How to write over one million words in one year
Would you like to be able to write one million words in one year?
It’s possible. I can say that because I am on track to write over one million words in 2018.
So far, I have written just over 984,4000 words this year. Unless something happens to me, I should comfortably be able to reach my goal of writing over one million words this year.
One million seems like such a big number. It’s a number with glamor. People don’t want to be rich, they want to be millionaires. People don’t want to be working on big deals, they want to be working on million-dollar deals.
And as a writer, I suppose the glamor carried over. I wanted to be a writer who could write ONE MILLION WORDS in one year.
In this article, I am briefly going to explain what it takes to write over one million words in a year.
The advice is practical and will help you no matter what writing goal you set for yourself in 2019.
So, let’s get into it.
Why one million words in a year?
One million words sounds cool, but really its just an arbitrary number.
It might not be the right number for you.
If we’re to do the boring math, to write one million words in one-year equals writing around 84,000 words a month. That’s around 2750 words per day, every single day.
Now hitting this mark was relatively easy for me because I don’t have a spouse or kids, and because of my business pursuits, I actually have a lot of free time to do whatever I want to do.
And yet, if you’re tied up with children, with work commitments and commitments in general, aiming for the one million mark might be a bit of a stretch.
Nevertheless, the information in this article should help you improve your word count, whether you’re aiming for 500,000 words in a year, or 100,000 words in a year, or even 50,000 words in a year.
Let’s get into it.
#1 Daily Quota
If there was one thing that made this ambitious word count possible, it was my daily quota.
Ironically, I only started implementing this without exception only a few months ago.
While to hit one million words in a year you need to write 2750 words or more in a day, my quota was actually way less than that. It’s 2000 words, every single day.
It can be fiction, non-fiction, me rambling to myself in my journal, whatever. So long as I get 2000 words down, I am happy.
The reason for the 2000-word quota as against the 2750-word quota was simply because of commitments. Some days I am far busier than other days, so I needed a quota that could be achieved even if I return home, tired, annoyed, and lacking any sort of creative juice.
If you have the persistence to stick to a daily word count requirement, you’ll outperform 9 out of 10 people who call themselves writers.
A lot of writers have a problem with actually sitting down and doing work.
The problem is that while they may be able to write a whole lot of words one day… often they go for days after that, or weeks, without writing anything.
Let’s break it down:
Occasionally inspired writer:
Day 1: 6100 words
Day 2: 3400 words
Day 3: 600 words
Day 4: 0 words
Day 5: 0 words
Day 6: 0 words
Day 7: 200 words
Total: 10,300 words
Day 1: 2000 words
Day 2: 2200 words
Day 3: 2000 words
Day 4: 2300 words
Day 5: 2100 words
Day 6: 2000 words
Day 7: 2100 words
Total: 14,700 words
You can see, that the writer who just trudges along and gets in his daily word count actually has written significantly more.
Compare that with the occasionally inspired writer who has a big spurt at the beginning of the week and then proceeds to trail off as the week progresses.
So, if you want to write one million words in one year, the daily quota is essential.
#2 Track it
How do you know you are going to hit the big one million if you don’t track what you write?
Not only do I have a daily word count, but I also have a way of tracking it. I use a basic excel spreadsheet, where I put in my word count of each day.
If I manage to write over 5000 words in one day, it gets highlighted in gold. This encourages me to hit those big daily targets whenever I can.
Here’s a screenshot of the actual excel spreadsheet I have.
As you can see, at the beginning of the year I had a number of failed days, where I wrote less than 1000 words, (my old daily target.)
I marked those days in orange, and as I perfected my routine, they grew less and less common.
You want to track what you do so first you can actually see if you will hit your targets, and secondly, so that you can see what days you are winning and what days you aren’t.
#3 Learn to write faster
If you are wanting to increase your word count per month, you can follow the two steps I have laid out and do just fine.
But, if you are wanting to hit over one million words in one year, then that isn’t enough.
Either you must have a huge amount of free time to write, or preferably, you must learn to become a fast writer.
There are a number of techniques that I have used to increase the speed of my writing, but it all basically comes down to having a set time to write and just being happy to get something down.
At this stage in my writing career, I know that given half an hour of dedicated writing time, I can pen upwards of 800 words. That means that in an hour I can have at least 1500 words done.
