Tag Archives: nanowrimo

The Art of REwriting

9 Nov

by Susan Dennard


It’s NaNoWriMo month.

In other words, it is currently hell-on-earth for many writers around the globe. A self-induced hell that anyone who isn’t participating in just CAN’T UNDERSTAND.

Yes, we clearly enjoy torture, but no, we are not insane. (Though, ask again in 3 weeks…)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to soothe the minds of worried first-drafters. Everyone will tell you this (including Vahini, here on LTWF), and all I can do is reiterate:

It is okay to write crappy first draft.

In fact, we’re all expecting you too…because so will we.

And, if I’m REALLY HONEST with you, then I’ll just go ahead and share a little secret:

I’m a really bad writer.

Like, downright dreadful.

Here’s a quote that pretty much embodies me:

“More than half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”

~John Irving

This is so, so, so me.

My first drafts are riddled with long pages of backstory and slow, unnecessary scenes in which characters (i.e. me) get to know each other. Every piece of dialogue has a tag–many of which are “snapped”, “hissed”, and “growled” (my characters, it would seem, are easily annoyed).

My first drafts are so bad, in fact, that I would rather be paper cut to death than share them with anyone. I’m serious–no one reads my first drafts. In fact, my crit partners are usually eyeballing third or even fourth drafts. It’s not just that I’m self-conscious about my prose–it’s that I am perfectly aware I can’t write well.

The issue is that my first drafts come out fast. We’re talking all my first drafts are NaNo-worthy, month-long passions of speed-typing.

I usually have a strong idea of the primary external plot, but I have zilch for my subplots or resonance. And as I write, my Muse strikes me with ideas for clever (or sometimes not-so-clever) threads to weave in.

By the time I finally reach the end of my book, the manuscript is what I (lovingly) like to as one giant clusterf***.

But you know what? That’s okay…

Because, by golly, I am one hell of a REwriter.

Just take a look at these massacred pages from the very first REwrite of Something Strange and Deadly. (It was still in third person! HOW WEIRD.)

Ah, but one REwrite wasn’t enough. Here’s the same section during round 2 of a total REwrite:

So let’s lay out some ground rules about rewriting–some things you might want to come back to when NaNoWriMo wraps up and you find yourself crying maniacally in the corner.

The first key to rewriting is to NOT STRESS. You may have a disaster on your hands, but you can always, always clean that up.

You have a story now (something you didn’t have when you began). All you have to do is take what you wrote and make it WHAT YOU WANTED TO WRITE.

If you want to see why stress is a killer, then read this hilarious post by author Libba Bray. My favorite line?

…then Tim comes in, takes a look at the dirt and staples all over you, your bloodshot eyes and borderline psychotic grin, puts his finger to his mouth in a thoughtful way and says, “I’m concerned.” And you say, “No, Tim, it’ll all work out—I swear!” And you staple some fertilizer to the floor and laugh.

The second key to rewriting is to STAY ORGANIZED. Go in with a plan and that messy first draft will seem way less scary.


Plus, if you need help figuring that “plan stuff” out, well, I’ve got an entire revisions series that you can work through.

The third and final key to rewriting is BICHOK. Get your Butt In that Chair, your Hands On that Keyboard (or pen, if you’re like me…making it BICHOP) and work! You need to max out your stamina and determination for all they’re worth.

Because eventually and with enough hard labor (and possibly tears–those have been known to happen), you can turn any horrible first draft into a masterpiece.

I mean, just look at what my tattered pages above became:

Yeah, that’s an ARC of my book–an ARC of my REwritten, multi-revised (at least 8 times by the end…probably more), crappy-first-draft-in-a-month BOOK.

And with a little elbow grease and drive, you, my friends, can do the same.

So what about you? Do you write clean first drafts or rely on re-writing to get your novel where it needs to be?


LTWF Live Blog Word War for NaNoWriMo Begins!

4 Nov

See yesterday’s post for the low-down! Here’s a recap:

Beth Revis and Stephanie Perkins‘ latest writing war live blogged throughout the day inspired us to do our own!

Participants (or people who just want to watch the fun!) can connect with each other through a Twitter List, or using the hashtag #ltwfwordwar

Remember, if you’re participating (or even if you just want to be nice!), please visit one another’s blogs and cheer one another on!!

