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5 Simple Steps to 100k Words in a Month

The Journey of a USA Today Bestselling Author

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Let’s face it: writing a novel is hard. Of course it is, otherwise everybody would have written one.

But, like everything else worth doing, when you can push past all the self-doubt and find a routine that works for you, the results can be life-changing.

Now, you’ll hear a lot of advice about story telling and writing on the internet. And a lot of it is good. But what we don’t hear about is how authors actually put that advice into action.

It’s one thing to give someone a folder full of “writing tips” and it’s quite another to help them get “butt in chair” and actually enjoy the experience (and, yes, actually finish the darn book).

Because life gets in the way. Most people work full-time jobs. Have families. Responsibilities. Self-esteem issues. Fears, doubts, all that good stuff.

And all that means the hardest part of writing isn’t actually the writing itself. It’s the “sitting down and getting to work” that causes most to stumble.

So, today, I want to share a story with you from USA Today Bestselling author Lee Savino. Lee decided to push through her doubts and fears and – despite being heavily pregnant – was able to write a 100k novel in one month.

She later went on to write 15 books, hit the USA Today Bestseller list, and now earns six figures from her writing.

Lee has some practical tips and mindset advice about how you can do the same (even if you’re busy, stressed, or can’t find enough hours in the day). 

Take it away, Lee:

How I wrote 100k in a month: 5 simple steps

By Lee Savino

The year was 2016. I was a full-time author, having quit my soul-sucking finance job. I had an advance from a publisher and a plan to go indie after building my audience with them.

Plus I was pregnant. Nothing like a hard deadline (the birth of your child) to keep a writer motivated!

My past attempts to write a book were frequent but semi-successful. I’d gotten through 200 pages of a novel for my college thesis. The manuscript won a fiction prize and earned me a degree in Creative Writing, but languished in a drawer without an ending for five years. I queried a few agents, got rejected, and put my publishing dreams on hold…indefinitely.

Giving up on my dreams hurt so badly, I spent the next few years pretending I’d never wanted to be a writer. I puttered about with my life, getting a job, a cat, a house and a husband.

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I realized I could either waste the rest of my life ignoring what I really wanted to do, or just go for it. I could be Grandma Moses and dedicate my life to family and wait to pursue my art until I was eighty—better late than never–but the only one stopping me from publishing now was me.

So I decided to go for it. A year later, I had a self-published book out, and a contract with a small publisher to write five more. Pretty exciting, except when I looked at my track record, simple math told me that at my current output I’d produce a book every five to seven years. Unacceptable. But all that was about to change.

These are the five steps I took to write 100,000 words and skyrocket my author career.

 

 

I set a goal.

I knew I wanted to finish my projects before the baby came in May. I also wanted to grow as a writer—and what better way to do that than write more books, solving problems and applying craft knowledge as I went? Big goals fire me up, so I decided I would shoot for writing a million words in a year. 1,000,000 divided by 365 days a year is 2740 words a day. I now had a daily word count goal. A very specific, very scary one. I fully expected to tweak my goal once the baby came, but until then, shooting for almost 3000 words a day was doable and necessary.

I assembled my tools.

Yes, novels can be written with only a dream, a laptop, and a supportive but nervous husband who got a pained look every time he looked at our bank balance…but I was going pro. Marathon runners need running shoes and water bottles and things (I wouldn’t know, I don’t run unless a big dog’s chasing me). I decided if I was going pro, I needed pro tools. There are tons of tools for authors out there, but here’s where I started:

A Journal.

To stay focused, I bought a journal (the Freedom Journal by John Lee Dumas, to be exact) where I would record my goals and my thoughts. Every morning, I wrote out the most important thing on my to-do list for the day: getting 2740 words on the page. This single-minded focus turned me into a lean, mean writing machine.

An outline.

I wrote my first book by “the seat of my pants,” a frustrating endeavor that lead to a hundred pages of stuff to cut, and, to be honest, didn’t result in a good book. I’m still a recovering pantser, but I’ve read a ton of books on outlining and book structure, and I knew that if I wanted to get the words down faster, I’d do better with a plan than without one. I learned to sketch my book project using a basic three act structure.

Scrivener. 

The best writing program ever! To help (or enable?) my pantsing ways, I installed Scrivener and learned enough to be able to write my chapters and rearrange them as needed. I found I could easily set goals and track my word count within the program itself. Pressing “control, C, comma” gives a word count total for your writing ‘session’ and the entire manuscript. Set goals and check your totals at the end of the day (or every five seconds when the work is grueling)

 

 

I fought for it.

