car, in meetings, etc.
I also use my devotional time as a way to meet my word count. Often ideas for devotionals, articles, and blog posts come from this part of my day because I use S.O.A.P. as part of internalizing God’s Word.
What is S.O.A.P?
S– The S stands for Scripture-
O– The O stands for observation- What do you see?
A– The A stands for Application- How does this apply to me?
P– And finally P stands for Prayer.
I love this. Thank you for sharing!
I just loaded Evernote on my phone. I’m not very tech savvy, but I have managed to save a note and a picture of an article. Hopefully I figure out how to use it to full potential. What is SOAP?
As I’ve commented before, God’s called met to write adult thoughts at a child’s reading level. Almost half of American adults read below the high school level, and I include them in my target audience. My goal is short and simple. For me, a high word count may be a sign of poor writing. I set my goals in terms of completion: a single blog post, a Bible study segment, a scene in my book. I sometimes wish for a better-defined metric to evaluate progress, but word count doesn’t work for me. Not to say that I ignore word counts–for example, I try to hit a similar word count for every Bible study lesson, which sometimes means the day’s goal is deleting words. But I heartily agree, Suzie, that we writers need a schedule and a goal.
I love that you have honed in on what works for you! So smart.
Thank you for this helpful advice. I find I am most comfortable with 250, once edited. That is my goal. I need to write my “writing time” in my daily planner. That way I know it will get done. Otherwise, it often gets pushed aside. I am starting this practice now!
Thank you for this! Time is my biggest hurdle. I need to protect a set time on my calendar instead of waiting for the “right” time. Removing or downsizing something that doesn’t have value is another helpful tip for me. I tend to forget what pops in my mind if I don’t write it down right away so I sit & write for hours. That’s why I rarely can squeeze it in. I’m going to have to pray for the Lord to help me do it in smaller segments.
This is great advice! Now that November is here, I am back to writing daily. I am aiming for a word count of 500. I try to free write for about 30 minutes without interruptions. So, after dinner I have to time while my grandson finds something to do in his room. My challenge is to just write and not edit.
That is key. We can end up with one perfect sentence but not much else. Turn the editing off and simply write. Doing this will ultimately lead you into rich material that you may not have written otherwise. You can always edit after. Use one part of your brain at a time. Start with creativity and move into analytical afterwards. <3
Such wise advice, Suzie!
Life distracts me from writing. Your three simple and profound insights helps me pay attention to my writing habits (both good and bad). I believe the top of the list is the inconsistency. Using a daily planner and penciling a “writing” date with myself will keep me on track. Your message of encouragement is most welcomed.
Thanks Suzie, for this reminder to write something every day. I usually do but most often it’s in a note pad and averages about 250 words. I like the idea of setting aside a specific time to order to create discipline for myself.
Suzie, your advice is perfect even if there is no deadline. I have no deadlines but I know that I need to write every day to improve. Everything under the sun and even under the moon press me right out of the writing circle until I’ve left it entirely. You’re right. I need to set a time and then keep my commitment. And I need to set a word count. And I need to actually write sentences and paragraphs so they have coherent meaning. I joined COMPEL – I use their resources, but I need to take the exercises more seriously and assign them to myself. Thank you for making this lesson so plain. It is crazy not to get started.
Jane, we are here to help you. Start with one course. Enroll in it. Complete it. Or start with the Checklists and go all the way through. Stay with it until the end. The learning process is valuable and just as important as your first published article, book, blog post, etc. You can do this! We are excited for your journey.
This is a great tip, Suzie. When I initially began writing a few years ago, I was more consistent with that near daily/every other day writing. But as the writing grew, so did the must-do list! Emails, courses, designing, social media. This is a timely reminder to carve out and guard that writing time on a regular schedule. Thank you!