I'm a big fan of little and often. I'm all in on the idea small amounts of progress can quickly accumulate. For example, a wall is built of many bricks, a walk comprises many steps and a book comprises many words.
Last week, I decided to write a Dungeon Backdrop for Raging Swan Press's January releases. I've got lots of other jobs and responsibilities on at the moment so I broke the job down into manageable pieces.
A Dungeon Backdrop normally comprises about 6,400 words. Of these, roughly 1,600 are boilerplate material--legal text, copyright notices and so on. That leaves about 4,800 words of actual material. That might--or might not--sound like a lot to you but breaking it down into smaller chunks makes it much more doable, and the whole process virtually stress-free.
I decided to write 500 words a day. No more, and no less (give or take).
Breaking the work down into 500-word chunks did two obvious things:
- It told me I would finish the first draft in ten days--which meant I didn't have to worry about missing my (self-imposed) deadline. As long as I did 500 words a day I was golden.
- It told me the total writing time would be about five hours.
I didn't realise it at the time, but breaking the project down had another unexpected benefit: it added pauses to the design process.
Why is this a big deal?
When I sat down for my daily half-hour of design, I worked on the elements of the book for which I was inspired, and ignored the bits for which I had no plan.
The great news is, though, my subconscious brain was aware of the remaining challenges (curse you room #5) and got to work on coming up with ideas and solutions. When I started my next bout of writing an idea for an undesigned part of the dungeon would pop into my head. Thank you, sub-consciousness!
Obviously, I was compelled to track my word progress and what better way to do that but in November's pocket notebook?
Each X in the picture above represents 100 words. B represents 100 boilerplate words. The X surrounded by a O tells me I have finished. Note how I have divided the track into 500-word sections. In this way it was easy to see what I had done and what remained to be done.
A Confession and a Conclusion
I didn't slavishly follow my 500 words a day plan. I got into the flow on Sunday afternoon and smashed out the last 1,500 words or so (but I did it in half-hour spells to give my subconscious a chance to batter the remaining problems into submission).
My initial conclusion is that this is a powerful writing technique. In fact, I'm already employing it on a 20 Things supplement. Again, I'm doing 500 words a day. If I stay on track, I should finish on Friday. I'm not worrying about the 2,000 words left to do. I'm simply working on the next 500. That's a tremendously comforting thought.
I strongly recommend you have a crack at this kind of design process. You can pick any number of words you fancy as a daily target. You might think 500 words too many or you might think it is not enough. It doesn't matter what daily target you choose as long as you pick a doable target that enables you to hit your word count by your deadline.