500 words. That’s all it takes. 500 words per day and after a month, you have 15,000. After five months, you could have 75,000. Why am I talking numbers on a blog about writing? Because word count is one of those things that writers often obsess over.
You must have seen them on Twitter, the writers who blithely announce that they’ve blitzed ahead and added another 6000 words to their work in progress in one day. Heck, during NaNoWriMo, Twitter appears to be nothing but word counts. Did you make your minimum of 1667 words a day? No? Bad writer – or words to that effect. There seems to be an odd idea that if you’re not writing every day, and you’re not producing a significant amount of work, then you’re not a real writer. Personally, I find such a stance abhorrent – if you write, then you’re a writer, never mind how much you get down per day. After all, you could write 10,000 words a day but it could be 10,000 words of unadulterated donkey piddle – quantity doesn’t matter if the quality isn’t there.
This, my friends, is where 500 words comes in. 500 words is just a few paragraphs of normal prose. You can easily write 500 words while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, or when you’re waiting for the bus in the morning. You can even squeeze 500 words into a lunchbreak. It could be 500 words on a novel, a short story, or half of a flash fiction. Maybe you’re just using prompts or following writing exercises from creative writing books for pieces you’ll never actually use. It doesn’t really matter, it’s still 500 words. The most important thing is that it’s a manageable amount and it’s all training towards getting words out of your head and onto the page.
I used to try and make myself write in 1000 word increments. On a 35k novella, the words soon mount up, and the number is high enough that you feel like you’re actually making headway. Trouble was, if I got to a part of the story where I was a bit stuck, or I wasn’t entirely in the mood to write, then even 1000 words seemed like far too much. So I halved it – 500 is just enough to make me feel like I’ve done something productive, and often enough to carry me through whatever block I have. Plus the number is low enough that once I’ve made myself do the 500 words I promised myself, I’ve often built up enough momentum to reach 1000 – or even 1500. Sometimes I might find I write 500 words in the morning, and then I find a spare half hour in the evening and write 500 more.
So if you find you’re having trouble writing what you consider a significant amount, then try just writing 500 words every day, and see what happens.