If you’ve followed me on Instagram over the past month, you know I’ve written two books in one month. Averaging a book every two weeks, I’ve turned over 5,000+ words a week. Book 1 was finished in June after seven years of writing (I know, it’s crazy) at around 90,000 words. Book 2 was finished mid-July at around 95,000 words, and Book 3 was finished on July 25 at exactly 100,000 words. Towards the end of my novels, my daily word count has been above 10,000 words a day, and I’ve had several people asking me how I have gotten my word count so high.
I thought I would include a blog post with ten ways I have increased my word count over the past month. For those reading this who might be feeling discouraged because their daily word count is in the double digits, I’ve been there. I feel your pain. It took me seven years to finish my first book. But after my first book, writing has become second nature to me. So, here are ten ways I was able to increase my word count.
1. Get out of your head
This is the number one way to increase your word count. I spent seven years determined to make my first draft flawless. Do you know what my first draft was not? It was not flawless. My second draft was awful. My third draft was less bad. Seven years, and I got myself to 50,000 words. I couldn’t get higher. Then, there was one weekend where I was fed up. I wanted to be done with book 1. I sat down, I got out of my head, and I managed to write 40,000 more words of crap on a page in the span of a weekend. It is so much easier to edit a bad story than it is to edit your blank word document. Your story is not going to be perfect because you are not perfect; stop pushing yourself to be perfect and start writing.
2. Train yourself to eat/drink without stopping
Hello friends with ADHD! My name is Libby and I can hyperfocus for hours on end. It’s like a superpower, except sometimes it isn’t. I would go hours and hours without eating or drinking, and I would end up in the ER dehydrated and underweight. Combine these endless hours of writing with Gastroparesis, and my body is a bit of disaster. I can honestly say that this was the hardest thing to do, but I had to start keeping food and drink on hand when I was writing. It will also keep your time spent between going to and from the kitchen for writing.
I would set timers when I wrote, and I would keep food/Gatorade (you need those electrolytes for typing) by my writing couch. Every time a timer went off (about three to five minutes apart), I would take a sip or eat a potato chip. It took weeks, but I can now integrate eating/drinking into my writing in a way that doesn’t inhibit my computer time. If you find yourself spending too much time going back and forth between giving your body basic nutrients and writing, this is something to try.
3. Use downtime on your phone
Does anyone else find themselves scrolling through the Instagram suggested memes and waste hours looking at Tony Stark textposts? Because, honestly, same. My entire phone (with the exception of a select few apps) is on downtime, an iPhone ‘lock’, from 1pm to 5:30pm every. single. day. For those who don’t know, Apple now offers a way to lock down apps for a certain number of hours, and to limit yourself on apps to a certain amount of hours. Yes, you can click, ‘remind me in fifteen minutes,’ or ‘ignore my limit for today,’ but I think it’s worth it for us writers to be on lockdown when we can.
If you don’t have an iPhone or a phone that offers an equivalent, chucking your phone across the room or having someone hide it offers the same freedom in a much more chaotic way.
4. Write about what interests you
Stop writing for others. Start writing for yourself. I know, us writers would love for people to love the things we write. I’m a people-pleaser. The idea that people might love my novels, start a fandom, and take sorting hat-like quizzes for the next 1000000 years sounds lovely. But friends, you’re never going to please everyone. There will be people who do not identify with your writing. Not everyone will write a series as loved as Harry Potter, and that is okay. Instead of trying to write a book that pleases everyone, write a book that speaks to you. Believe it or not, series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson appealed to a wide range of people because they appealed to their authors first. Love your story and put your passions into it. Your readers will notice a difference.
5. Incorporate your life journey into what you write
My favorite example of this comes from Harry Potter; JK Rowling used her battle with depression to create dementors. So, write about things that matter to you. Write about your own struggles. I’ve included my struggle with bullying and with chronic illness in my novel. This goes along with writing about what interests you; including your personal struggle adds realism to your novel. People can relate to it. You can identify with your characters. You will be surprised how quickly words begin to flow when you write about things you know well. You will also be surprised by how therapeutic and healing it is.
6. Stop worrying about the rules
I’m not going to lie, I write with a lot of adverbs (oh, you noticed?!). For a long time, I was freaked out. I would go through my writing and try to take out all of my adverbs. But adverbs are a part of my writing voice. I don’t use them excessively (or, at least, I don’t think I do), but I still use them enough for Hemingway Editor to yell at me. This only ever slowed me down.
There is no doubt; proper grammar is important. Spelling is important. Show, don’t tell. But don’t get so caught up in being perfect that you forget to tell the story the way you tell it. Only you can tell your story. Tell it with the voice God gave you. Not with the voice of someone else. Along the way, you’ll pick up tricks for writing good characters, for including foreshadowing and symbolism, and for all kinds of things. But you’re not going to be good at it if you don’t try and fail first.
7. Let your characters be extensions of you
I’m not kidding. Break yourself into pieces. My main character (MC), Lex, is the person I always thought I was. And in some respects, I think she’s the person I could be if I didn’t have chronic illness. She’s not exactly like me. But there’s a part of me that is similar to her. And you can do this for villains as well as heroes. One of the antagonists, Addie Schade, is as much a part of me as Lex is. Don’t try to create a character you cannot identify with. Odds are, if you cannot relate to the character in some way, neither can your readers. And it makes it harder to write when you don’t understand your own characters.
8. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize
This is by far the weirdest thing I have ever done in the name of writing. But it works! I rearranged my room about a month ago, and I’m now staring at a blank wall when I write. Before I ever sit down to write a scene, I sit down and try to visualize what the scene might look like. I stare at the blank wall as I gather details.
What position is my character in? What other characters are with them? Will anyone enter or exit the scene? How many tables are in the room? Chairs? Are there cracks in the walls? What are those cracks from? Is my character wearing a t-shirt her dad gave her on her fifteenth birthday? Is she wearing a pair of muddy running shorts because it was raining at track practice?
Before you write, know what the scene looks like. Know what you want the characters to do or say. And then write it as if you were directing a movie. The clearer the image is in your mind, the easier it will be to get words on a page.
9. Stop looking at your word count
Yeah, I should probably follow my own rules, but this one can be difficult sometimes. I love to celebrate my word count victories. But on my slow days, I find that it is slow because I spend half of my time wondering why my word count for the day is so low. The time you spend wishing your word count is higher could be spent writing. Don’t worry about your word count; words will flow when they flow. Cover your word count with tape or a piece of paper and this will help.
10. Do nothing but write
This is self-explanatory. I don’t have a job; I’m too sick to hold one. I don’t go to school; I’m too sick to go to class. From the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I am stuck on a couch. I have literally binge-watched every sitcom in existence (or tried to, some of them were not my favorites). I spend my day writing because I do not have anything else to do. Writing these books is my life; I do plan to publish and hope to make money off of the stories I put on a page. I have nothing but time.
If you are working a job or taking classes, give yourself some grace in the word count department. Write what you can when you can, and don’t worry about the rest.
That’s all I have for you today. Let me know in the comments if you found some of these tricks to be helpful! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on increasing word count. Thank you so much for reading!