47,000 Words in 30 Days - Reflections on My Longest Writing Streak (So Far)

How to build the ultimate writing habit

Keith's Audio Commentary:

Modified Transcript:

Achieving the Milestone

Today is June 22nd, 2024, and it has officially been 30 days of writing for me, the longest streak I've ever had in my life, I think. Well, maybe I had it when I was journaling, but even then, I didn't do it every day, even at my peak of journaling when I was younger.

I wanted to talk about thoughts about this, especially since it's certainly, if it's not my longest streak, it's certainly my longest on a continuous piece of work, not just writing random entries or on social media.

I think that's the key for why this feels different. It feels a lot more intentional, it feels more fruitful to have been able to write 47,000 words in the last month.

Benefits of Consistent Writing

I think that that level of commitment has, it certainly made writing, first of all, there's a couple of advantages to this, or things that have been benefits that maybe, I mean, it makes sense, but I'm just seeing now on the other side of the 30 days, it's one, writing has become, I've officially developed a writing habit.

I already wrote a lot every day, but it wasn't for a specific project. I saw something that I wrote just a month ago before I started this, and I was like, I'm going to call myself a novelist, and that means I need to write every day. Then I put that editing counts too.

Even just 30 days later, I don't believe that. Because when you're editing, you may not write anything new. If what you wrote is serviceable, and it's good enough, then why change it? You're just refining.

Overcoming Planning Paralysis

At the time I was working on Sync Whole, I was finishing that up, and I just finished the main manuscript, and I was looking for the next project to see what was going to be next.

So in the past, my problem was, and I think a lot of us writers have this problem, is that, and creators too in general, is that you feel like you need to get a plan before you start writing, which helps. You want to know what you're going to write about, and I myself am a big outliner, so I tend to at least like to get an overview of what I'm going to write.

But that's fine and good. Planning is not writing. I mean, it might involve some writing, but you're not getting new, complete ideas on the page.

Defining What Counts as Writing

I think that's the key for it to count as writing to me now. It needs to be new, and it needs to be somewhat complete. It doesn't need to be perfect. It won't be. It's first draft stuff.

It needs to have a beginning and an end, which implies that it will have a middle, of course. That's the only criteria. Even word count isn't as important to me, which ironically, my average word count is increased by doing this, just because you just get used to putting out words.

Focusing on Ideas Over Words

I was talking with my wife about this last night. I think that's another issue where writers struggle, is you question the words that you're putting down. I still do this too, but I just don't do it as much.

I really let the... When I'm writing a first draft of a chapter for a novel, I'm trying to get the idea. I think the... You start big picture, you start high level, and then you zoom in.

So I'm not as focused on the individual words or the prose or the metaphors and images, all those little nuts and bolts. I mean, I try and include them in as they're coming to me, but that's not my focus.

My focus is really, what's the main idea? What's the point of this chapter? That's where I start. Why is this chapter here? Why am I writing it? Is it to introduce a new character? Is it to continue the story? What direction am I going to take the story? Is it to build suspense, build tension? What's the point of this? Is it an action chapter?

I think those are the questions that I'm trying to answer when I'm first writing it down.

Current Project Progress: Gates of Okinawa

I think that's why I've been able to write... I know that's why I've been able to write more, is because I start from that high level and then I zoom in into the individual words. The ideas are more important than the words, the structure, definitely, because it needs to sit in a certain place in the story.

So in these 30 days, what else have I gotten out of it? Obviously I've gotten a lot of this project done. I'd say I'm closing in on the... Maybe I'm not at the three-quarters mark of the story.

As usual, most of my stories, it always starts out this way. I sprint in and I get a lot done in the beginning, and then just like any long-term endeavor, it slows down. The pace kind of hits a steady state, and that's what happened with this project, Gates of Okinawa.

I started out thinking foolishly that I could write a full novel within a month or something like that, just keeping the story simple and fairly formulaic and somewhat generic. But I should know by now I can't pull that off. I've always got to add more stuff in. I've always got to add more interesting arcs and more cultural things.

