I Just Wrote 100,000+ Words in the Past Four Weeks
Here's my writing process - I hope it's helpful and inspiring
Well, friends, it’s been quite a month. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, my Surviving Tomorrow publishing output slightly diminished last month, and there’s a good reason why:
I wrote an entire book last month!
With a newborn.
As some of you already know, this is my insane process. It’s definitely not for everyone. Every author has their method. Some write one hour per day for ten years. Some write three hours per day for a year. Some of us do months and months of research, and then pound out the whole thing in four torturous weeks.
You need to figure out your own process.
In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to write 100,000+ words in a single month.
Maybe it will work for you.
Start date: Friday, January 21, 2022
Finish date: Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Total number of writing days: 33
1 book totaling 89,900 words
23 articles totaling over 24,000 words (receiving ~150k views)
Four Sunday school lessons
Total word count: 115,000+ words
Daily word count average: ~3,500 words
Stimulants: Zero caffeine, narcotics, or energy drinks.
Fuel up with passion
“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” — Attributed to John Wesley
There is only one way to pound out 115,000 words in 33 days:
You have to be fueled with a burning passion for your subject matter.
Please, for the love of all that is holy and right and good, do not try to write anything that is popular or commercial.
Write what makes you physically excited.
If your heart isn’t beating quickly, you’re writing the wrong thing.
If you aren’t sweating profusely, you’ve chosen the wrong subject matter.
Do you know what I don’t want to read? Another book or article that’s just like every other book and article.
I want to read books and articles that are unbelievably original and are written with so much red-hot passion that the words and sentences scorch my eyes, mind, and heart.
They are wildly original.
And they only write about topics that stoke their personal passions.
I’m already well ahead of the distraction game — I don’t own a cell phone and I don’t have Facebook Newsfeed or Instagram or Netflix — but I still take a scorched-earth approach to writing books:
I wear the exact same outfit six days per week.
I always skip breakfast and often skip lunch.
I don’t check email before 5:00 PM (though, sometimes I go several days)
I cancel all social events except Sunday before 3PM.
I only shower once a week. (I know, gross.)
I don’t shave for the entire month.
Look, writing a full-length book is one of the hardest things you can possibly do. I know hundreds of people who say they want to be authors, but I know very few people who can actually discipline themselves enough to get it done.
You have to get radical if you want to be radical.
Becoming an author requires the total destruction of all the things that are stopping you from becoming an author.
Embrace the chaos
This is the first book I’ve written with a baby in the house.
I don’t have a dedicated office, so all my writing happens in the living room.
And I’ll be honest, baby Concord’s pipes put Beyonce to shame.
Boy, how the little man can scream.
But when you live in a right-sized house, you learn to deal.
My inspiration for working through the noise is William Wordsworth. Get on a plane, fly to the Lake District, and check out Dove Cottage, where the legendary poet spent eight years in “plain living, but high thinking.”
In a tiny stone house with no hallways — all the rooms just opened into the next, so you never really had any privacy — Wordsworth lived with his wife, his sister, his sister-in-law, three children, a servant, and constant guests like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey, yet he still managed to pen some of the most breathtaking lines of poetry in history, including “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”
If Wordsworth could pen such gorgeous poetry in a tiny home with a dozen or more people regularly milling about, we have no excuse to not embrace the chaos.
Set a sustainable pace
If you’re going to write 115,000 words in a single month, your brain needs to be as sharp as a samurai sword.
This means you need to get the right amount of sleep at the right time.
You need to figure out your chronotype and sleep drive, then re-engineer your entire life around rest. (Nevermind short-term happiness, this is the #1 thing you can do to improve your long-term quality of life.)
I’m a late wolf, meaning I work best at night and am horrible in the mornings, so for my monthlong writing sprint, I got my nine hours of sleep from 3AM until noon each day.
(Don’t forget we have a newborn. Sleep train your baby!)