*Let Kat or Savannah know if you finished and aren’t marked as such below by leaving a comment!

List of Participants

1. Kat Zhang – Word Goal: 6,000 (US Central time)

Finished with 6,063!

2. Savannah Foley – Word Goal: 10,000 (US Central time)

Finished at 10,377

3. Jessica Lewenda – Word Goal: 8,000 (Australia)

Finished with 6,399!

4. Brittany Severn – Word Goal: 3,000

Finished with 3,162!

5. Amanda – Word Goal: 4,000 (US Eastern time)

Finished with 4,011!

6. Kae – Word Goal: 3,000-4,000 (US Eastern time)

Finished with 3,200!

7. Heather – Word Goal: 15,000 (UK) Kat’s note: I know folks, I’m scared, too 😉

Finished with over 15,000! Holy crap Heather totally won the word war!

8. Ellen – Word Goal: 3,000-4,000 (US Central time)

Finished with 3076!

9. Ashelynn Hetland – Word Goal: 5,000 (US Mountain time)

Finished with 6500!

10. Kayleigh – Word Goal: 2,777 (France)

11. Julie Fisher – Word Goal: 4,000 (UK)

Finished with 4,008!

12. Katelyn – Word Goal: 3,500 (US Central time) *Now with the correct link!

Finished with 3,572!

13. Adeeti Goswami – Word Goal: 3,000 (US Pacific time)

Finished with 2,518!

14. Asia Morela – Word Goal: 3,000 (Canada Eastern time)

Finished with 3,051!

The Rules

There are none! Just report your progress in regular intervals, and try to stop by the blogs of the others to post inspiring encouragement! Some participants, like Kat and Savannah, are taking a page from Beth and Stephanie and engaging in snarky commentary (this is a word war after all!), but only with each other. Don’t worry, you won’t get snarked unless you explicitly ask for it!

We’ll post tomorrow with everyone’s results.

Have fun, and thanks for participating!

NaNoWriMo Advice: Your Work Doesn’t Suck…That Badly.

2 Nov


Vahini Naidoo


Since NaNoWriMo has just begun, I thought I’d do a post on writing speedily and efficiently without sacrificing quality. It’s not an uncommon sentiment on agents’ blogs that NaNoWriMo is the bane of their existence. The fear (and inevitable horror) of getting inundated with masses of unedited, quickly and poorly written novels, is palpable around this time of the year.

This is probably (definitely) not without reason, since one of the most commonly bandied about ideas when it comes to NaNoWriMo is that first drafts are crap. They don’t matter. You just have to force out the words. You can suck, and that’s okay. It’s okay to suck.

I almost completely agree with this. Suckage is just about the biggest part of writing – but sometimes, I think a healthy dose of egotism goes a long way. You can’t stumble through your draft, obsessing over the fact that you “suck” and then thinking that that’s okay. There’s a distinction there, to me. It’s okay to suck, it’s not okay to be hyper-aware of the fact that you suck.

Why, you may ask? Surely being aware of your general suckitude is a good thing?

In hindsight, I think it definitely is (and you really will have to edit your NaNo novel if you want to get a good final product), but not when you’re writing your first draft. Think about it this way, if you’re delivering a speech and you’re aware you suck at public speaking, you’re going to be super nervous. And if you’re super nervous, your voice is going to quaver, you’re going to stutter and stumble, and get swallowed up in gaping, potholes of pauses.

It’s the same thing when you’re writing. If you’re too self conscious about your suckitude, then your voice will hit the page warbling and off-key. It will ramble all over the place, and fail to seem coherent and consistent. In this case, you have to write with assurance, in order to ensure that your voice, at the very least, is consistent (although half your words may be redundant, your characters may make zero sense, and that subplot about the goldfish swimming about it’s bowl may not be the most scintillating…).

Writing like this, with poise and aplomb, as if you know what you’re doing even when you don’t (especially when you don’t), is the kind of attitude that gets you through a month like NaNoWriMo. So be aware of the fact that you suck, but don’t internalize it to the point where it affects your progress. Instead, push it to the back of your mind, and write with assurance.

And onwards and upwards with your word counts!


