Monday, February 20, 2012

Be Careful Just Sitting Down And Writing Words Without Thinking

Before I go to far with this, please understand that the strategy I am talking about DOES have some benefits. With that said, there are far too many authors who use this strategy ineffectively.

I have heard numerous writers tell me that they sit down and write an X-amount of words daily. Their goal is a word count only. Some days the words are good and some days, this is just an excercise in futility. While I do agree that as a brainstorming tool, this strategy, known as FREEWRITING does work to develop ideas. It is a great way to think about potential characters or potential storylines. I would argue, however, that using this strategy to write a book is far from effective.

Let me explain it this way. I don't know about you, but I really don't have a lot of free time on my hands. We all live busy lives and when we get those few spare moments to work on our writing, we have to make that time effective. If you sit down and spend your day meeting a word count and not really advancing the story, this means that you have lost some time you will never get back again. Sure, there is that potential that something good might come from that writing excercise; but, in all honesty, the odds are that the potential for poor quality writing is much greater. What this means is that you get to go back and spend time editing, no, rewriting an entire scene.

I applaud those writing groups that use a motivational tool of getting words completed in a goal-based competition. I know RWA-Online does this every October. I know the RWA Chapter in Olympia, Washington uses a Sprint Challenge. This is a great tool to push people to quit making excuses and write. But, I would highly recommend taking a different approach.

If you want to say you will write X-Amount of words a day, then go for it. But...if you don't have a plan on that current WIP, then pull out your journal, or log in to your online writing journal and just write. Count that for your daily total. If, during that writing time, you suddenly know how you want to take your current WIP, then dive into that project and continue working for your writing total. You may not meet that word count on the work in progress, but you will get some quality writing in. And, in all honesty, you might start to develop some great writing ideas for future projects.



  1. I have to agree with this. I have found that "just sitting down and writing" does not work--for me at least. I get nothing accomplished in those types of sessions because I am focusing too much on writing instead of the story, itself. It just doesn't work.

    Thank you for emphasizing this point for me. Sometimes we need these reminders.

  2. I've found it much easier to meet word quotas since I started making very detailed outlines for my stories. Having the plot figured out before starting the actual daily writing allows me to concentrate on getting the words down, in what I hope is a good fashion. Since I don't have to worry so much about what comes next but rather making it happen well, I find I usually meet my quota more quickly, too. The trade-off is that there's a lot more work at the beginning of the process as I figure out each character, each plot point, how each character would affect each plot point, and so on (I believe you've called this "front-loading" in previous posts). Even a basic outline would be helpful in focusing a writer so their 1000 words a day (or whatever amount) is not wasted.

  3. I don't set word count goals at all. In fact, I don't even think about the word count until the story is finished. Then I panic.