Today I welcome writer Catherine Doveland onto my blog, who shares her experience of how she wrote 100,000 words during her junior and senior year of high school.
Big thanks to Catherine for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out her links and details at the end of this post.
Writing 100,000 words is a major writing milestone we all aspire to meet. And it’s no easy feat to make it that far, whether you’re writing professionally, part time, or as a hobby. There are so many things that get in the way of writing—work, school, people, life.
I started to write seriously during my junior year of high school, and my first project was the first novel of a trilogy. Ambitious, yes, but that’s how I operate. And during that time, I was a very busy person.
I was a full time student, I took circus classes thirty hours a week, and I had a part time job on the weekends. Yet somehow, during my senior year, I was looking at the number 100,000 on my word count.
Looking back and analyzing it all, this is how I did it.
#1—The Double Priorities Lists
In my opinion, there are two priority lists: personal priorities and life priorities. These lists have the same things that need to get done, but the order is different. Let’s say the things are work, reading, writing, and family.
Let’s say the personal priorities list will go:
But the life priorities list will go:
The personal priorities list is what you want to do first based on what you enjoy. The life priority list is what you have to do through a pragmatic eye.
On a personal level, you want to write the next chapter, but life comes knocking and says that the report for work needs to happen first so you can pay the bills. Once you figure out these lists, find a way to make them align.
For example, I had to get my homework done before I could write my WIP. So in order to get my personal and life priorities lists to align, I registered for a creative writing class so working on my WIP became my homework.
However, I acknowledge that getting these lists to align is hardly ever that simple. But even when writing is pretty far down the list, there’s still a way to pump out 100,000 words.
Cheesy, I know, but who doesn’t like cheese? Though a real disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever, suffered from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety.
I’m aware that this is not the case for most writers, and I consider myself lucky that I don’t have any mental illness.
Due to this, it has been much easier for me to maintain my motivation and determination to write my novel.
But with or without mental illness, no story will be told unless someone really wants to tell it.
Hear me out. Having a clear direction was instrumental in achieving 100,000 words. I spent months outlining and planning each scene, not stopping until I reached the end.
My personal outlining process is on my YouTube channel if you’re interested.
In all honesty, once I knew which scenes I needed to write and in what order, I didn’t need to waste time going back deleting or adding things.
Which leads me to my next point.
#4—Write the first draft straight through
If I had edited my story as I went along or keep rewriting a scene over and over again until it was perfect, I’d still be stuck on chapter four. For my very first draft, I wrote the story from beginning to end in chronological order without going back.
If I did decide to make a change, I made a note on the outline for the next draft. Only by reaching the end did I become a better writer, and better able to see what worked, what didn’t, and then I made a more detailed outline for the next revision.
My very first draft was only 94,000 words, and after cutting the parts that sucked, it was 76,000 words. But with the experience of the first draft and a detailed list of revisions, the second draft surpassed 100,000 words.
Only by writing those first 94,000 terrible, awful words did I gain the skills to write 6,000 more, slightly better, words.
My WIP is still above 100,000 words and being subjected to additions and cuts, but I’m secure with knowing that each draft is better than the last. And if it isn’t, at least I’ve become a good enough writer to realize it’s bad.
#5—When you can write, make the most of your time. If you can’t write, then think
As I said earlier, I was juggling a lot of activities that took a higher place than writing on the life priorities list.
However, I remained organized and aware of my schedule, and when I did have free time I made the most of it. And based on how much time I had, I set realistic goals.
If I had only an hour, I’d write a single scene, but if I had an entire day I’d write a whole chapter. Even if I wasn’t able to sit down at my laptop and write, I’d think about what I was going to write next.
During a car ride home, I’d plan out a conversation between the MC and love interest. And when I had nothing to do at work, I tried to fill in the gaps between scenes, or think of what I could change in the next revision.
Even when I couldn’t actually write, planning what I would do when I finally sat down made what little time I had a million times more productive.
Everyone’s hours are filled with something different, various things that must unfortunately take precedence over writing.
For me, it was school, circus, and a job. Yours will very likely be different, but I hope that reading about my experience will help you reach that 100,000 word milestone.
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Catherine Doveland is a YA fantasy writer.
Along with writing, she pursues circus, acting, dancing, and singing.
In spring 2020, she will have her BA in theatre arts and will be moving on to a professional circus training program.
Her Work In Progress is called The Changeling Path. A Little Red Riding Hood retelling.
This post was written by a guest writer. Please check out their details above. If you would like to be a guest contributor on this blog, check out my Interested in Guest Posting page for details on how you can share your advice or do an author interview.