Vahini Naidoo is  a YA author and University student from Sydney, Australia. Her debut novel FALL TO PIECES, en edgy psychological thriller, will be released by Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can read more about Vahini on her blog.

NaNoWriMo Starts Today! Participate with us!

1 Nov

As mentioned on Friday, NaNoWriMo starts today!

As of this writing the word count widgets are not yet active, but please comment with your username below and we will add you to our sidebar when they are!

Additionally, here are the names of participating LTWF NaNowers, if you wanted to add us as your Writing Buddies!

Savannah J. Foley, savannahjfoley

Susan Dennard, stowersd

Kat Zhang, katzhang

Sammantha Bina, samanthanicole

Julie Eshbaugh, juliesh


Add your username and tell us what you’re working on this month!

NaNoWriMo begins on Tuesday!

28 Oct


Savannah J. Foley


It’s that time of year again! Whip out your notebooks and keyboards, because if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month then you’re going to attempt to write 50k in November!

Last year a lot of LTWF contributors participated in NaNoWriMo, and we posted our word counts in widgets on the sidebar, and added the usernames of participating readers as well. We’ll be doing the same thing this year once the NaNo website is fully launched and offers up those widgets again.

If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, now is the perfect time to sign up. If this is your first time participating, here’s what you can expect from the experience:

1. It’s intimidating. For some people, writing 50,000 words in a month is a feat on the same level as a divine miracle. That’s why the NaNo site provides you with a daily word count goal, as well as a forum to meet other NaNoers in your region to talk shop or schedule writing meetups. Lots of people ‘win’ at NaNoWriMo, but lots of people don’t hit their goal, too. Either way, you push yourself to write more than ever before, a challenge that can be incredibly fulfilling.

2. The NaNo site will probably crash at first. Multiple times. NaNoWrimo is non-profit, run entirely by user donations. In years past they were notorious for not having enough server space because they couldn’t afford it, and that led to frequent site crashes during the first few days. The good news is that the staff is extremely communicative about what they’re doing to get the site back up. In even better news, users donated more money than ever before last year, so much so that the staff has had ALL YEAR to work on NaNo projects, and we all anticipate this will be the best year ever in terms of site stability.

3. Should you go to meetups? The answer is yes. I love meetups. I’m the type of writer that usually writes at home, but home is also where I eat and sleep and relax, and sometimes ‘writing time’ turns more into ‘everything but writing’ time. Meetups completely solve that problem for me. You meet perfect strangers at a coffee shop or restaurant for the sole purpose of writing. It sounds crazy, but it’s incredibly effective. You’re there for one purpose and one purpose only, and so is everyone else. The motivation to stay on task is powerful (especially if you’re in a place with no internet access)!

4. If you can’t make it to meetups, you can go to virtual meetups! Virtual meetups are great, too. You can do word races with other writers, or even join in on #1k1hour sessions on Twitter.

5. Haters gonna hate. It boggles the mind, but some writers really, really hate NaNoWriMo. I understand their perspective: they feel telling the general public they can write a novel in a month demeans what writers do (I elaborate more on why some writers are filled with vitriol at the mention of NaNoWriMo here), but I disagree. NaNo is not only fun, but it’s useful for writers who are serious about their writing, and it shows non-serious writers and non-writers how hard it actually is to not only write a novel, but write a good novel. And guess what? Non-writers and people not serious about their writing stop writing after November. They go back to their normal lives and serious writers will continue writing all year round. So what’s the harm?

Once NaNo gets into full swing you might start seeing articles around the internet disparaging what you’re doing. Ignore them. And if you’re feeling down, just read this article by Sarah Maas telling you, among other things, “Stop listening to the haters, to the naysayers, and just WRITE.”


So tell us, readers, are you participating? Is this your first time, or are you an old pro? What was your experience like last year?

We’ll talk again when NaNo opens on Tuesday!

NaNoWriMo: Haters Gonna Hate, Writers Gonna Write

1 Dec

by Savannah J. Foley


This was the first year I seriously attempted (and won!) NaNoWriMo. I half-assed it last year, but didn’t really understand the commitment involved and had never had a daily word goal before, so the project fell by the wayside.

