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How often should I write?

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? The question on every new writer’s lips: how much should I write per month, per week, per day…?

It’s a question that arises out of a lack of experience, and a lack of true confidence, and there’s nothing wrong with either of those things — they’re perfectly natural. But the sad truth is… there’s no “one size fits all” answer. And there shouldn’t be.

Here’s why.

It’s a simple one: we’re all different. Do what you can. Write what you can. Aim to finish your book. No matter how long it takes, if you actually finish it, you’ll have achieved what millions of others have failed. Be proud.

Of course, it’s not always as simple as that, even though it probably should be. Age eventually becomes a factor. Your goals will be a factor. Your job will be a factor.

For example, if you want to be a full-time writer, making effectively the same as what you might earn working for somebody else, then you want many good quality books on the market (and I stress good quality, because it’s hard enough to sell books — if you want to do this full time, you need quality, just like every other job). The more you have available, the more you will make per month. More books will see return readers. More books in a series will see multiple purchases. And so on. Not to mention the fact that multiple titles indicates to a reader that you aren’t just a fly-by-night hobbyist.

And no, being a hobbyist isn’t a bad thing, but if you think that readers aren’t that petty, then you are sorely mistaken (not all, but many).

And if you are a hobbyist (and I expect many first time writers are, even if they don’t think they are — the future is bright, but it’s still just the future), then it’s really up to you… and how much time you have one your hands… and perhaps even more importantly, how much you want to write.

If you take the advice of the pros out there, you’ll hear that golden target thrown about — aim for 1000 words per day. I’ve heard it from many, and I also find many new writers try to align themselves with it, but let me tell you — it’s hard.

Scratch that. It’s not hard to write 1000 words. In fact, I tend to write 2-3000 every time I find time to write, but that’s the point… It’s hard to find the time to write. It’s hard to always be motivated. It’s… just hard.

And the pros will tell you to just write. Even when you aren’t motivated, just write.

That’s fair enough advice if it’s your livelihood, but when it’s a hobby, don’t take that advice as gospel. It’ll only drag you down when you inevitably fail. (And if you are a full-time writer, my advice is probably not what you should be looking for.)

Some writers out there aim to write “anything” per day. Even 100 words is a success. Kudos to them for that idea, but it doesn’t work for me. I feel bad if I don’t knock out a chapter every time I write, as I feel as if I leave the scene unfinished. That’s a “me” problem, I know. Scenes can be revamped and expanded (even deleted in full) during the editing process, so I shouldn’t be that precious, but I am.

Truth be told, though… I do subscribe to the “aim for 1000 words per day” mantra. But only as a personal target, and I don’t beat myself up when I miss it… which is realistically 75% of the time. The point is, I don’t stop at 1000. I use the target as a method to get me writing, and when I do, I knock out two or three days worth of writing in one go. Sometimes several days in a row. And that’s a massive boost to confidence. I just don’t let those off days get me down — in the end, it’s just a delay on the end product.

And that’s the kicker. Don’t sweat the days unless it helps you stay on target. My goal for my current sci-fi is 100,000 words. My Japan travel guide, maybe 60-70,000. And for my episodic novel, I’d like to knock out 20 chapters before I look to proceed. At the moment, I’m a third of the way to my sci-fi target, halfway towards the travel guide, and… a long way off the episodic novel.

At 1000 words per day, I could be on top of my sci-fi in 2-3 months, or finished my Japan guide within a single month. These kinds of goals are the ones I find give me more traction. If I work hard, I can have two books finished by the end of this year, both ready to go through editing, beta reading, and so on, with a target of mid-next year for release. That’s pretty good. If I stay on target. And even better? By the end of the year, I can also possibly release my episodic novel, which will be ongoing, targetting a chapter a week (big task, I know, but that’s why I want to get 20 chapters ahead before I start).

So in the end, you need to set your own goals. Goals that mean something to you, but goals that can be flexible. That’s the key part — if you fall behind, you can’t spend your time beating yourself up, you need to readjust your goals and keep pushing.

So, even if that means you still want to target 1000 words per day, or 5 chapters a month, or a book in 6 months, or however you want to do it — make it work for you, and make it realistic. Sure, you could write a 90,000 word book in les than 3 months, but will you, really?

Be honest to yourself, and you’ll hit your targets. Hitting targets keeps you going. Don’t set yourself up to fail.

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