Knowing that measurement means I can safely allocate time for writing and know that I will be able to reliably achieve my daily quota.
If you doodle around when you sit down to write and reach the end of an hour or two with only half a dozen words, well you’re simply not going to reach those big numbers.
#4 Have something worth writing about
This here is the crux of it. A version of hell would be that you had to write one million words about something you didn’t care about.
The majority of my word count above was spent on subjects and projects that I was heavily invested in. At least 150,000 of those words was spent writing and rewriting a novel that I am really happy with.
Another 70,000 of those words at least was spent writing in a little word doc journal where I just write about my own self-development and life changes.
Another portion of those words would have been spent writing the marketing material for my freelance copywriting business.
Basically, I was writing about stuff I cared about, which meant I could write a lot and could write quickly.
#5 Have methods to get you through slumps
If you want to consistently and reliably write every day so that you hit over one million words, you have to be prepared for bad days.
I’ve had days where I’ve come home from work, burned out and tired, and wanted to do nothing more than to goof off on Youtube for a few hours before bed.
Yet instead, I had to work on my business and I had to work on my writing.
Quickly I saw the importance of having methods in place to ensure I hit my daily quota. You can see at the beginning of the year I didn’t, which is why my excel sheet was dotted with so many orange cells.
So, say I got home from a long day and I was done. I didn’t want to work on my novel and I didn’t want to write a marketing email or blog post. I had no freelance projects waiting for me and no other obligations. Just the 2000-word daily quota.
There were two things I did to make sure I hit my word count.
The first was writing in my word doc journal. I’d just write about some idea or improvement I’d seen in myself, or about a problem I was having, and just write.
Often, I was able to just do that to hit my daily word count.
Another thing that I would do would be to write a micro-scene. I’d open a word doc and just start writing some random bits of fiction. I’d have to hit 100 words before I’d be allowed to move onto another idea or scene.
Combined, those two methods meant I was able to maintain my word count even if I didn’t want to work on anything serious.
Now I know I could have spent that writing time more productively, but heck, it was just for just hitting my word count. It was to keep me sharp so when I did move onto something more serious, I’d be able to do well.
If you want to write a whole lot of words this coming month or in 2019, then I recommend that you have some little writing exercises at the ready similar to the ones I have just talked about.
A means by which you can just write, no matter how tired, angry or depressed you might be feeling.
That way, you know, no matter what happens, you’ll hit that daily word count.
#6 Be willing to pay the price
Writing one million words is relatively simple. Anyone could do it. The truth is that most people don’t want to pay the price.
What’s the price?
Time is a big one. There’s only so many hours in the day. Do you value your writing more than you value arguing with strangers on Twitter? Do you value your writing more than cooking and eating a beautiful dinner every single night?
One of the biggest things I found I was giving up when I took my writing seriously was “hanging out” with friends.
You know, when you just sit around with a bunch of friends and talk about nothing in particular.
I’m lucky that hanging out was never really an attractive activity for me because I like to keep busy.
To hit one million words in a year you have to be willing to put in the time. Because there’s a limit of time, you’ll automatically be giving up something in order to do this.
What else do you have to pay?
You have to risk looking like an idiot. While you might be able to grit your teeth and write one million words in a year, there’s no promise that any of it will be good.
I like to keep the 1/10th rule in my mind, which states that only about a 1/10th of what a writer writes is actually any good and worth publishing.
While that might be a bit harsh, it gives you permission to write badly for the sake of writing a lot.
Another thing you have to keep in mind with this is that it is a marathon. You have to be consistent, putting in the effort every single day.
Not a lot of people like that. It’s hard work and often it is tedious.
Just another reason NOT to try and write a million words in a year.
Should you or shouldn’t you?
Oddly enough, after breaking it all down, I’d probably recommend the majority of people not try and do this.
Writing one million words in a year can be a bit heavy.
But if you want to take your writing seriously, and you want to see a jump in your skills and your abilities as a writer, then this is a good way to do it.
I can safely tell you that as a result of this commitment, 2000 words doesn’t seem like a big deal. I can safely and happily write 2000 words in a day no matter what.
And guess what? If you can write 2000 words in a day with no fuse, then you can pen out a novel within 40 days.
That’s only a bit longer than a month.
Sounds like a good skill to have as a writer, right?
Even if you set the goal to something lower, like 500,000 words in a year or 300,000 words in a year, you’ll still see great results.