So my Monday to Saturday schedule was basically:
12:00PM-12:30PM Brush teeth, 15-minute riverwalk with Michelle and Concord
12:30PM–7:30PM Write seven hours
7:30PM–9:30PM Supper, star-saunter with Michelle and Concord
9:30PM–3:00AM Write five-plus hours
(Naturally, my 12-hour writing days included about an hour’s worth of Concord cuddle breaks!)
I know what some of you are thinking:
Oh, this is great — but I have a day job.
And you’re absolutely right. That’s why, for my first book, I had to take a month off work to get it done. That might be the price you have to pay if you truly want to finish your book. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question. The reality is that nearly every single famous author in history was working a day job when they finished their first (or second, or third) book.
Just remember the simple formula for getting what you want in life:
Count the cost, pay the price.
The other major sustainability piece for me is Sundays.
Oh sweet Sabbath Sundays.
24 hours completely off-screens.
Our Sundays are highly protected in our schedule. They’re packed with relationships, good food, and nature. And they follow a pretty rigid set order:
Teach Sunday school in the morning
Have two families over for lunch
Go on a woodland hike
Nap on the couch with Michelle while Concord naps upstairs
Read and cuddle all evening by the fire
Go to bed early to get a good start on the week
Having Sundays as a day of rest and reset is an essential part of living a sustainable life.
Strike the muse
If you want to write 100,000+ words in a single month, you simply cannot wait for the muse to strike.
You must strike the muse and make him/her work on your schedule.
All it takes is one minute.
Sit down, and start writing where you left off.
If you can force yourself to sit down and write for one full minute, there’s a very good chance you can write for the rest of the day.
Starting is the hard part.
(That, and getting a literary agent. That bit is pure hell.)
Sit down, and start writing.
The muse will get bored in seconds and join you.
Take care of your health
I won’t lie, writing a full book and two dozen articles in a single month takes a punishing toll on your body, but there are things to do to offset the damage as much as possible:
I use a nighttime gel that helps restore my dry eyes while I sleep.
Shiatsu neck massager (with heat)
The last thing you need is chronic stiffness because pain is a distraction. My neck and back get fifteen minutes on this baby nearly every night.
Shiatsu is good for the neck and shoulders, but a massage gun is great for specific stiffness sites. I have an expensive Hypervolt that has paid for itself many times over.
I couldn’t write without my morning riverwalk and evening star-saunter. Sometimes I even throw in an afternoon jaunt if I’m feeling a bit stuck on a chapter.
I wear a pair of Lambs to protect my balls from laptop radiation. Seriously, check the research and invest the money.
Squatty Potty + bidet + digestive supplements = bathroom god
Most writers don’t talk about it, but you need to be extremely regular in order to write well. I purposely limit daylight carbs so I have zero sluggish afternoons. Many a sandwich has ruined a good writing career.
I do nightly band-pulls to stretch my pecs and draw bloodflow to my neck and back so they can repair themselves while I sleep.
I saw my osteopath two weeks into my writing binge, and my massage therapist within days of finishing. That way, my body received maximal love without breaking the bank.
White willow bark
WWB is the active ingredient in Aspirin, and has been used by First Nations/Native Americans for millenia without the side effects of the synthetic chemical version. I pop one every afternoon for pain relief (and it has the nice side effect of lowering your blood pressure.)
What a life-saver. I can’t believe every writer with muscle pain isn’t rubbing this on their neck and shoulders every night. (It stings for the first few uses, but then goes away, I promise.)
Writing 115,000 words in a month is brutal no matter what, but these are the ten things I do to power through.
This is the definition of a writer.
Last year I:
Published over 222,000 words on Medium. (That’s the length of three 220-page books.)
Wrote three screenplays.
Self-published a monograph.
Wrote two novels.
Wrote a book proposal that landed me a two-book contract.
Journaled 136 times.
And wrote nearly a million other words in notebooks and Google Drive files for various writing projects. (I have one ideas file that just passed 2,000 pages.)
In total, I wrote over 1.4 million words in 2021.
It’s what we do.
We want to read great writing, and we want to write just as well.
This is my process.
Please don’t copy me.
Figure out what works for you.
Do this, and you’re well on your way to becoming the writer you’ve always wanted to be.
I can’t wait to read your stuff!