The Slow Accumulation of Words


There are many times I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my writing. Or, to be more specific, that I’m not getting anywhere fast enough. Like writing a novel is some kind of race, and I’m forever having to stop to tie my shoe.

This feeling came over me a couple of days ago. I’ve been struggling lately. Three and a half weeks of school holidays meant I was exhausted by the end of the day, falling into bed with a grateful thought to the teachers who somehow manage to entertain and teach 21 six-year-olds every single day without, apparently, resorting to alcohol.

Then school started and I fell sick. For eight days.

Then six-year-old Big Brother developed a crazy high fever and was sick for four days.

And through all this, my writing suffered. I’d sit down at night, for my hour of creative time, and I’d have nothing. I was too drained to think, let alone create interesting and comical scenes for an increasingly complex story.

At the end of July, I missed my monthly writing goal by almost 10,000 words. And all those feelings of insecurity and guilt and why-do-I-do-this-anyway-ness crept over me like a thick, woolly blanket. Comfortable and familiar and stifling.

So I took a deep breath, and looked back over the my writing calendar.

You see, at the end of every day I feel in a calendar with how many words I wrote for the day, how many words I’ve written for the month so far, and my updated daily word count goal. It looks something like this:


At first glance, it looks pretty dismal. The green highlights are the days I hit my target. There’s not a lot of them some months. 

But then I got to thinking. And to adding. And to working out some stats.

And suddenly, the world didn’t seem quite so bleak.

In the last six months, from the 1st of January to the 31st of July, I have written a total of 103,000 new words.

Over a hundred thousand words.

That astounds me.

And some more stats:

  • On average, I’ve written 5 out of every 7 days.
  • I’ve written an average of 670 words per writing day.
  • Those words have been written on a combination of two novel manuscripts (one finished, one >< close to being finished), and a short story.

Over the last six months, I’ve really developed my style and my voice, and I’ve turned writing from something I want to do, into something I do do. Plus, I’ve discovered a secret love of outlines. (Shhh!)

And do you know what the most amazing thing about all that is?

I’ve done it all in one hour a day.



Filed under Writing

22 responses to “The Slow Accumulation of Words

  1. Well done, glad you took the step back and saw all the great work you are doing, in an hour a day no less! You are a great writer and I look forward to reading more of your words. Thanks for sharing.

  2. ethellovestalkingim

    I’m SO glad to read this post. I’m not a new writer, but I’m new to fiction writing on a regular basis. I’ve dedicated one hour each morning, before everyone gets up, to writing. It didn’t seem like much, until a couple of days I cranked out 1000 words during that hour. That exhilarated me, the very idea that I could write that much sometimes in such a little window.

    My goal is 500 words during that hour, writing five days a week. The other two days I spend chewing over my story and trying to figure out where it’s going next. Then I’m ready to write again on Monday.

    I’m glad to see someone (you!) plodding forward, like I’m trying to, word by word and sentence by sentence, to write. It’s encouraging!

    • Thank you! I’ve had my moments of feeling like I’m moving forward too slowly. But then there are days when I’ve written a crazy amount in an hour. (My world record is 1700 words — I’d love to hear that you’ve broken that record!) Good to hear that you’re doing the hour a day thing and progressing so well. Good luck!

  3. No longer wishing to succumb to a false focus on how many days I had failed to write enough is why I changed my targets to producing each step by a certain date.

    • Good on you. I gave that a try last year, and found it didn’t work for me — I’d get too tied up in the “I’ve still got ages to go”, “Oh no, I’m supposed to be finished by tomorrow!” cycle. 🙂 But I’m glad you’ve found the method that works for you.

      • It does work better for short stories and such.

        For my novel I am using scenes/major events as my targets rather than the whole thing; that way I can try to set a deadline that is neither too tight nor too loose.

  4. You are way ahead of me, Jo. However, I am planning to unload some responsibilities toward the end of the year and reclaim some time for myself. Maybe that will help. Meanwhile, when I think of what I have to squeeze into this weekend . . .

    • Come on, Kay, you’re the one who introduced me to the concept of just writing a little bit each day and letting the words pile up. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll be back on the bandwagon soon!

  5. Amazing what can be accomplished when one sets their mind to accomplish. Congrats.

  6. Perspective is everything, especially for a writer. Wonderful reminder for what can be accomplished when we set our minds to reasonable goals and a steady pace. Great work, my friend.

  7. Slow and steady, as they say. My second novel ended up being 170,000 words, mostly because I never thought about word count. If you’d asked me to write a novel that long, I’d never even have started because I’d have thought it was impossible. But I just kept plugging away, writing and writing until the story was done.

  8. Kate is

    I love your calendar, I shall have to try that.

  9. authormirandastone

    Wow! You should be very proud of yourself, Jo. I don’t write as much as I’d like to. Sometimes it’s due to exhaustion after work; other times, I simply don’t want to face that blinking cursor in a blank Word document. I think we writers tend to be hard on ourselves. I’m glad you were able to step back and take a look at the big picture, and see just how much progress you’ve made.

    • Perspective is a wonderful thing. I do find that setting myself a time limit helps. If I’m not in the mood, I’ll usually force myself to sit down and just… sit there. For an hour. Telling myself I don’t have to write, I don’t have to do anything, I just have to be present. And little by little, my fingers start to move over the keys.

  10. I love the goal setting. You bet I’m copying your calendar, complete with the green post-its if I hit my target. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this.

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