How many words I write in a day


the blog:

I get asked quite often how I write so many books in a year, and it’s a fine question.

But I think the better one is how many words I write in a day—because it’s the days—the minutes—where the work happens.

Now, I’m not a believer that writers have to write every day. I know it’s a common bit of advice, and I can see how it works for some people. I most definitely do notice that writing feels easier when I write on a regular basis. However, I also take some days away from writing. Sometimes I sense that I need to let my creative juices recharge, and I don’t beat myself up for not creating fresh words every single day. There are plenty of days when I write zero words, especially in between books.

However, when I am working on a book, and actively on deadline (or majorly inspired by a project) I’m pretty heads-down on a project. I usually write my first drafts in under 30 days, and people sometimes wrongly assume I do that because I have to, because my deadlines are so tight. That’s not it at all. I write books quickly, because I’ve found that that’s how I write the best books. If I take my sweet time with a book, I find I risk “losing it.” For me, a leisurely pace results in a more disjointed “what’s this book about again?” feel.

So what does that mean for wordcount? Once I’ve started a book, 1,000 words is really the bare minimum daily wordcount. That’s a light writing day, reserved for days that are busy with life stuff, when I’m maybe feeling a little under the weather, or when the words just aren’t flowing, I’ll simply write “1k” on my to do list, which means that once I get 1,000 words for the day, I allow myself to go do something else. Sometimes that 1,000 unlocks a new batch of motivation and I end up writing 8,000 for the day. Other days, I get to 1,001 and promptly close the manuscript because that’s all I’ve got for that day.

{September 2019 update: the above statement was true in my early career. nowadays, if I’m really honest, not so much anymore.

My average daily wordcount is 3,000ish. I’d say that’s about average for me. A “regular” work day for me means sitting down and writing first thing, and 5,000 is typically my goal, though if I’m ahead of schedule, I’ll give myself permission to move onto something else after 3,000 for the day.

And then there are those days where I write much more than that. It’s not at all unusual for me to write 8,000 in a day. And almost every single book I write, when I get to the last 1/4 of the book, I tend to have a couple 10,000-20,000 word days. This isn’t because I have to, or because the deadline is right around the corner. It’s because once I round a certain point on the story, I feel like I literally can’t stop typing until it’s done.

How long does that take? It depends. Obviously, writing 19,000 words in a day will take up most of a day, especially factoring in that I have to take breaks to shower, eat, etc. For those 3,000-5,000 (again, that’s my normal), I usually have those done by noon at the absolute latest. I’m an early riser, so I start writing by 6am, and don’t really let myself do anything else until the words are done!

Now, some of you are wanting to know. How do I write that fast. The truth is, I’ve always written that fast. I didn’t train myself to slowly increase my wordcount.

I’ve told this story before, but for those of you new to the Lauren Layne story …

When I sat down to write my first book, I was working a regular day job, with a long commute, which meant my writing time was limited to Saturdays and Sundays. I got out a calculator, and figured out how many words I’d have to write every Saturday and Sunday in order to finish an 80,000 word manuscript by my self-appointed deadline. The calculator told me it would work out to be about 8,000 words a day, and I was like, “Okay!”

Because I hadn’t really written before, I didn’t have much context! I had no idea whether that was a lot, or not very much, or average, or more than average, etc. For all I knew, that could have been beans compared to what professional authors wrote. The calculator just said 8,000, so that’s what I did every Saturday and Sunday. I actually usually ended up writing closer to 10,000 per day, and finished the book ahead of schedule.

It wasn’t until months later, after I’d signed two book deals and was talking to my agent about delivery dates, when she asked how many words a day I wrote, and I said 8-10k, and she said, “Well, shit, that’s a lot.”

I didn’t know it was a lot, and as such … it still doesn’t feel like a lot!

When people whine to me about how they wish they could write faster, or ask how they can increase their wordcount, to be honest, I don’t think it’s as much about the story as it is your mindset. If you tell yourself that 5,000 words in a day is a lot, guess what. it’s going to feel like a lot.

My simple go-to trick is to change yoru language! Instead of thinking, “Ugh, I have to write 3,000 words today to hit this deadline,” think, “Oh my gosh, I only have to write 3,000 words today to stay on target?!”

It sounds silly and trite, but give it a try. It can’t hurt 🙂

The other, slightly more practical bit of advice? Improve your typing skills (assuming you write on a computer, and not by hand). The other reason I can write fast is that I’ve learned to type 80+ wpm which means my fingers are equipped to keep up with my brain when the muse is on fire. Have arthritis, joint issues, or other health concerns? Try dictation! Speak your words rather than phyiscally type them.

Whatever your method, remember:

“Make your reasons better than your excuses.”

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