This year was different. I had a 50k deadline which lined up rather neatly with NaNo’s finishing requirements, and as I’d spent the last two weeks of October slacking off because confronting my rewrite was (dare I admit it,?) scary, I figured this was the perfect thing to kick me into gear and make me finish.

What was so appealing about NaNoWriMo? Was it the sense of community (if you look to your right you can see both my and our readers’ word count stats!)? The beautiful tracking charts (I love charts!)? The pep talks and stories of inspiration and success the website was kind enough to email to me about twice a week?

(Honestly what really made me commit and stay on top of it was a note sent to me via the NaNo website from a fan who told me that watching my word count climb would inspire her to stay on top of hers. Plus my name and word count were here on the LTWF website, posted for the world to see. How could I slack with that kind of pressure going on?!)

I’ll tell you what wasn’t so appealing: the criticism about NaNoWriMo from published authors and literary agents, despite NaNo receiving support from some other, rather notable authors. Sarah J. Maas did a great, inspiring article mid-way through the month encouraging those who might be disheartened by public criticism of their endeavors, and I guess what I’ve taken away most from this experience is how right she is. There is no reason to discourage people from writing, ever.

However, I did have a few interesting experiences with fellow NaNoWriMoers this month, so I thought I’d share my perspective on why NaNoWriMo received such vitriol from veteran writers, and what we can do about it:

Meet Ups

I found meet ups to be very productive, and I went to as many as I could. We met at cafes, restaurants, and even pulled an all-nighter at IHOP (during which I added 13k to my ms!).Heck, I’m writing this article from a Denny’s as we speak. BUT, being at the meet ups showed me something about my fellow NaNoWriMoers that made me understand why some bloggers lashed out at them.

Every other NaNoWriMo writer in my area that I met was, to put it simply, a huge, flailing noob.

They had vague, unrealistic ideas about publication and the steps involved, wrote bland plotlines they thought were original, and in one notable case, wrote an entire 50k before the plot “even started.” Another writer had pounded out 150k (on three different abandoned novels) by the 15 day point. The worst part was that we supposedly met up to write, but people would talk for half an hour before getting started, or not get started at all (meanwhile, I was concentrating on getting in my word count because I had a deadline, damnit!) I didn’t want to be a jerk, so I didn’t talk about literary agents and publication steps unless specifically asked about my background, but it was hard not to offer advice and guidance.

In another case, about 10 of us met up at a Barnes & Noble, and a girl a table over asked us what we were all doing. Someone responded and told her we were part of National Novel Writing Month – we were all going to write novels in a month.

“Oh,” she said with a fair amount of snob, “I’ve already written a novel. I’m trying to get it published, but my parents are being lazy about it.”

Did I mention she looked about 18?

Horrified Curious, I asked her what she meant by that. She spouted off some vague paranoia about needing to mail her ms to herself before sending it to publishers so no one could steal her idea, and when I asked her if she was querying she said, “what’s that?”


This girl really made me understand why others might feel frustration towards NaNoWriMoers. Though she wasn’t participating in NaNoWriMo per se, I found her ignorant arrogance present in a lot of the other writers I spent time with.

I tried to figure out why this combination of arrogance/ignorance bothered me so. Why did it ignite a deep frustration within me, a desire to correct everyone around me and show them that this isn’t a piece of cake, that being a successful writer is a lifestyle, not a one-month commitment? It takes dedication and education and love. I enjoy it, but it’s damned hard sometimes.

And then I realized. That girl in Barnes and Noble, so convinced she was superior to the rest of us… was once me. I used to think I was the only teenage writer in the world. I used to tell anyone who would listen that I was writing a novel and I was going to try and get it published when I was done (having never heard of a literary agent or any of the steps involved to actually get published). I have been a huge, flailing, floundering noob, writing bad prose and thinking it was brilliant, convinced I was going to be a best-selling author, and generally probably annoying the crap out of anyone who had even the slightest more experience than me.

Seeing that girl made me remember that. She made me feel embarrassed for myself.

I read a quote once that has affected me ever since, and I think it applies in this situation: “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing,” or, as it has commonly become known, “A wise man knows that he knows nothing.”

