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How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide

How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide

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 October 23, 2018

Easily Distracted? Here’s Your Solution

Easily Distracted? Here’s Your Solution

Are you reading this article because you’re currently searching for a solution or method to help improve your focus? Trying to find a way to concentrate better so that you can get more done in your day? Or, do you feel like you spend a lot of time easily distracted on things other than what you’re meant to really be focusing on?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! As our society becomes more and more advanced, there is much more information for us to digest and more opportunities to experience. This can definitely be overwhelming and distracting! Whether it’s a work proposal that you’re trying to focus on writing, or a goal in life that you’re striving for, distractions do get in the way of your focus towards those important things in your life. And, the distractions come in a wide variety!

For example, many of us are easily distracted by our mobile phones. Whether it’s the constant notifications popping up, or the need to scroll through your social media news feeds, these are all distractions that cost us time. There are also bigger distractions like wanting to go to a game on a beautiful day, or taking a weekend holiday even though you have a deadline due on Monday.

What are Distractions?

Let’s go deeper to break down and understand how distractions happen in the first place. Distractions are things that divert away your attention from the action that you’re trying to do. They make you lose focus and put you off track. The problem with distractions is that they not only cost time, they dilute your energy, too. Repeated interruptions of this sort can lead to demotivation, because you’ll feel like you’re overwhelmed… yet not getting anything done!

Contrary to popular belief, our brains perform best when we’re focused on one objective at a time. We’re generally not good at constantly switching our attention between different tasks. Multiple studies have shown that when we do this, the performance of each task suffers compared to if we focused on them one by one. So multitasking isn’t the best option when it comes to wanting to get more done quickly.

How Much Do Distractions Cost?

As I mentioned previously, in today’s society, we’re faced with so much information that it’s easy to be bombarded by distractions.

If you’re a typical working American, you’ll be distracted every 11 minutes; and, it will take you 25 minutes to settle down again to your task. Additionally, the more complicated your project, the longer it will take to regain your focus. This happens because your brain has to put in considerable effort when switching between complex objectives.

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Distractions have a huge cost on our focus and productivity. If you want to improve or increase your focus, you need to learn to deal with the distractions in your life.

What are Internal Distractions?

When it comes to distractions, we tend to think of them as external occurrences: your phone starts ringing, someone talks to you and interrupts your train of thought when you were immersed in something important, or the sudden onset of construction noise when you’re in an important meeting.

It’s very easy to blame external distractions as the cause when you can’t focus. But, there’s actually a hidden type of distraction beneath the surface that is just as, if not more, responsible for taking away your focus. These are Internal Distractions.

The problem with internal distractions is, if you’re not acutely aware of them, you can be wasting both time and energy without even knowing it. So, before tackling external distractions effectively, you first have to take care of your internal distractions.

Priority Chaos

There are a few types of internal distractions, but let’s start with probably the most common one: the concept of Priority Chaos.

One of the most common distractions we encounter is that we have too many options on hand. This can cause priority chaos.

For example, some people may find it hard to focus at home because there are too many options to choose from. You can choose to feed your dog, read a book, watch TV, have a snack or take a nap.

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Besides the costs of distraction mentioned before, priority chaos is a big demotivator. When there are too many potentially attractive options, it’s hard to focus your energy and choose one of them – ideally the one you should be doing.

Priority chaos is also a demotivator because it makes you feel guilty. When you let your internal distractions overtake your focus, you’re the one who chooses to divert your own attention and energy away from your task. So when the task you wanted to complete doesn’t get done, you can’t blame an external factor. Whether you do it consciously or not, you’ll end up blaming yourself!

Why Does Priority Chaos Happen?

Your brain subconsciously prioritizes tasks based on three factors.

  1. To fulfil an existing need. For example, you need to go to the bathroom urgently, so your brain is guaranteed to prioritize it.
  2. To achieve a certain feeling of satisfaction, such as the satisfaction of eating a delicious chocolate fudge cake.
  3. The perceived cost of achieving the benefit. What is the effort, energy or time required to complete this action?

