Tuesday, May 7

Chuck Wendig's 9 Tips For Writing A Million Words A Year

Chuck Wendig's 9 Tips For Writing A Million Words A Year

In a post with a very un-Chuck-Wendig-like title, How To Maximize Your Word Count and Write More Every Day, Chuck talks about how to write a million words a year.

Like him.

Yep, that's right: 1,000,000 words.

Chuck writes: "I generally write about 3,000 brand new shiny so-fresh-and-so-clean words per day."

A few months ago Chuck wrote about how to take a slow and steady approach to writing a novel in a year, today he wrote about stepping up the pace and, as he put it, punting "that slow and steady approach right in the See You Next Thursday."

Chucks tips for writing a million words a year

1. Do your writing in the morning

Although I'm nowhere near as prolific as Chuck Wendig, I find this as well; I am by far the most productive in the morning. It's like those hours are magical. Chuck writes:
Writing in the morning has more potential than writing in the evening and here’s why: writing at the end of the day means the candle is burning down. The timer is ticking. You’re watching the horizon eat the sun and with it, the remaining hours before sweet, sweet slumber.
. . . .
Write at the end of the day, you’re racing the clock.

Write at the fore of the day, you own the clock.

2. Wake up an hour earlier

Like many writers, Chuck Wendig has a toddler and toddlers loudly and voraciously demand attention. Chuck finds that by getting up at 5 AM he can get half his word count done before the little guy gets up.


Whenever I get up early I, too, get a lot of extra work done. The trick for me is to make sure I get at least 7 hours of sleep. If I don't, I feel about as lucid as a hibernating cave bat.

3. Coffee

Coffee is good, just don't overdo it. If you do it won't work as well when you really need it.

4. Snatch time from life's thieving jaws and use it to write

I'm struck by how close Chuck's advice is to Kris Rusch's in her post, Habits. They both talk about snatching bits of time here and there. I suspect many professional writers who write in the neighborhood of a million words a year do this. Chuck writes:
If you’re going to write a lot, you’re going to need to feint and duck, stick and move, and reach in to grab fistfuls of time-flesh and use it for your own sinister purposes: in this case, writing. Got a lunch break? Write. Sitting at a long stop light? Take a few quick voice notes on your phone.

5. Schedules and deadlines

Chuck writes:
Having a schedule keeps me sane and helps me meet my writing goals. I toss all the projects I need to write into a spreadsheet. I calculate them by day how much I have to write to get ‘em done. I mark deadlines and potential start dates.
I have stress-dreams where I realize I've got a book due IN TWO HOURS.

I've begun keeping a running list of all the writing tasks I need to accomplish and I've found this lets me relax a bit. When I start to stress I just look at my list and convince myself I'm on track.

6.  Plan, prep, plot, scheme (/Outlining saves time)

Chuck Wendig writes: "I outline not because I like it but because I must."

Why "must"? Because writing 3,000 words a day takes time and if you know where your story is going you can save oodles of time.

That said, I think everyone is different. Myself, I'm like Chuck, I outline. It gives me jitters just thinking about beginning a book without an outline. Dean Wesley Smith, on the other hand, recently wrote a 70,000 word book in 10 days without an outline. He had no idea where he was going with the book, how it would end, until he was about halfway through. Chuck writes:
[I]f you start the day with a mission statement already in play thanks to an outline, you can jump in, eschew any planning the day might require, and just start writing. The goal is to give as much of your time to actually telling the story as you can.

7. Politely ask for the time you need

Asking for things that you need from the folks that you love often works.


Good luck with that.

8. Write with your internal editor gagged and shoved in a box

This was one of my favorite points. Chuck writes:
Editing as you go is a perfectly viable way to write.

It is not a perfectly viable way to write quickly and to maximize your word count.
Chuck Wendig points out that editing as you go will slow you down--and I agree--but I've also found that I usually end up changing things that shouldn't be changed because I lack perspective.

I need to finish the draft, warts and all, put it away for as long as I can stand then come back and edit it.

What does this mean for your internal editor?
[Y]ou need to shut your internal editor up. Elbow him in the throat and shove him in a duffel bag. Remind him his time will come. The editor always gets the last laugh.

9. Silence self-doubt with hollowpoint bullets packed with your indifference

This is my favorite point. Chuck writes:
You sit there and write and hate everything about what you’re doing and want to punch your characters, your paragraphs, your whole story, yourself.

Self-doubt is a sticky mud, indeed.

It will slow you down.
And if one is going to write a million words a year slow is bad.

So, how does one turn their self-doubt off?

Chuck writes:
The secret, actually, isn’t in the silencing of your self-doubt.

The secret is in ignoring it.

We’re not particularly smart about our own authorial worth while in the midst of writing something. We love what sucks and hate what works and at least for me, during writing a project my headspace starts to look like the back of my television: a thousand wires braided together .... Point is, you start to lose the sense of what feeling is moored to what part of your story. It’s all just a tangle of wires.

Your self-doubt just ain’t that ... effective. Or accurate.
. . . .
So, ignore it. It’s going to be there. Pretend you don’t hear it. Tune it out. It is rarely meaningful or efficient. It’s damn sure not helpful. ...

That’s maybe the biggest secret to writing a lot of words really, really fast: you need to blacken your self-doubt sensors with a boot and — say it with me –

An inspiring post!

One thing I loved about NaNoWriMo was the feeling of working together with other writers toward a common cause: each of us, individually, producing a 50,000 word manuscript in a month.

Perhaps one day there'll be a 5 o'clock club for overcaffinated writers who aspire to write one million words a year.

Do you have a tip on how to increase ones word count (other than 'Write more!')?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Get Over A Destructive Critique
- Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions
- Chuck Wendig On Finding Your Voice

Photo credit: "Anything Goes" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Though some of this advice is useful IF one is intent on writing 1,000,000 words a year, I guess I'm not sure what the POINT is of writing 1,000,000 words a year. To me, writing shouldn't be a contest--much less a contest about quantity. I write 100,000 words a year (or so; I've never kept strict count), and I'm not convinced that increasing my output by a factor of ten would serve any real purpose.

    1. Joshua, thanks for your comment.

      I think it all depends on one's goals. Chuck is the main bread-winner in his family and I think that is part of the reason he is writing so many words a year. He wants to write a lot of books and sell a lot of books.

      I think a lot of professional writers write about 1,000,000 words a year, that's part of how they make their money.

      Of course there are some folks, bestsellers, who can publish one book a year and make enough to live on, but they are in the minority.

      Besides, 3,000 words a day isn't all that much. I can write about 1,500 words an hour if I put my mind to it. Even if I'm not having a particularly good day I can usually do 1,000. So that's just three hours a day.

    2. I can definitely see the point here--especially the financial one--but I guess it really does depend on one's goals (and circumstances). Working full time, I find it nearly impossible to carve out three solid hours of writing per day. Plus, I write a lot slower--probably 500 words per hour when I'm really on fire. So I certainly don't want to dismiss what Chuck says, but I also hope no one sees his advice and feels bad because they can't match his productivity.

    3. "So I certainly don't want to dismiss what Chuck says, but I also hope no one sees his advice and feels bad because they can't match his productivity."

      Oh, absolutely. Point taken. Not everyone can write full-time and that's fine.

      At the moment I'm trying to get into the 3,000 words a day groove and it's not easy, so Chuck's post was inspiring. But, as you say, not everyone has that goal, nor should they.


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.