What this means is that as your knowledge of a subject increases, you also become aware of how much you do not know. You acquire humility. I have certainly become far more humble since learning more about the industry. I began to develop an accurate sense of being able to measure myself against others, and found myself to be lacking. As I learned, I learned that I had a long way to go.

But those who have not learned do not have this humility. Therefore, sometimes we lash out at them, because we are actually lashing out at our former selves.

Having realized this truth, I was better able to tolerate my fellow NaNoWriMoers. I was able to realize that they’re not a threat to me; at the end of the month they will have 50k towards an unpublishable novel, and might not approach writing again for another year, while I will have my rewrite done and move towards editing in December, planning to go back out on submissions in January. Because I’m a writer for life, not for a month.

NaNoWriMo is not saturating the market with stuff that is in competition with me. All it’s doing is giving these people a dream, a recreational activity, a chance to meet up and eat and talk about geeky stuff and accomplish a daily goal. And honestly, what’s so wrong with that?

Moving Forward

At the Barnes & Noble, I relayed the conversation I’d had with that misguided girl to Sarah, who asked me, “Well, did you help her?”

I hadn’t. I’d been too shocked, too disgusted with my former self. Besides, the conversation was over. It would be weird if I started it again, right?

“Maybe you were put next to her for a reason.”

Sarah’s words made me think. I knew she was right. So I did what the informed can only do when confronted with the uninformed. I gently gave her an opportunity to inform herself.

At the end of the meetup, I passed her a notecard with the website for agentquery (and LTWF of course!). I said, “If you want to get published, you’ll probably need a literary agent. This will get you started.”

Whether she looks it up and takes the steps to join the writing community is her choice, but at least I gave her an opportunity.

I finished my 50k on November 18th, and I seriously doubt I could have done it without NaNoWriMo’s help in making me realize my potential. I learned that I could commit to a word count goal of 2k a day. I learned that I actually enjoyed writing in restaurants and cafes (previously I thought I found the noise and conversation distracting, but it turns out I have the ability to tune all that out, who knew?!). Most of all, I re-affirmed something that I hold very dear to my heart: whenever we can, we must kindly and wisely show young writers that there is a whole world and community out there waiting for them. Waiting to teach them, inspire them, help them, and support them.

Because they don’t know. Honestly, they have no idea. So whenever you can, for the sake of the young writer that you once were, be a role model, a mentor, a guide. And that’s all I have to say about that 🙂


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.


A (Belated) NaNo Pep Talk

16 Nov

FYI: I posted this on my personal blog last week, but I figured it’s worth repeating, given the number of anti-NaNo articles that have flooded the internet lately, and given the number of LTWF readers that are participating in NaNo!




Sarah J. Maas



Okay, some of you might know that I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, and I’m not technically participating this year, but I AM in the midst of writing a top-secret new WIP. So while I don’t have a NaNo account, I’m totally mooching off the energy and enthusiasm that’s running rampant right now.

Last week on our LTWF Twitter account, we got a request to address all of the NaNo naysayers, which made me pause for a second—do all of the anti-NaNo posts actually discourage the NaNo participants that much?

Well, that kinda pisses me off. And by kinda, I mean a lot. Because in today’s world, I don’t see how anyone could discourage somebodyfrom turning off the tv and writing—especially when there are a few cases of NaNo books getting published. Don’t believe me? Go check out my friend, Courtney Moulton. Her phenomenally awesome debut novel, ANGELFIRE, was a NaNo book.

Maybe NaNo is a different kind of novel writing—and maybe the speed of it can sometimes detract from the quality of the writing. And maybe people who like to say things like “my craft” and use fancy literary terms when referencing their writing find NaNo to be a cheap way to write a book. But you know what? Everyone writes differently. It’s what makes this community so awesome.

There are the people who like to savor each word, who take a week to write a 500-word chapter, who like to think of writing as this long, thoughtful process. Yeah, it’s a beautiful art/craft, and a wonderful tradition going back thousands of years. But just because some people take nine months to write their first draft doesn’t mean that their method is the ONLY method, or the right method, or the true method.

Then there are the people who write in a frenzy—five, eight, ten thousand words in a day. Every day. Until it’s finished, or you break from the insanity of writing-writing-writing until you drop. And sometimes what we pound out is equivalent to vomit, but sometimes that frenzy and momentum gets us so into the scene that what we write kicks ass.

