The 1,000 Words A Day Project

typing smileyLast year I wrote and published three new books. I also taught a self-publishing workshop, spoke at numerous writers groups and festivals, gave a couple of talks at libraries, and I did a couple of book signings too. I thought I’d had a fairly productive year until I read Russell Blake’s recent blog. Russell has published twenty-five books in the past thirty months. I read one of his books last year; it was a good book.

My output is pretty good. I’ve had days where I’ve produced five thousand words but I’ve also had days where I’ve dogged it and produced zero words. When it’s “Go Time” and I need to complete a project I work day and night, so I know I can get the job done. But, I’m inconsistent. I have two new books and a revision of an existing book that I’m hoping to release in 2014. Those are commitments that I’ve made to readers and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to fulfill them. Granted, the muse isn’t always smiling, and that could potentially be a problem and hold me back, but I can usually find a way around that. My old writing teacher Ed Griffin used to tell me there is no such thing as writer’s block. Ed says that writing is a job and you just need to sit and get it done. I tend to agree with him. No matter how uninspired I’ve felt, when I really need to I can usually produce some fairly acceptable content. So, as I was planning my 2014 schedule I made a decision – I’m going to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day. Every day. No matter what.

Now, just to be clear, this will not be a NaNoWriMo’ish type venture. This project isn’t about writing a novel in a month (see “How I Came To Hate NaNoWriMo” in my self-publishing guidebook), and it’s not only about increasing my output (although that will undoubtedly happen). For me this is about stepping up to the next level and strengthening the discipline that I believe I already have. And of course by writing more it’s practice, and hopefully I’ll become a better writer too. One thousand words a day isn’t all that difficult but thirty thousand words in a month is. This project is about consistency and discipline. I write for a living so there’s no reason why I can’t try to maintain a certain degree of productivity.

As with any initiative there has to be some rules; here are mine:

1. I must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day. Excess amounts can be carried over but if the target isn’t met the initiative is over and must be restarted. For example, 1,500 words written on Monday means I only need 500 words on Tuesday. 900 words written on Monday means I’ve failed and must start over.

2. To qualify, words written must be new words. Words written during rewriting, revising or editing are not considered part of the daily target.

3. I must not pester other authors who are participating in their own 1,000 words a day project. I can briefly compare notes but I will not draw them in or allow myself to be drawn into long, protracted conversations that inevitably turns to which social network is the bomb and whether free promotions still work.

4. Calculation of words written should be recorded on a spreadsheet in this manner: column A is date, Column B is project name, column C is for notes, and column D is words written today.

5. My workday is over when I go to sleep. So, it is acceptable to complete my daily word target at 3 am the following morning. The moment my head hits my pillow for my evening slumber the day has ended.

6. Words can be written for any project that I aim to publish – poetry, self-help, fiction, blogs for Indies Unlimited or my website, anything. As long as my motivation is to publish the work the words will count. Words written for a non-related day job do not qualify.

7. Gibberish qualifies. I’ve began writing exercises with gibberish and ended up with either a good idea or a paragraph or two that’s useable. I’m a writer. If I start with gibberish it should end up as something else. As long as there are 1,000 new words on the page the target has been met.

If this project goes according to plan I should have no problem fulfilling the commitments I made to my readers, in fact perhaps I’ll even surpass my objective and get more books out. But, if for some reason this doesn’t work you’ll never hear me talk about this again. Ever.

This article, published by the kind folks at Indies Unlimited, is live on February 4th. I began my 1,000 Words A Day Project on January 24th. That means that as of today I have 12,000 new words written. If you’ve read this far it means that I really have done the work. Feel free to utilize the above rules and let me know how you make out. Last one to quit wins. Talk to you on December 31st.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

70 thoughts on “The 1,000 Words A Day Project”

  1. Martin: Way to go. I’ve been doing this for years, and it works. I never suffer writer’s block. I write drivel sometimes, but always write SOMETHING. Good luck.

