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How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide

How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide
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It’s now well over halfway through National Novel Writing Month, but not too late to talk writing strategy.

Although participants in the National Novel Writing month have to produce only 1650 words a day, that’s never been enough for me. I like 2000.

This is probably because it’s the number Ray Bradbury gave in one of his books on writing. Stephen King gives that number too, but I heard it from Bradbury first (or read it, as the case happens to be).

Whether your write 1650 or 2000, this question remains: why is having a fixed daily goal important?

In the words of … well, me: it’s all about rhythm, baby.

Just as we know there are rhythms for eating and rituals for sleeping, keeping pace with your writing by reaching a particular word count every day is extremely useful for deepening what you are writing in terms of plot, character, and symbolism. It also helps build your creative stamina.

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In essence, the more you write about your story, the more you find out about it. The more you put time into the writing, the more material you have to reshape when it comes time to wrestling that second draft. This is true even if the words you write to get to 2k per day amount to very little in terms of quality. The first time I wrote a November Novel, I wound up throwing half of the writing away. But, had I not produced the clouds that would eventually drift away, there would have been far fewer bricks in the tower of my story that remained.

Here are some practical tips you can use to get your own 2k on paper or on your computer screen every day.

Break Your Sessions into 500 Word Chunks

When writing, you can simply decide to finish 500 words at a time, rather than working towards all 2000, or some undefined number. You could also choose to do 200 words at a pop, or any other number, so long as you avoid the overwhelm of writing them all at once.

Keep Notes for Tomorrow

It was Hemingway who said, “When you’re going good, stop writing.” I’m not sure that this is the best advice to follow, but what he meant was that knowing what you’re going to write the next day is a powerful strategy. Perhaps feeling the pulse of the writing to come is what he was talking about too.

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How’s to keep track of the writing for tomorrow? Keeping a pad alongside your keyboard at all times is a great habit to get into. Carrying a notebook with you is good as well. You can also write notes within your writing document itself and erase each point as soon as you’ve addressed it.

Record Sections of Your Story Using Your Phone

These days, most of us have a phone with a voice memo app. This is a powerful way to use your commute for writing purposes. James Joyce dictated much of Finnegan’s Wake to Samuel Beckett, so there’s nothing absurd about speaking your daily word count as you walk from the parking lot to your office. You can use special software that slows your voice down for word processing the dictation later, or simply outsource the work to a typist.

Practice the Dark Art of Bibliomancy

Bibliomancy is a kind of literary sorcery that helps any time you’re stuck for that next idea. You can practice Bibliomancy by flipping through another novel, a magazine, a catalog or by using the Random function on Wikipedia. Reading the biographies of different kinds of people can help you come up with all kinds of situations that your characters might face.

Forget About Writer’s Block

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Yes, forget about it. There’s no such thing. Thinker’s Block, on the other hand, is a huge problem.

How to overcome it? One method is to write your own name over and over again. This quickly gets so boring that it will literally be only a matter of minutes, if not seconds before you think of something else to write. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not your own name counts toward your daily goal of 2k.

You can also practice writing backwards with your non-dominant hand. Michael J. Lavery talks about perfecting cursive writing in both hands as a method of growing the brain, and having done this for a while after encountering some of his lessons online, I can vouch for his claims. The best part is that writing challenges like this sends oxygen rich blood to your brain that stimulates not only creativity, but also brain health as wealth.

Write It as an Email

It’s a weird trick, but sometimes it helps to write portions of your story in the body of an email. We’re so conditioned to compose this way, that it may come more naturally when you are looking at the familiar composition window that you use several times a day. It’s like the Pavlov effect applied to novel writing.

Use Index Cards

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Using index cards can help in numerous ways. You can use them to help order and reorder major plot points, but also aspects of your characters that you want to introduce gradually over the duration of your story. If you limit yourself to writing out the material needed to knock off one or two index cards at a time, you’ll be done before you know it.

Understand How Plot Works

There’s no end to the storytelling gurus you can read when it comes to understanding plot. Nor should there be. The more often you read everything from Aristotle’s Poetics and Carlo Gozzi’s 36 Dramatic Plots to Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, the better.

In sum, there is really no reason why anyone can’t write 2000 words a day.

That said, it’s important to take care of your health during the process. Get up regularly, stretch, and don’t forget to those other rhythms: eating and sleeping. No point writing a book you’ll never read.

Featured photo credit:  Girl thinking and looking at the paper via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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