Obviously, I am a part of the frenzy group. When I write a book, it’s pretty much like NaNo. I don’t set daily or monthly word count goals, but I literally just write until I think my brain is going to explode, or I’m going to pass out at my desk. While writing the first draft, I don’t have any interest in contemplating the deep themes and pretty words in each and every sentence.

I write the first draft for the plot and the characters—I write because this story’s been building up inside me for so long that once I start that first chapter, I have to hand over any hope of having a life for the next month or so.

Maybe that’s not real novel writing to some people—but you know what? It’s real writing to me. That’s how I write books. And that’s why I love writing. Because Ilive for that frenzied feeling, for the thrill of characters and worlds springing up at the touch of my fingers on the keyboard, for eighteen hour days that go by in the blink of an eye. For the days when I write 12k words and it’s 3 AM and I can STILL keep going, but I have to make myself stop, because I have to be up in a few hours.

So, I just want to say, for the record, that NaNo rocks. Don’t listen to the haters. Enjoy the frenzy. Enjoy the sensation of having so many people writing around you.

Actually, one of the best things about NaNo so far is the fact that many of my friends are also writing. We’ve had a Write Nights, where a few of us chill on gchat, write our WIPs for 30 minutes, then check in to share what we’ve written. If you’re having trouble getting motivated for NaNo, or just plain stalling in the middle of your ms, get some friends to do a Write Night with you. In the few hours that we had Write Night last week, I wrote 4,400 words (for a grand total that day of 8,500 words). The pressure of being expected to produce something in 30 minutes was a fantastic motivator, and the positive energy was ridiculously awesome.

And you know what? This WIP of mine? It kinda sucks right now. I’m about 1/5 through it, and I already know that I’m going to have to rewrite the first 5 or 6 chapters. But that’s for later, and even if I took all week to write one chapter, it’d still be just as rough. No matter how fast or slow I write, I always need the first 5 or so chapters to sort out the voice, pace, and the world.

Right now, what’s more important to me is creating the skeleton of the story and riding the wave of energy and motivation until I write the last sentence of the ms. THEN I can go back and focus on prettifying sentences. Once I can see the ms in its entirety, THEN it’s time to slow down and focus on revising. But that’s just me. And it’s not the right or the wrong way–it’s just my way. I’m not gonna tell you you’re doing it wrong if you do it differently.

Don’t worry if you think what you’re writing now is lousy because you wrote it fast, or whatever the naysayers claim. It’s probably lousy because it’s a first draft, and EVERYONE, no matter if they’re an aspiring or published author, no matter if they write fast or slow, writes first drafts that need heavy amounts of revision. You’re in good company.

So, here’s to you, NaNo participants. Here’s to your novels, whether they wind up in a drawer or published. Here’s to those lousy first drafts. Here’s to writing, whether it be fast or slow.

Stop listening to the haters, to the naysayers, and just WRITE.



Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.


Tell Us Your NaNoWriMo User Number!

2 Nov

If you tell us your NaNoWriMo user number, we’ll add you to our sidebar in another stat widget, and then we can all encourage/inspire each other to make daily word goal!

To find your user number, log in to NaNoWriMo.org, then click on ‘My NaNoWriMo’. The six-digit number at the end of the address bar is your user number. For example, mine is 601587.

Comment with your user number and I’ll add you to our widget!


Writing With a Daily Word Goal

2 Nov

Given that it’s the start of NaNoWriMo, and also that I recently imposed a daily word count goal on myself, I figured now is a good time to start talking about what it feels like to write with a goal in mind:

 (PS: Julie (Juliesh), Susan (stowersd), Sammy (SamanthaNicole), and I (savannahjfoley) are all doing NaNoWriMo this year. Friend us if you like!)


Back in the beginning of October, my agent approved my outline for Antebellum and I got to work revising. I decided to set a goal for myself as to when I would complete the rewrite: I wanted to be done by December so I could have the whole month to edit and get feedback, then I would send to my agent in January.

Step 1: Establish a Goal

As a way to help me acheive this goal, I decided to chart my progress with a daily word count goal. I calculated the number of words I would have to write a day in order to redo 30 chapters in two months… 1,125, or approximately 3 chapters per week.