I found myself really getting sucked into the Japanese folklore aspect of this project and really just wanted to pull more of that in.

So here I am, 47,000 words in. I feel like at this point in the story, I'm definitely over halfway. If I had to put a progress bar, I'm probably like at maybe 63% done with the first draft of it.

It helps with a story like this because there's seven gates. I'm on the fourth gate now, and then of course there's buildup. It's called Gates of Okinawa, but the whole story isn't just them going after the gates. The gates don't appear until maybe almost halfway through the story.

So I'm at gate four now, there's seven gates, and so you can kind of do the rough math on how much more is left.

Writing Methods and Maintaining Interest

There's still a little bit to go, but I don't want to say it's been hard either. Because there's times when the writing is the first thing in the day, and there's times when it's later in the day. I prefer to do the hardest thing I have to do first in the day, and writing's not always actually the hardest thing for me. So it doesn't always happen.

But another thing that's helped me keep the streak and just keep it fun and interesting is I'm using these different methods to write. That's been, of the six methods that I have, that's kept it fresh and fun. At first I was worried about continuity between these different methods.

So the six methods are, one, write with the computer, just type. Second one is write on my phone. The third is dictation. Dictation, if you want to check out another one of my previous writer updates, I talk about dictation. (I also did a YouTube video where I explain my process in detail.)

Dictation plus AI is amazing. It's easily the fastest writing method if you can get it down.

Handwriting, I've written a few chapters by hand and then transcribed them. Those are fun because, one, you don't have to be at the computer. You can just kind of do it old school. Two, I end up getting a more complete chapter with those because I have to transcribe it. So the editing is built in to the process, and I like that.

Handwritten chapter

Then the fifth method is AI writing. I call it writing briefs. Some writers might call them story beats. Basically I'm directing the AI. The AI becomes my proxy technician, and I'm the director basically saying, this is what I want to happen in the chapter.

Sometimes it's down to specific lines of dialogue. Other times it's just description. Hey, there's going to be a description about the forest and this part or whatever. Then the AI will do that, and I actually used that method today.

This is a fun method because you're kind of releasing control over how the story plays out and you're zooming out, and then you're just saying, hey, you show me something. Sometimes the AI does a really good job at taking the story in a direction maybe you didn't see that you were going to go. Sometimes it's cool like that.

Then the sixth method is also AI, but it's like a co-writing. So basically I will write a few sentences, a paragraph, and then I'll say, what should happen next? Then the AI will take over. Then you just kind of keep leapfrogging each other until you eventually finish the chapter. So this is a fun one as well.

Key Takeaways and Future Goals

So all these six writing methods have really... They've helped keep it fresh because I like to change things up. But I guess at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you write. I think that's what it comes down to. All that matters is that you do it and that you're getting your ideas down in a way that they're shareable or in a way that is good for your project, whatever you're working on.

I've been encouraged. I really want to keep this up, this hell, let's go to 60 days of just straight writing. Because when this project is eventually done, then there's starting on the next project.

I like this because I just finished Cereus & Limnic: Second Evolution. I just published that yesterday. I like this idea of having a project that's being written and then have a project that's in production. So Sirius and Lemnick Second Evolution was in production, basically just editing. Maybe it involves marketing. It's anything that may not be writing. But the writing always happens.

I think that is super important to prioritize that. If you're calling yourself a writer and you want to write every day, and you eventually want to finish a novel or you want to share a story, then you have to write. It's not writing on social media or writing emails or anything like that. No, you have to write for the project.

I see daily too many writers, people that call themselves writers, it's in their profile and they're saying they're writers, but the main thing they spend writing is social media posts about how writing's hard. It's even harder when you don't do it for the thing that you want to be writing.

I understand, like I said, I understand all the hangups and why it can be difficult, but the only way to get better is to do it more.

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