  2. Personally I liked doing NANOWRIMO because it forced me to turn off my internal editor, but of course now I have projects that need re-writing. This us an excellent post, thank you. Keeping track of progress is a very useful tool.

  3. Well for me, writing a number of words per day isn’t my criteria, as I spend as long developing my stories and plots before I write as I do writing. The focus for me is that I spend time on the writing process- be it research, plot line development, contunuity management or writing and editing. I alot effort in hours (rather than words), sometimes it is productive and sometimes it’s not, but the story progesses through to a finished novel in the end. Afterall, for me the story must crystalize in my head before pen is put to paper.

  4. Great idea to improve writing discipline, no doubt about that. If you don’t have school-age kids and a full-time job, it should be doable, I would agree with Geoffrey above in that I’d want to have thought out and planned quite a few ideas with copious notes before I’d embark on such a challenge.

    In any case – the very best of luck!

  5. Do you think maintaining that output has helped you stay in a writing groove while constantly getting more adept at turning out the kind of prose you like? I ask because I see a lot on line these days about output and word count and wonder how/why things have changed from the days more people turned out longer novels at a much slower pace.

  6. Having an attainable goal is important. When I was a full time teacher, my goal was 2,000 words a week during the school year–1,000 for M-F and 1,000 for the weekend. Doesn’t seem like much, but often I wrote more. By the end of the school year, I had the first draft of my novel The Stone Dragon completed and could spend the summer revising. Thanks for the article.

  7. Thanks Charlie. It’s an interesting project. It’s only been a few days but I have over 12,000 new words. I feel that some of them were squeezed out to hit my target and I’m not in the habit of doing that but that’s what revising is for.
    Thanks for your comment.

  8. Thank you Lynne. K, I’ll bite : )
    My problem with Nano is seeing “completed” novels uploaded and for sale immediately post-Nano. I realize none of the authors in this thread do that. As we all know there’s a difference between a first draft and a completed product. But, that’s a different conversation.

    1. I use Nano as a cauldron to ferment ideas, and get them down in pixels, but I can see how new writers would mistake that first flush of creativity for the finished ‘product’. Sadly, like anything, Nano has an up-side and a down-side, but I’d say the good outweighs the…not so good. 🙂

  9. Thanks for dropping by Geoff.
    I’m a pantser not an outliner. I sometimes wish I’d sit and plan and put my efforts into the story before I begin but alas I do not. I do understand what you’re saying though. So, letting loose the voices in my head and putting the words on paper and then going back and cleaning up after them works for me.
    It’s all work though isn’t it, no matter which way we fly.

  10. Hey Karen! I’ve never really felt sensible or been called that before. So, thank you! And, don’t get overwhelmed.

  11. I have often written gibberish that ended up turning into something worthwhile. Lately I’ve been experimenting with Dragon Dictation. What a win! Many words can be written in no time at all, but beware—there’s a devil lurking in the program that sneaks in some not-so-funny typos, but sometimes Dragon’s funny changes are worth considering!

    1. I’ve been using Dragon on some works written by my great uncle and the funny words it comes up with for Alaska Native names is hilarious and I have definitely have a lot of editing to do, but it is fun to play with it.

  12. Hi Lois. So far I’ve churned out over 12,000 words, so I’m exceeding my target, but it’s still early days. We shall see.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. Hey Chris. You’re right, we all have different things pulling us away. I’m fortunate enough to be able to devote quite a bit of time to my writing. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Hi Malcolm.
    This is a new process for me. Typically I ponder over a word or phrase for a while before even putting it into a first draft. For this project I find I’m so motivated to meet that target that I’m not spending as much time pondering. I’m sure I’ll spend more time revising and rewriting than I usually do. And yes, it does seem to put me more in a writing groove. In terms of working on the story I’m continuously listening to the voices in my head and piecing it together, so that part hasn’t changed.
    In terms of word count I know I can’t produce the amount of work that some authors are and I’m not going to try. That’s not the aim of this project. But, I think it’ll make me a better writer and ultimately the readers will decide whether I’ve done a good job or not.
    Thanks again.