Step 2: Motivation

I put notes by my desk.

I put a custom background on my phone. And laptop.

I told my writer friends and announced it on Facebook.

I woke up every morning and repeated to myself, “I am SO excited to write today!”

I tried to do everything possible to keep myself amped up and committed. But being excited is only half the battle. No, not even half. Probably 25%.

Step 3: Tracking.

I love charts, and I love excel. Plus, I knew I needed someplace to keep my daily word counts, and track how much I had left to go. So I made a really awesome chart in Excel to help me:

The chart made me feel better. I love looking at it 😛

Step 4: Writing.

This is the most important (and hardest) part to writing with a daily goal. Having fancy motivational pictures, fancy charts, and fancy ways of complaining and/or psyching yourself up on Twitter and FB is all good and well, but it means nothing if you don’t actually do any writing.

For the first week, I did great. I was even over my goal! The second week I did good, but not quite so well… in fact, I was short by about a hundred words.

The third week I did terrible. I wrote a really crappy chapter and it stole my mojo and enthusiasm to keep going. Writing each sentence was torture. I took frequent food breaks, internet breaks, bathroom breaks, anything to avoid this big, stinking mess of a manuscript.

But having a daily word count goal isn’t about writing perfect chapters in a day. It’s about getting the words down no matter what, even if they suck. Because that’s what editing is for. It’s more important to get the framework to the house up than it is to do all the trim wall by wall and room by room. Put a roof on that house before you install the carpet, for goodness sakes!

Step 5: Maintaining.

Adhering to the goal every day without fail is really difficult, because life gets in the way. Birthday dinners, celebrations, holidays, excessive homework, Cleaning Day, getting a migraine, catching up on your favorite tv show… all of these things provide temptations or legitimate excuses to wander away from your writing. I’m not saying your novel has to come before your mother’s birthday dinner. But it’s going to provide a definite distraction.

I have given up fun things in order to make goal. My boyfriend wanted to go out to eat, and while I love eating at restaurants, I told him we’ll just put a pizza in the oven so I can keep writing. My sister wanted me to go out shopping with her (omg I love trinket shopping). But I told her I needed to stay in and finish my chapter.

I’m not perfect. Things went wrong, and unexpected issues came up. I got a dog, for example. This past weekend, I promised I would devote all weekend to catching up to my goal (I’m way, way behind), but I forgot my boyfriend was intalling linoleum in my laundry room, and of course I got recruited into assisting/running errands.

If you plan a daily goal, expect for things to go wrong. Don’t think, ‘I can goof off on my lunch break because I can write tonight’, because you don’t know WHAT is going to happen tonight!

Step 6. The Culture of Dedication.

I have known writers in the past who adhere to a daily word count goal. I really admire them for it. Now that I’m on a daily word count goal myself, I like to see them Twitter and blog about it. Misery loves company, after all. But I also think that a daily word count goal isn’t for everyone, and here’s why:

In my opinion, you should use a word count goal if you have a defineable deadline, like you want to finish your novel in 60 days, or you’re on deadline for an agent or editor, or you’re participating in NaNoWriMo.

I feel that using a word count goal when you don’t have a project to work on sets you up for disappointment and failure… if you feel that you have to write 500 words a day you’ll eventually end up writing nonsense and garbage just to say you wrote that day. Not only is it not fun to write 500 words of nonsense, it’s disheartening. You could be using that time to think and sketch out your next novel instead of grasping for more sentences when you’re not ready.

I also believe that you should set a word count goal for the right reason, and again, it goes back to the definable deadline. Writing with a word count goal is rough. One of the more solid reasons why I’m able to do it is that I know my characters and plot so well. At this point I’m not writing solely for pleasure, for learning purposes, or in order to find my plot. I’m writing because I have a deadline.

I’ve known writers who feel they have to write a certain number of words per day in order to be a ‘real writer’, or to have a chance at getting published, but militant strictness is NOT a requirement to being a good writer. However, it may be a useful tool for making a deadline, but don’t be discouraged if you’re not ready for a daily goal yet. You’ll get there. And it’s a whole lot less glamorous than you think 😉

Do you write with a daily word count goal in mind? And are you participating in NaNoWriMo?


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.