Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Indie Tuesday—Easy Ways to Reach Word Count

By: Jessica Keller @AuthorKeller

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Then word count is probably on your mind right now. One of the main traits of a successful indie/hybrid author is the ability to write prolifically. Most research shows that indie authors don’t start making decent money until they have at least three books out (and usually a series). In most cases, it’s suggested to have the first three books out within a six month time period. This feeds the Amazon algorithms, therefore sparking more sales and more discoverability for your books.

There are secrets to meeting word count that don’t involve sitting in an office for 10 hours a day. Believe me. I work a full-time day job and I have a two year old. Translation: I don’t write full-time. Not even close. But between my trade contracts and my indie books I’ll have had four books release in 2014 and I’m looking at closer to six next year. Madness, right?

How does someone write that much?

I used to really struggle with the fact that I don’t have huge chunks of devoted time to write. When my daughter was born I lost my weekends which I used to depend upon in order to work on my manuscripts, and yet, since her birth I’ve written more books (and blogs and magazine articles) than I ever did in all the years prior. The thought that pushes me forward is that while thinking about a book and plotting a book is great, those things don’t get words on the screen, so they don’t count.

Here are a few tricks I use to get my word count up. First though, you’ll need to buy a good laptop bag because it’s going to become your new best friend.

Dedicated Time

This is planned time during the week that I spend writing. I treat these as business hours that are not to be disturbed for any reason. For me, this dedicated time falls after my daughter is asleep four nights a week for 2-3 hours before bed. When 8pm (my start time) hits, I stop whatever I’m doing and head to my office. No more dishes. No more checking Facebook. I put down my phone, turn off the WiFi on my computer, and lock myself away in my office.

If you set up dedicated writing time, make sure everyone in your family understands that you're not to be interrupted during those hours. Make a sign and hang it on he door to the room if you must. Unplug from everything else and get lost in your story. Don't shrug off this dedicated time for any reason. If this goes, your manuscript will get far off track very quickly.

Stolen Time
This is the big one for me. Stolen time allows me to write the amount of books I do. Remember when I told you to buy a new laptop bag? That’s for stolen time.
I carry my laptop with me everywhere. To my day job, to the doctor’s office, to my car’s oil change, to the grocery store—everywhere. The second I have ten minutes of spare time, I fire up my laptop and get in as many words written as I can. My commute in the morning can be anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour an fifteen minutes. I build in a travel cushion and usually arrive at work twenty minutes early, and you guessed it—I write in the parking lot until it’s time to go in to work. I write on my thirty minute lunch. Any chance I find, I get in another 50-500 words.
Do you cook dinner? Meal prep time is a great way to get some words in. Put your laptop on the counter and while the chili is bubbling away: start typing. Waiting for water to boil? Stand there and write. I can get 100-200 words done before a pot starts boiling for pasta. It all adds up.   
Don’t want to lug around a laptop? No problem. If you have a smartphone then you have a notes function on it. Write in your notes app and then email it to yourself each day. Authors DawnCrandall and Kristy Cambron both wrote and edited their books almost entirely on their iPhones. Isn’t that incredible?
No smartphone? A pad of paper and/or a voice recorder still work wonders. Often on my hour long commute I’ll bring along a voice recorder and dictate dialogue to copy down later.
Retreat Time
This is planned time away from normal life either alone or with other writers for the sole purpose of writing as much as possible. When I’m under a tight deadline I’ve been known to rent a hotel room for an evening and write for 20+ hours in a weekend. This method requires a supportive spouse and a free weekend.
Remember, if you shoot for just 1,000 words a day—every day—that’s 365,000 words a year which breaks into four long novels or six short novels. That adds up to a ton of progress with only an hour or so of work a day.
Are you doing NaNoWriMo? What’s your biggest obstacle to meeting word count each day? Where can you find small pieces of time squeeze some words in? Any suggestions I might have missed?


Participating in #NaNoWriMo - here are three easy ways to reach your word count. -via @AuthorKeller (Click to Tweet)

Want to write 4+ books a year? Follow these tricks for high word counts #indiepub #publishing #NaNoWriMo @AuthorKeller (Click to Tweet)

Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Inspirational Romance and has 100+ magazine and newspaper articles to her name. Her latest indie release is Searching for Home. She also has a speaking ministry and loves to talk books. Jessica lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband and their very giggly daughter.

Connect with Jessica through her Website, blogFacebook, Amazon Page, and on Twitter.


  1. Jessica, I really like your practical tips for making the time to write, especially the use of stolen time. You helped see opportunities i'd been missing. Thank you.

    1. It's amazing how much the "stolen time" adds up. Last time I was at the doctor's office I found more than 45 minutes of time to write during. While I was in the waiting room I started, then I carried my laptop back to the doctor's office when they called my name. After the nurse took my weight/height/blood and told me the doctor would be "right with me" I started again and got 20 more minutes, and then when the doctor left for a little bit to write a script, I got 10 more minutes of work in. Then when I went across the street to fill my script, another 20+ minutes of work. What would I have been doing with that otherwise? Nothing much. Probably reading Twitter or Facebook. Instead I had 1000+ words added.

      Also, I forgot to mention one of my favorite stolen times: commercial breaks!

      Happy writing Henry :)

  2. I'm participating this year in NaNo and this is great advice. I find stolen time seems to be where I get my best ideas. I have a journal book I carry. It's funny how when you tell people I'm writing at such-and-such time that particular moment is when their crisis happens. So far the world hasn't fallen apart because I chose to write instead.
    I like the breakdown into a year. It makes it sound so much more doable! Thanks!

    1. Isn't that breakdown encouraging?

      I once asked a long-time writing friend what her secret was (she currently has 25 published books in her bio and that list will grow by 4-5 next year), and she told me she told me that she always writes 1000 words a day and then aims for 2000 on Saturdays and Sundays and that's how she did it. She's the one who added it up and showed me that a simple 1000 a day, each day, could have a person writing 6 Love Inspired length books a year without much more of a time committment on your day than before you were writing.

  3. I'm trying to get a first draft down and will start taking my computer with me everywhere I go! even to the kitchen.

    1. You'll be amazed at how quickly the words add up by using "extra" minutes. And the kitchen is my favorite! Its nice to stand and type sometimes.

  4. Thank you for this motivational post, Jessica. These are great tips. I too work full time and often feel as though I need to wait for a block of time. You're a writing machine!

    1. I'm with you Jill. It's hard to write and juggle a full-time job as well, but its doable! Little chunks make it a possibility. :)

  5. Stolen time is basically how I'm completing NaNoWriMo this year. I carry my tablet with me as much as possible and always try to cram in some extra words on work breaks, etc.

    1. That's awesome Emily! And basically most of my writing happens during the stolen time these days as well. Glad to hear you're getting your NaNo words in! :)