- Build up a writing habit based on the two minute warm-up write.
- Understand the possibilities unlocked by a daily writing habit.
- Show up every day and write.
Writing anything that pops into your head for two minutes (or more) works great as a warm-up. But a solid writing career it does not make.
(Unless you’re James Joyce, I guess.)
(Don’t be James Joyce. There’s only room for one of him, and the position’s taken.)
Free-writing does make an excellent foundation.
The next phase of the Couch to 50k Plan builds on that foundation.
I recommended that you practice your two-minute warm-ups for at least three weeks, working up to five or ten minutes.
You can start phase two whenever you feel ready.
If you lack confidence, start by giving yourself a week of showing up.
Remember, you’re proving to yourself that you’re a writer. Cast that vote every day.
If you’re cocky and impatient, start phase two on Day One. (That’s what I’d do, for the record.)
Remember though, this isn’t NaNoWriMo. It isn’t a race. There’s no deadline. The goal is to build yourself a rock-solid writing habit and conquer the Tyranny of the Blank Page once and for all.
Before I explain phase two, let’s talk about why it works.
It’s called “Habit Shaping” (hat tip once again to James Clear).
You start by showing up.
Then you work your way to your goal incrementally.
Incrementally is the key word here. You master the first two minutes. Then you master the next two minutes. In the Plan, you master writing 100 words a day. Then you master the next 100.
Once you’re writing 200 words a day, 400 isn’t a stretch.
Writing 400 words a day? 800 isn’t much more.
Each step requires the smallest effort, but the end result is powerful.
You start by writing 100 words a day, and nine weeks later you’re writing 1,500 words per day, with a cumulative total of more than 50,000 words.
Now, if you follow my advice, you won’t start out writing a novel. Not at first. You’ll practice something else and build up to the novel.
But we’ll get to that.
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle: 22.4k
- Fahrenheit 451: 46.1k
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: 69k
- The Hobbit: 95k
- The Lord of the Rings: 455k
If you do want to write novels, don’t worry: with a daily output of 1.5k words a day you’ll have plenty of words to fill a novel. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard at all for you to pump out a finished novel every quarter if you want.
Did you read that? Read it again. After only nine weeks of practice, you’ll have a foundational habit. You can use that habit to churn out four books a year without breaking a sweat.
Care to check my math?
1,500 words per day × 6 days per week × 52 weeks = 468k words per year.
Even if only half of those words end up in a final product, you have more than enough to fill four 50k-word novels.
Don’t think it’s possible? Meet Frederick Faust, the powerhouse behind the pen name Max Brand.
He churned out at least a million words of finished prose every year for a decade.
More than 500 novels of 30–50k words each, and even more short stories.
On a typewriter.
They were pretty good words, too.
Or how about Lester Dent? He wrote 159 Doc Savage novels over the course of 16 years. (Doc Savage was the proto-superhero who inspired both Batman and Superman.)
Even if we estimate low, at 30k words per “novel”, that means Dent wrote nearly 300k words of finished prose per year.
Again, this was on a typewriter. And Dent wasn’t cooped up in his attic. He was sailing around the Caribbean with his wife on their yacht, diving for sunken treasure.
(He wrote out on the deck in the evenings. Novel after novel. On a typewriter.)
Should you strive to emulate these titans of word count? That’s up to you. My goal here is to expand your worldview and show you what’s possible.
One book a year would be respectable. How many people write one book in a lifetime?
Let’s come back down to earth. I don’t want to scare you.
Remember, you don’t start out writing 1,500 words a day.
You start by writing for two minutes, and you build from there.
How do you build from there?
You build systematically, incrementally, never taking too big of a step.Here’s the plan…