• Carmen

how to write ten thousand words a month

So, I just counted, and I wrote 40,000 words in four months. That's a lot. That's 10,000 a month, 2,500 a week, and 335 a day. At this rate I should be done with my next novel in another four months.

Not bad for a formerly blocked writer.

I've been pondering how I did it, and I came up with five strategies that revolutionized my writing process. If there's a stuck creative person out there, I hope these help you break through, too.

1. Pick a Number

The first time I tried to write a novel, I was pretty non-committal about the length (because 85,000 words intimidated me), but this time around that number is burned into my frontal lobe. 85,000 words is the length of the average romance novel, so that's how many words I will write. Done. No waffling!


This actually motivates me more than my previously relaxed approach because I know there's a real market for novels that length -- so it's more likely my hard work will pay off.

2. Find Your Process (but give it time)

Every writer (including me) likes to give advice. "Write early in the day." "Write a thousand words every time you write." "Write the whole draft first, then edit." Etc. These are all potentially helpful suggestions, but you ultimately have to find your own process (and it probably won't be exactly like someone else's.)

For me, this is what works best: I block out two hours a day for writing. My mom or Jeff watches Vivian during this time. I sit somewhere with the door closed and giant headphones on and write until those two hours are up. When I finish one chapter or section, I edit that before proceeding to the next one. Then I do an "large batch" edit when I hit 10 chapters and edit all of them chronologically before moving on.

This might work for you, but it might not. It took me four years to fine-tune that process, so don't be surprised if it takes a few tries to figure out what you like best.

3. Limit Your Time

I do my worst writing when I have lots of free time. I do my best writing when I only have a few hours to finish something. When time stretches out before me, I tend to procrastinate and languish and check Instagram. But, when time is precious, I make use of every second. I feel like this principle applies to everything in life.


Don't give yourself more time than you need. That way, you can't waste it.

4. Find a Guru

It really does help to have a role model. I didn't have any in graduate school (because we mostly read gloomy postmodern muck), but I recently rediscovered Francine Rivers, and studying her methods have made all the difference in my writing. She has a list of FAQs and helpful writing tips on her website, and when I'm stuck, I just flip through one of her books and study how she did it.


Find your own Francine Rivers and see what happens.

5. Make the Most of Criticism

I don't know about you, but I was told over and over again that criticism is "so valuable," and I've spent countless hours having my work "workshopped" by my peers. Here's what I've learned:

Most criticism isn't that valuable.

Some definitely is, but that's largely dependent on who's doing the critiquing, their experience, and their understanding of your genre and audience. Thankfully, at this stage in my life, I have some really great readers, but that hasn't always been the case. So, instead of saying "criticism is so valuable," here's my take:

Sharing your work with others is valuable. Partly for their feedback (which you can always take or leave) but mostly because it motivates you to keep writing (because you know people are waiting for your next chapter!)

And here's one more secret: When I receive criticism, I fight the urge to read it immediately. Instead, I stow it away in a folder called "Writing Feedback" and look at it when I'm feeling stuck or uncertain about something. Otherwise, I forge ahead. This keeps me from getting stuck in the weeds.

These five strategies truly revolutionized my writing process.


What about you? Any methods you recommend to the blocked artist?

#nanowrimo #thewritelife #writingtips