The power of 500 words: how to achieve your writing goal

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Writing a novel is a daunting task. When I started writing my manuscript in 2017 the most I’d ever written was a 10,000 word children’s story the year before. For my contemporary women’s fiction draft I was aiming for 75,000.

In August 2017 I began writing my manuscript. It felt like a huge undertaking. But I got there… 500 words at a time.

Find time to write

I’m a mum to two pre-school children. I work four days a week. My life is full of to-do lists and trying to manage the working mum guilt. How could I carve out time to write when I was already feeling awful for ‘dumping’ the kids into day care four days a week?

The answer was simple I wrote on my commute to and from work. The 7:43 am Manly to Central train gave me 43 minutes to write before I had to switch my brain into Marketing Manager mode. The commute home at the end of the day was the same. Having a limited time to write gave me focus.

Tip: Don’t wait for the magical ‘perfect’ day to write for eight hours uninterrupted. Find an hour here and half an hour there, and make it count. Don’t wait until you have the ‘perfect’ office to write in beautiful surroundings. I wrote on the train with a laptop balanced on my knees, occasionally squished by the person next to me.

Set a realistic word count target

On my daily commute I would average somewhere between 400 and 600 words. A drop in the ocean but those drops built my scenes. Those scenes filled my chapters. The chapters carried me across the dreaded middle and finally I made it to the end. Sometimes it felt so slow. But moving forward slowly is better than not moving at all.

Don’t not write because you can’t commit to writing thousands of words a day. Write what you can and keep writing.

Tip: I used Pacemaker, a very simple online tool, to keep me on track with my word count. It told me the daily word count I needed to achieve to complete my first draft by May 2018.

You have to finish it

Do you know what all the books you’ve ever read have in common? They were finished.  I have a history of not finishing the things I start. For me getting to the end of my story was a big deal. It proved to myself that I was serious about writing.

Tip: Every writer has a moment (or several weeks) whilst writing the middle of their story where they lose confidence in their work and think they should begin something new. Getting through the middle in hard. What separates published writers from writers with ten half written manuscripts is that they knuckle down and get to the end. Don’t worry about it not being perfect – that’s what the edit is for.

How many words is this blog post? You guessed it. 500.


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