    1. I can see how this would silence ones editor’s voice while writing the first draft. That’s always good. And the readers benefit, I think, because without that inner editor, we can let the words flow and the story evolve.

  15. Hi Tom. That’s a great goal too. You’re balancing it against your commitments, very wise.
    The Stone Dragon is a great title by the way!
    Thanks for commenting.

  16. Hi Ester. I love Dragon Dictation. I can just never figure out what it’s written. It’s like having an evil writing partner that wants to take my story in a total different direction.
    Thanks for commenting and I’m glad I’m not the only one who understands the value of gibberish.

  17. Malcolm, I’ll let you know. One of the benefits I’m finding is that I’m working on two different books at the same time and I’m very involved in both of them. I’ve done bits and pieces while working on more than one book previously but I’ve never felt quite as in the groove with two books at once as I do right now. But, as mentioned, we shall see..

  18. Thought provoking article, Martin. For a few years, I found it easy to write every single day. The discipline, and habit of writing was wonderful. Unfortunately neither the habit, nor the discipline were enough to get me through the real life imperatives of the last year. I do feel guilty, but I’ve learned that guilt can be as paralyzing as writer’s block. Now I’m just grateful for every day when I can write.

    Good luck with your project. 2014 should turn out to be a very good year. 🙂

  19. Thank you ac. I figure if I talk about it enough I’ll have to do it.
    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  20. Thank you Martin for an inspirational and doable goal to set for ourselves! I really appreciate all you and your fellow Indies Unlimited people do to put out good, quality, informational, reading posts. Thank you!

  21. You’re welcome Wendy. You’re right, this is a pretty cool place. Good to see you here!

  22. GO, Martin! I love this idea. Funny, even though I’ve pretty much stopped doing NaNoWriMo (November is not the best month for editors to be writing), when I do write, it’s at least 1500 words a day. Quite achievable.

  23. Thanks for a practical useful post, Martin. As a newbie to indie publishing, I recognized myself as one of those authors pestering and asking other authors about the next greatest thing in social media and promotions. You have always been unerringly polite and patient (that may be your only fault!) but now that I’m published, I’m on the receiving end of that from authors struggling to self-publish. While I have no problem reminding myself to pay it forward, I do get frustrated with the ones who don’t do what you tell them to. All that said, I know part of my current frustration is having fallen off the wagon of writing 1,000-1,200 words per day. Thanks for the reinforcement:)

    1. Hey Karen! Good luck with your goals and I’ve seen you in action. I know you’re paying it forward!

  24. Great idea, Martin! I’ve done word counts off and on and always find them to be worthwhile. Same time, every day, write until the words are there. I try to get 1-2k in when I’m writing a book–but that’s 5 days a week. I like to take the weekends off. I can’t imagine churning out 5-10k per day for a few weeks on a first draft. Not only would my writing be god-awful crappy, but I wouldn’t be able to feel my lower body and that would suck 🙂

    1. Ah, weekends off is a good idea, or at least one designated day off. Thanks for your thoughts Daphne.

  25. It’s a great goal. I think goals like that are a huge boon for writers. After all, most of us have day jobs… Where we have a boss who tells us what to do, and we have the impetus of “not getting fired” hanging over our head to encourage us to do the work.

    For our writing job? Not so much. Unless we’ve quit the day job and decided to count on our KDP earnings to put food on the table (which might inspire both terror and increased time at the keyboard!), we’re setting our own goals and targets, and have only ourselves to keep us striving toward them.

    My 2014 goals were as follows: 480,000 new words, at least 120k per quarter, and 24 new titles released over the year (a mix of short stories, compilations, and novels).

    1. Wow, good luck Kevin, that’s quite a target. All of a sudden I feel as though mine are attainable. Thanks for commenting.

  26. Martin, I’m so happy to hear you love Dragon—I wonder whether it was named thus because of the evil flame throwing into our “perfect” sentences. I once wrote a whole page of positive affirmations because I lacked any incentive to create gibberish. Well, that page got me motivated to continue with several pages of serious writing. I love your posts!