You can say you want to get into shape, but every morning when the alarm goes off, you make the decision to get out of bed and put on your running shoes (unless you arrange for that big dog to come chase you out of bed, is that a possibility? Note to self: call SPCA). I wish there was some fairy godmother hack I could give you, where you wave a magic wand and “presto” your manuscript is at 100,000 words and your desk chair is a pumpkin! But there’s not. Professional authors call it “BIC time”- “Butt In the Chair.”  So eloquent, I know. BIC time isn’t glamorous.

The fight began January 1st. Day one went okay-I actually got 3013 words. Day two…I had to dig in my heels but made it to 2755 words total. Day three, four, five… I eked out those last words a minute after midnight. The procrastination monster loomed large.

But I had a champion in my corner: failure.

Remember, I’d already ‘failed’ as a writer a year out of college when I gave up on my publishing dreams. I’d do anything to avoid the agony of giving up on myself again.

Sheer stubbornness drove me through those first days. It was a lot like starting a new diet and going through a detox period.

On Day Six, everything changed

 

 

I learned to write first.

According to Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics, most people are at their most productive in the first two hours after we fully wake up. Instead of wasting those precious 120 minutes on email and Facebook, I jumped into my manuscript and harnessed all the brain power towards my most important goal.

Day Six, I woke up, grabbed my laptop, and started to write. I didn’t even leave the bed. This is a bit extreme but hey, my characters don’t need me to brush my teeth.  After that day, I patented the perfect pregnant writing position: lying in bed with my feet elevated.

That Tuesday was the best writing day of my life. 9,249 beautiful words. I’d hit my stride. After this breakthrough, I felt like I was running downhill for the rest of the month.

There are a few things that make writing first a success. First, your rested brain has the willpower and the bandwidth to focus on rigorous cognitive activity. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we can get into the state of “flow”—that beautiful state where we’re completely absorbed in the creative process–much faster. Second, by leaving busy work like checking email and social media for later, we’re much less distracted.

In his book “Deep Work”, Cal Newport reminds us that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like aren’t altruistic entities. They’re companies who must make a profit. They want the most valuable currencies we have: our attention and our time.

When we log on and see someone’s “liked” our hilarious cat post, we get a hit of dopamine that keeps us coming back for more.

But each time we succumb and log onto Facebook, we get further and further away from being able to do “deep work.”

Every day I had a choice: I could watch silly cat videos and have my bank account dwindle to nothing, or I could put out words on the page. I’m not vilifying email and social media. I use them as powerful tools in my author business, but no cat video was going to stop me reaching my goal.

Every time I wrote down “I write 2740 words today” in my journal, I reminded myself what truly mattered. And every time I logged my words for the day, I got my own manufactured hit of dopamine, the satisfaction of the job well done. Which brings me to step five…

 

 

I tracked my progress.

What gets measured gets managed. In addition to writing my goal down in my journal, I kept track of my daily word count. Outside of setting the goal, this was the most important thing I did to get words. You may have a busy morning and not be able to “write first.” You may suck at journaling. But making yourself tally every day how far you got towards your goal, and it’s only a matter of time before your word count starts to improve. You can download my word tracking sheet here.

The end result.

I wrote 100,000 words that month, which included my best word count day ever, that blessed Tuesday. My publisher was happy, I was happy. Royalties began trickling in and my husband lost his pained look. When my book income passed his paycheck, he stopped teasing me about writing in bed. When it passed five figures a month, he started hinting about quitting his job.

I did NOT write a million words in 2016, but I proved to myself I could write several thousand words a day consistently and have the habits of a full time author. I’m super grateful for the books I’ve written, my faithful fans, and all my success, but I’ll never forget the satisfaction of plowing through those 2740 words a day. As grueling as it was, I did it. I gave birth to my dream.

 

 

And in May 2016, I gave birth to my son.  

About Lee Savino

Since Lee Savino launched her author career, she has written more than fifteen books, become a USA Today Best Selling Author, and now earns a six figure income from her novels. Download her Word Tracker Tool and track your daily word count goals right here

 

 

And now we’d love to hear from you! What advice and tips can you share about hitting your word goals? What’s the #1 thing that “gets in the way”? Leave a comment below:

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