The brain automatically take these 3 factors into account even when you’re not thinking about it.  

Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefits, when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is the essence of Priority Chaos.

How to Overcome Priority Chaos?

The good news is that it’s not so difficult to overcome this common internal distraction.

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The first step that you can take is to identify what task needs the most focus to get accomplished. Once you have that figured out, simply break down the that task into smaller, bite-sized tasks. Each bite-sized task should have a very clear short term benefit (something that you can easily describe in one sentence), and a very clear short term cost (something that you can quantify, such as time spent).

For example, let’s say you have a grant proposal to write for an upcoming project at work. The first bite-sized task that you can accomplish is to outline the grant proposal and split it into 4 different categories. This will ensure that you cover everything that is needed, and allows you to focus on each section one at a time.

Also, set a time limit or duration for each bite sized task. The time limit should be short enough so that it’s a no-brainer to want to check it off. Remember, the brain has a bias towards short term benefits, so it’s likely you’ll find it hard to resist checking off a bite-sized task!

The next step would be to evaluate your other options. Besides focusing on your grant proposal, what are all the possible things that you could be doing that would divert your attention away? Be realistic about what they are! Write them all down, and list out the benefits and the costs associated. You don’t have to write them down in detail, just a general description will do.

For instance, instead of writing your proposal, you could spend 20 minutes watching a comedy series on Netflix. The benefit is that you get entertained and have a good laugh. The cost is that you’ve just lost 20 minutes of your time, and that comedy series did nothing to help you with the grant proposal.

Once you have your list completed, start prioritizing them. You have a time limit, so you need to order your tasks by priority, starting with the focus task as your top priority. Then fit the others around it.

For any remaining tasks on the list that won’t fit within your allocated time, don’t worry. You don’t have to give them up. Just schedule them for another time.

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Long and Short Term Benefits

As explained earlier, our brains are not good at evaluating and comparing short term and long term benefits.

Short term benefits usually have a relatively low cost and are concrete, allowing our brains to easily grasp them. We usually associate long term benefits with high cost, and these perceived costs are usually not as clear cut. The longer term it is, the more effort it takes to imagine the benefits. This automatically creates a mental barrier and resistance in our brains. As a result, we tend to trade long term gain for short term gains.

This is the reason why you might know that something is good for you in the long term, such as losing weight and exercising, but for some reason, you can’t force yourself to feel excited about it. On the other hand, you might know that something is bad for you, such as binge eating junk food. But, the anticipation of short term satisfaction overwhelms your conscious ability to resist it.

This is the next type of internal distraction that we face, and it is called Short & Long Term Mismatch. Thankfully, this can be tackled, too.

If you’d like to learn more about this internal distraction and how to overcome it, subscribe to our newsletter today, where you will automatically receive more of this knowledge that will allow you to be in greater control of your situation and actions.

There is More Than Focus alone!

Whether it’s wanting to increase your focus to be more productive, or wanting to manage your time better, here at Lifehack, we’re committed to helping you find and become a better you. If you’d like to truly transform your life around, you shouldn’t be focusing only on one area of your life–such as changing a career or learning to manage your time better, and expect life-changing results. Instead, you must focus on changing yourself in several areas at once–which are what I call the 7 Cornerstone Skills.

These 7 Cornerstone Skills will help you to build a long term foundation. It’s not teaching a set of independent skills — it’s one system with different aspects. Here at Lifehack, we’ve created the perfect course that will enable you to learn all 7 skills, and as you go through the course, we’ll connect the dots into a single cohesive whole. You’ll progress on a journey of personal growth and transformation with each module that you complete. So if you’re feeling stuck in any area of your life today, why not start this journey with us?

Featured photo credit: Erik Lucatero via unsplash.com

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