    1. A page of positive motivations – that’s a very good idea, Ester. And, thank you again!

  27. Great idea, Martin. I don’t think I can commit to 1000 words a day but I do think I need to set more concrete goals for myself. I like the idea that the word count does not need to be solely for the current ms to qualify.

  28. I have been doing something similar to this for a while now. We should compare spreadsheet designs sometime. You never know, we might find something to fine tune.

    1. That’s a good idea Jon. Give me a holler when you get a chance – martin @
      Thanks for commenting.

  29. My goal for 2014 is to publish 12 books. Yes, you read that right. My goal is to write 2,000 words a day. I fall short oftentimes, but always make it up. Realistically, that is only two hours a day. I have published one book in January with another this week. I have one for March too. Writing a series is the best way to write more. It’s so much easier when you know the characters. I write mystery and I have learned to formula. Once you do that, it become much easier. I follow authors that published a lot of books last year and they are the ones that have inspired me to push it up a notch. I fall off track at times too. There is this group I’m a part of on Facebook This is a group of writers with of a like mind to challenge themselves to write more like a 1,000 word hour. SO easy to do when you set your mind to it. Good luck everyone on your writing goals.

    1. Holy wow. Good luck with that Madison. I have a friend who can put out a book every two months and her books sell very well. My mind doesn’t formulate stories fast enough. I could probably get the words down but I’m not so sure they’d be the right words.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  30. Interesting post, Martin. Thanks. However, what counts in the end is the polished product.

    Writing 1000 words a day is doable for many people. But the first draft requires editing, proofreading, research … A true measure of daily throughput would be the number of words published divided by the number of days it takes to complete each project. Focusing on quantity rather than quality could result in substandard writing.

    1. I agree Kathy and as I mentioned to Madison it’s getting the right words on the page that’s important. It all begins with just getting something down though. Whether they’re the right words or not will be determined by my readers.
      Thanks for commenting.

  31. To write 1,000 words a day is a good goal. There’s threads on KBoards where authors talk about comparing themselves to other authors. Blake’s word count works for Blake. It doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t have to. My goal is three novels this year, and I can do that without killing myself.

    1. Hey Jolie. Yes, I agree, three is a good goal. I’ve had a book that I’ve been promising readers for the past year and a half but I won’t release it until it’s done and done correctly, and that may take another year.
      And, I know you think the same way.
      Thanks for commenting!

  32. Great post, Martin. I had a goal of publishing four nonfiction books this year, but beta readers on the first one may have curtailed that and I need to re-think my ideas on them a little more and may need to go a different direction. But like some on here, I am a planner, so my time is divided between planning, researching, writing, editing. But I do try to get at least 500 words a day down and have been known to write 2,000, which was a surprise. Love it when a story comes together and you just can’t stop. I write short stories under a pen name and have set some goals and I think those will be attainable, but under me not so much. Good luck with your goals.

    1. Thanks Jacqueline and same to you. As you say betas and editors are going to tell us whether or not it’s ready to publish but we have to start somewhere.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I used a calendar, putting the total words for the piece each day in the corner of the day’s box. Then I’d subtract from the previous day and write in and encircle the words for the day. You’re right–consistency is the key–especially, for me, for the weekly goal.

    2. Hey Sarah. Yes, I agree. It’s been almost three weeks for me since I started and I have just under 20,000 new words written. I know that I won’t be keeping all those words but it’s getting me into the habit of writing new material every day and I know how important that is. Thanks for commenting!

  33. This is so helpful. Thank you for sharing. tired just thinking about it but admire you for your great work ethic. It’s a beautiful thing to see and in such an organized way. Bravo to you and for us who can learn from you!

    1. Thank you Brenda. It’s actually easier than I thought it would be. I’m only at day 31 but already it’s a normal part of my routine. I’ve had a couple of days that I knew I wouldn’t be able to write so I wrote my words the day before.
      Thank you for commenting!

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