If you’re familiar with this blog and my approach to writing professionally then you know about my 500 words a day goal. 500 words a day is doable for even the busiest of people. You can have kids, go to school, and work and still have time to write 500 words each day.

This goal helps you make writing a part of your life – completely necessary if you’re going to transition to a full-time, or even part-time, writer. Writing 500 words a day means that in four short months you’ll have 60,000 words. In six months you’ll have 90,000. It puts you on track to write a novel each year, or more if you can increase your daily word count.

First things first, though…

After I give this advice to writers they generally nod enthusiastically and run home to write. I get a daily texts or emails for a few days because they’re writing, and they’re often writing more than their 500 words. It’s motivating to embrace a habit and a goal that you feel is achievable.

But then something happens. The text messages and emails disappear. I have to poke the writer to see how they’re doing. “Okay”, they say. “I missed a day, and then I missed two and now it’s been a week.”

My first question is, “Why didn’t you write the first day you missed? What happened?” Chances are it’s an illness, a busy day, or maybe the water heater blew up. These things happen. Then I ask, “Why didn’t you write the next day? What happened?”

Here’s where they make the mistake…

They try to make up for what they missed. Don’t do this. Shrug off your bad day and go back to your goal of 500 a day. Don’t roll over your word count. It makes the goal seem overwhelming and impossible. Suddenly, instead of focusing on 500 words for the day you have 1000 or 1500 or 2000 and the more you put it off the higher the count goes until you give up.

Start Fresh

I implore you, if you miss a day (and it happens and it’s okay) please don’t try to make it up the next day. Start fresh the next day with your 500 words. There will be days when you write more than 500 words and day by day you’ll gradually make up for the lost days.

And truthfully, unless you have an editor panting on the other end of a finished manuscript, if your novel is done on October 1st or October 15th, it doesn’t matter that much. Even if you do have an editor waiting for you, they can give you an extra week or two – they’re used to it.

So, you’re not going to make that mistake, right?

You’re going to embrace 500 words a day and you’re going to forgive yourself when you have a bad day and miss your goal, right? If you want some incentive, you might reward yourself at the end of each month for not missing a day. Or you can give yourself one cheat day a month where you don’t have to write if you don’t feel like it. Heck, that’s such a great idea I might write the next blog post about it.

Anyway, have fun today and happy writing!