5,000 Words a Day With Ray

One lesson I learned at last week's Worldcon: the most successful authors (like Brandon Sanderson, Kevin J. Anderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Scott Lynch, George R.R. Martin, and Eric Flint, to name just a few who were present) know their writing is a job.

Kevin J. Anderson impressed me – the guy has written 125 books, 51 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists; he has over 23 million copies in print in thirty languages. He has won or been nominated for the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, the SFX Reader’s Choice Award, and New York Times Notable Book…. and shows up for work every day with a goal. A number of words he will write that day.

I'm now writing at least 5,000 words a day. To keep myself accountable, I've placed a widget with the day's word count in the sidebar. It's just a text widget, which I have to update manually each day. I'd love something that shows a neat little graph of: my total daily wordcount, wordcount on each project, and a progress bar for each… but I haven't found anything yet. If you have any suggestions, please post them in the comments below. Thanks. Now… I gotta go write somethin'.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jennifer Rotman

    Great lesson today, Ray! Thanks for reminding me that I sometimes fail to show up and deliver to my fullest potential. I like the widget / tracker idea. Thanks again.

  • Susan Foster

    I don’t have any suggestions, but I wanted you to know this was just what I needed this morning. After publishing a book I have stalled in the “creative juices” department, and if you can do 5,000 words a day, surely I can make myself at least write every day. Thank you Ray!

  • When you talk about writing are you talking about dictating or recording and transcribing?

    • The process is: dicate the first draft (I can talk faster than I can type, by a wide margin, and this is true for most people). Second draft: edit the transcript for form , structure, and flow. Third draft, proofreading. Fourth draft. polish. Fifth draft: send to my editor. I make a clear distinction between WRITING (which is the first draft) and editing.

      • Wow… how hard was it to make the transition from typing to dictating? I’m so trained to think while typing that I’m not sure how well that would go!

        • David, it takes a little practice but trust me: it’s worth the effort.

        • David, I have this same problem. Writing is the thing that helps me think, better than anything else. When I dictate, my word count takes a nose dive, because I do not think well while dictating. So dictating actually slows me way down. The good news is that since I think well while writing, my first draft is very close to a final draft, and my editing time is minimal.

          For those of us who seem to do a better job typing rather than dictating, a better focus may be to increase typing speed. I haven’t tested my typing speed lately, but I think I’m around 80 WPM, which isn’t too shabby, but upping that to 100 WPM for a very clean first draft is a worthy goal.

  • Love this, Ray! I, too, am working on writing a lot every day. (Notice that I still need to define, “a lot.”) Unfortunately, the voice dictation thing just doesn’t work for me, so it’s actual typing. BUT, I am now writing full time, so am seriously considering at least a 3,000 word (after editing) per day minimum. I’ll look forward to anything you may discover when it comes to a word counter widget, as I’m looking for the same type of thing. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

    • Great to hear from you Rebecca! 3,000 words a day is very respectable, no matter how you do it! The tool or method isn’t that important. It’s the discipline that makes the difference.

      • I totally agree! It’s all about forming good habits, and getting the job done consistently, regardless of how you go about it.

  • Lisa Caldwell

    Blimey! My first thought was, well I could write a lot in a day, but I’m not sure it would be coherent or worthy of publishing! But I presume from your comments that you might write 5,000 words in a day, but the next day have to go back to editing and refining. So you’re not writing 5,000 words every day (she asks wondering if you are, actually, superman!)?

    • Well, I do write 5,000 words a day.. and then editing is another portion of the day. Still not Superman, though. 🙂

  • Chris Abbott

    Ray – that’s awesome man! Have you thought about doing a challenge and involving your audience? Like maybe putting together a 100 Days of Ray Challenge (or something slightly less corny haha) where you challenge your readers/podcast listeners to commit to a word count as well. If you started a facebook group for accountability it might be fun for everyone to post everytime they hit their goal for the day. Anyways, just a thought brotha…

    • That is a neat idea – and my friend Jeff Goins already has a FB group like that called “My 500 Words”!

  • Kris Edwards

    What software do you write in? There are lots of programs for authoring that give you your daily word count (I like Plume Creator because it is open sourced and free; however, it is no longer maintained for Mac). In addition to the word counting it also offers a nice full screen, distraction free mode (black screen, white text..no tool bars, icons, etc.) I’m sure there are other commercial offerings that do this as well, but if you’re writing in several different programs, a word count would be tougher. Excellent goal though. With a 12 pt., single spaced, arial font, that would be 11.1 pages per day according to wordstopages dot com.

    • Now why do you wanna tease me with an app that is no longer maintained for Mac? Are you trying to lure me into the Land of Linux? Thanks for the share – wordstopages.com is cool, too.

  • Gene Munson

    In MS Suite Excel will convert your daily word count entries into a histogram, which then can be modified to other types of graphs for presentations. It’s not an app, but a simple way to track progress per day over time. I used it for project management progress for man-hours each day; makes for good visual aids.

    As a writer I don’t track words written per day. I track characters movement through the story as compared with their peers, and the engagements and actions with each other. A good story happens like life, it’s not a production line. If you are looking for motivation to keep you writing: use the funnel approach by building an outline and break it down into parts from there; finish each part; end the chapter, then begin the next. Flow of storyboard and engagements provides the momentum and excitement; the detailed descriptions provide the realities; and your visual painting of the background and actions provide the movement.

    The telling of the story, describing each of the characters, and the 5Ws and How of the actions, twists, and unique occurrences through your audio recorder is what breathes life into the believability and reality for the reader, listener, or viewer.

    Last thought I printout each character in a scene, put them on a board so I can see them and visualize (as if watching a TV show) their unique nuances, mannerisms, movements, and engagements with other characters, their environments, and communications. It gives me a sense of feeling and creator genius. (smile)

    • Gene, great stuff – thanks for sharing that. I love getting a glimpse into the writing habits and practices of other writers!

  • I finally finished my Leadership book in June, “The Power Of Better – Leading Like You Own It!” I’ve given six leadership programs since completion. The book has made me realize how much money I’ve left on the table not having a book in my last six years of speaking. I was so fired up, I wrote a fiction book, “50 Days Of Hay – A Life Changing Summer” in eight days. It was my first stab at fiction but as a songwriter, most of my songs were fiction. It sure was fun writing 40,000 words and not worrying about rhyming, verses, choruses or bridges. Thanks for this. I need to become more disciplined.

    • Thanks for sharing such an encouraging story Greg!

  • I desire to improve my skills in copy writing. I found you by way of searching for content on John Lee Dumas site. In skimming content on your page, I saw your question relating to a tool to use relating to my total daily wordcount, wordcount on each project, and a progress bar for each. I found pacemaker.press and LOVE it. You can set your word count goal by project and by adding your daily word count, it tracks your progress by chart, graph and even calendar. It will set your daily writing target based on your total project word count target. You can choose from one of 7 strategies and even select your intensity level. I use charcounter.com to quickly count my words. Hope this helps….