Ask Becca: Three Ways To Pump Up Your Word Count

by Rebecca Jordan
published in Writing

“How do you write so much? I can’t seem to get much more than 20,000 words on my novel so far!” – Devon A. H.

If you had to choose between quantity and quality, I’m guessing most of you would choose quality. So, you spend about a year writing, angsting and revising—and that’s all just on five chapters. And you’re still nowhere closer to publishing your book!

Of course you want quality to be your number one concern. I know a lot of writers who snub their noses at things like NaNoWriMo (or the summer version, Camp NaNoWriMo, coming up in July), thinking that because people are simply trying to get words on the page they’re not concerned with the final result. And yet, if you want to create a foundation for becoming an author, you have to pump out a huge volume of work as well as work that, you know, doesn’t suck. After all, you have to have a novel (quantity) before you can revise it (quality). Lots of words not only means more money (eventually), but it means more fans of your work and—possibly most important of all—practicing your craft until you’re a wordsmithery ninja!

Here are three time-tested steps that I use to pump up my word count.

1. Make a Plan

This is probably something you’ve heard so much here at DIY MFA that you’re pretty dang sick of it. I can just hear you screaming at the screen now: “Seriously, Becca? I’ve made a million plans to write, and they always fall through!”

Cool. What that tells me is that you’re terrible at making plans.

A word count goal of 2,000 words a day, while admirable, is not always possible, and can be detrimental to your creative process. While you’re distracted, your characters have been sitting in Rivendell shootin’ the $h!t for three enormous chapters, just so you can eke out your word count! (Was there a NaNoWriMo in Tolkien’s time? Sure would explain a lot.) That’s not fair to them, and not fair to you.

Try changing your goals. “Two chapters per weekend” sounds doable, doesn’t it? And see how it cleverly skirts the usual ‘quantity’ goals? Those chapters can be short, if they need to be short! Only you know which goals are going to work for you.

In other words, you need a plan for your novel, collection, or whatever the heck you’ve got going over there. Not knowing where you’re going, creatively, can really take the wind out of your sails. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Inspire Yourself NOW

Is your word-waterfall running dry because you’re lacking inspiration? While I’m always hesitant to point fingers at Writer’s Block, he does tend to break down your doors. Soon, writing can start to look like this.

I have a question for you. Are you excited about the work you’re doing? Do you even like writing at all? Or do you have to drag yourself, kicking and screaming, to the keyboard? If that’s the case, it might be time to give yourself a refresher course on why you started this crazy hobby in the first place. Take a (quick) break. Pick up one of your old favorite books. Read this article.

Here’s the SparkNotes version of how I inspire myself to write:

  • Fast-drafting is my best friend. While I’m still excited about the story, I try to get as much done as possible in a short amount of time. I’ve personally found that if I wait too long to think things through, then I lose passion for the project.
  • Before I go to sleep, I review some of my notes or my current Work In Progress. In the morning, after everything’s had a chance to percolate, you’d be amazed how much your subconscious can come up with. Better fuel than coffee!
  • I make a list of scenes that need to be written, usually about one sentence each. That way, when I start a chapter, I already know what the characters have to accomplish.
  • I turn on my favorite music every time I sit down to write. Pavlov’s Dog style.

Once you feel pumped up and ready to write, Eye-of-the-Tiger style, writing begins to look like this.

3. Accountability

Today, you’re going to write. Right after you have tea and crumpets for lunch. You’re going to write. After you kill some zombies online. You’re going to write. After your Netflix binge. After the holidays. Later, later, later.

We (yes, me included) all have the best of intentions when it comes to our writing. And yet life gets in the way. That’s why you’re here doing DIY MFA, isn’t it? To carve out time for your writing?

All the plans in the world won’t get you anywhere if you don’t stick to them. And how do you stick to them? Why, get some friends, of course!

I’ve found a wonderful critique group that meets every other week. We talk about each other’s work. We offer suggestions for improvement, and we call each other out when we don’t do them. So try this: Get some writing buddies. Tell them about the plans you’re making. And then have them punish you if you don’t do it (or just give you cookies if you succeed. Cookies always work).

I know it sounds counter-intuitive to *gasp* socialize when you should be putting butt-in-chair, humans are social creatures that, speaking of Pavlov’s Dog, love to mimic the behavior of those around them.

). One trick that always works for me? Try a writing sprint! Get together, in person or online, with a group of writers. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and see who can write the most in that set time limit. Watch your fingers fly across the keys!

If you’re ready to take it to the next step, consider investing in your writing career by hiring a freelance editor or getting a mentor. When I started working with Gabriela, it was so inspiring to have someone actively interested in where I was coming in my work—someone who had done all of this before and who I was excited to prepare pieces for. Now there’s the perfect marriage of Quality and Quantity!

Do you have tried-and-true tips for getting words on the page? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Got a question? Tweet me @beccaquibbles with the hashtag #askbecca, email me at becca [at] DIYMFA [dot] com, or just leave a comment below! You could see your question answered right here at Ask Becca!


17954_292577539573_730389573_3174566_5206294_nRebecca Ann Jordan is a speculative fiction author and artist in San Diego. She recently won Reader’s Choice Best of 2013 for her short story “Promised Land” at Fiction Vortex and has published poetry and fiction in FlapperhouseYemassee MagazineBravura Literary Journal and more. Becca regularly columns for See more from her at


Enjoyed this article?