How fast do you want to write?
This is another big feature of becoming a writer, because it will affect how quickly you are able to release content and keep up with the demands of your (hopefully) ravenous readers.
If you are looking to be a hobbyist writer, then there is no real requirement here for what you have to accomplish. Stephen King has said multiple times that his pacing for writing was ten thousand words a day no matter what, which will be difficult for many people when they start.
There is no perfect release cadence, and everyone has their own opinion. Some authors recommend five to ten thousand words a day, some do fewer than five a week. It all depends on your speed, and there is nothing wrong with how you do it.
However, I would recommend that you try for consistency. Consistent but slow is better than fast with huge gaps in between.
How fast should you write?
If you check online forums, you’re going to see many authors talking about writing thousands upon thousands of words per day, or some other astronomical number you are supposed to hit to be considered a serious ‘writer.’ In fact, some authors have written books about how to write many thousand words per hour and churn out new books at a rapid clip.
The idea behind this is that to maintain your fanbase, you need to pump out a new work every few weeks (or months at the latest) to keep them interested. Your release cycle needs to be constantly moving to deliver new stories so they don’t get bored and go elsewhere.
First off, I would say you should give readers more credit than that. If someone likes your book, then most likely they will read your next work whether you publish once a month or once a year. Some authors dump out books every few weeks, and maybe their quality doesn’t suffer, but it is by no means a requirement of being a serious writer.
Words per day
Chris Fox recommends five thousand words an hour in one of his books, and his goal is to teach you how to achieve that. He is incredibly successful and does an amazing job of showing people how to write, but he is trying to teach people how to become full-time writers, not work on it as a part-time hobby.
For many people, this is going to be impossible because of real-life limitations. Eventually, you will become a better writer and be able to churn out more words per hour, but that takes a lot of practice and you shouldn’t feel bad if it never happens. Maybe you are too busy, or just had a child and are distracted, or too mentally drained to keep up a pace like that.
Set goals (like we talked about earlier), but don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. I would actually recommend setting time goals instead, because sometimes the words will come easily and you’ll knock out thousands per hour, and other times it will be like pulling teeth. Try to get the words down on paper, but don’t be afraid to fall short of some lofty goal.
Find your own speed where you can complete your books without sacrificing quality. You need to be proud of the final product, or else it’s all just a waste of time and energy.
Maybe your speed is a few hundred words a day, or maybe a new book each month. You can decide how you want to track your delivery, and feel free to try new things. Set goals for how much you’ll work toward your newest project each day and stick with them.
Maybe try a few different things before settling on what works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix it up. You could even try a time-spent-working-on-your-projects-per-day goal (a real mouthful). It doesn’t matter what sort of goal you want to set for your writing career, just set one.
The trick here is to be consistent. That is the best advice anyone ever gave me, because I had a hard time maintaining my interest in a particular story the longer I spent away from it. For me, it was important that I contributed a little bit each day, and adding a few hundred words was enough to make the story grow over time.
This is because even if you only do a few hundred words a day, if you are consistent with that goal, then over time that can really add up. You might not notice it, but before long you have a finished novel.
If, on the other hand, you set huge goals that are so daunting you can’t even start to work on them seriously, then you will simply flounder and get nothing accomplished.
Believe me, I know this from personal experience.
This method is more lenient than word count, but it can also be difficult to keep track of. For example, if your goal is to write a book in a month, then you might have no issue getting that accomplished, but if you allow yourself to put off working on it, you might quickly run out of time and be incapable of finishing it.
That being said, it is perfectly viable as an option. Again, just make sure you are consistent and contribute daily to the project.
This one can help you focus on what you are trying to accomplish and build a set schedule for when you release new content, so for many people it is exactly what they need to help focus their career.
Software: what should you use?
This is a great place to go ahead and mention some ways in which people write and the software they use to make it a reality.
If you search the internet, you will find a lot of different software suites for writers to help make your life easier. They always have clever little ways of storing ideas, framing characters, storing details, and creating links between scenes, and some of these are pretty awesome.
I’ve used a few different software systems for putting together a book, and some of them are incredible, but it just isn’t for me. One problem is the expense of it all, and some of them even have an associated monthly fee. Another problem is document conversion, because even though many of them have some way to finalize your document into a final product when you are done, I don’t like passing too much control over to them for what my final product will be.
When I write my own works, I just create them in Word and use Excel for tracking my chapters, word counts, and everything else. The reason? For me, it’s just how I grew up and the system I started writing in, so making the change didn’t feel worthwhile. For me, Word is just the easiest thing to use and gives me the most control.
That being said, for the purpose of productivity and incrementalism, I am making a big mistake (potentially) because if those monthly programs actually were able to speed up my productivity or save me time, they could easily translate into added income or value.
But I just plain love Excel. I use it in my day job and am quite familiar with how powerful it is and how much control it gives me, and it is incredibly useful when I don’t have the time/energy to build a database to keep track of things. It has never let me down and keeps me sane, so I will continue using it until there is a clear and perfect alternative available.