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Writing Experiment: How Many Days in a Row Can I Beat My Previous Day's Word Count?

Keyboard and writing supplies on a light wood desk
Keyboard, coffee mug, succulent, wallet, and pencil on light wood

I've never done a writing experiment before; I watch a lot of them on YouTube, though. And this week I decided to try one out for myself!

The goal of this experiment is to see how many days in a row I can write more than the day before. It's similar to the stair-step challenge (where you try to beat the previous sprint's word count), but longer-term. It's a full staircase, then?

Credit: This writing experiment was inspired by Kate Cavanaugh's video doing the same challenge.

For the sake of giving this my best shot, I counted words that went into both my current WIPs (Sword's End and The Plus-One Contract). That way, if I skipped on one manuscript and focused on the other, I'd still be working on the experiment.

Honestly, going in, I expected very little. I'm employed full-time AND I have an editing side hustle, so my available writing time can vary dramatically from day to day. But I wanted to give this my best shot, and I feel like I did that.

Day 1: Thursday, 23 May 2024

You'd think this day would be the easiest, but actually I was nervous. What if I wrote TOO MANY words and ruined the whole experiment? I didn't want to not try, but I also didn't want to overachieve, you get me?

Luckily, I had certain blockages to writing: I had to go in to the office during the day (an hour drive each way), and I went out for dinner with my wife after work, so I could only draft in the evening.

I sort of half worked on TPOC for an hour or two while my wife was out at a comedy open mic. I sat in bed with my iPad on a lap desk and poked at the Bluetooth keyboard. But really I was watching AuthorTube videos on my phone. It was...not super productive.

The ultra-impressive 9 words on Sword’s End were poked into my phone right before bed so I wouldn’t lose my streak on Pacemaker. Please clap.

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 9

  • The Plus-One Contract: 701

  • Word count total: 710

Day 2: Friday, 24 May 2024

I needed 711 words to beat Day 1.

I did a little writing on the desktop computer during the day, but most of my writing time was in the evening after work, again on my iPad.

Usually I’m good to go, writing at night, but I was tired today. I didn’t even manage 900 words. But I DID beat yesterday’s total, which is what counts.

Once again, I managed a single sentence on Sword’s End for the purpose of streak maintenance. I was starting to wonder if I should just let the 61-day streak die, but this was not the day I let go of it.

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 13 words

  • The Plus-One Contract: 879 words

  • Word count total: 892 words

Day 3: Saturday, 25 May 2024

I needed 893 words to beat Day 2.

I slept in until 11:30a, so my morning was shot. I wrote about 750 words (TPOC) in the early afternoon and another 850 (both WIPs) in the evening.

In the afternoon I felt pretty good, which was partly due to an easy Saturday and partly due to the prosecco that accompanied my writing session, lol. By evening I had lost a little motivation, so it was harder to buckle down and work.

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 202 words

  • The Plus-One Contract: 1434 words

  • Word count total: 1636 words

Day 4: Sunday, 26 May 2024

I needed 1637 words to beat Day 3.

This afternoon I had a live interview with the Romance Writers Room, so my writing was broken up into "pre-interview" and "post-interview."

Pre-interview (morning), I worked on Sword’s End on my iPad at the dining room table. I had the Resistance going on; I kept getting back up and pacing before sitting back down and then repeating.

Post-interview (night), I worked on TPOC on my iPad in bed. (I know, I know, you're not supposed to work where you sleep. Sue me.) Honestly, it felt like pulling teeth, but I was determined not to break my experiment this soon, so I pressed on until I beat my goal. (I probably could’ve switched back to Sword’s End, but it was 10pm and I wasn’t at my most logical.)

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 657 words

  • The Plus-One Contract: 1357 words

  • Word count total: 2014 words

Day 5: Monday, 27 May 2024

I needed 2015 words to beat Day 4.

Here in the US, this was Memorial Day, so I was off work, which gave me enough time to power through some serious writing sessions. Well, after I enjoyed a nice little snooze cruise. (Translation: I slept in again.)

In the early afternoon, I worked on TPOC on my iPad at a coffee shop and at the dining room table. I tried for a minute to write at the desktop computer, but I was A) distracted and B) anxious.

In the evening, I worked on both WIPs (well, mostly TPOC) on my iPad in bed.

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 122 words

  • The Plus-One Contract: 2431 words

  • Word count total: 2553 words

Day 6: Tuesday, 28 May 2024

I needed 2554 words to beat Day 5.

I was back at work today. I also started proofreading a manuscript, and after work my wife and I took our corgi to the beach. I didn't get to sit down and write until 9pm, and that just wasn't enough time to get this kind of word count in -- at least, not without staying up way too late.

On top of the lack of time, I wasn't really feeling either of my WIPs, so it just wasn't my night.

It was disappointing to end the challenge, but honestly that's just how it is sometimes with writing and life. Besides, I made it almost a full week, and I'm proud of that.

Words for the day:

  • Sword's End: 94 words

  • The Plus-One Contract: 438 words

  • Word count total: 532 words

The Experiment Results

So I made it 6 days, continually trying to beat the previous day's count. That was better than I expected, actually!

If I try this challenge again, I'll schedule it for another long weekend or, better yet, an entire week off work. It was difficult to make solid word counts while working a full-time job and a side hustle.

Here's the final word count staircase:

  1. Day 1: 710 words

  2. Day 2: 892 words

  3. Day 3: 1636 words

  4. Day 4: 2014 words

  5. Day 5: 2553 words

  6. Day 6: 532 words

And here's what I learned:

  1. I don't really need motivation or inspiration to write. If I have a plan (a synopsis, outline, beat sheet, etc.), I can drag the words out regardless. What I need is to sit my butt in the chair and stay there.

  2. Timed sprints help me stay on task. (Mostly because I can put my phone away for half an hour at a time but not all day long.)

  3. I'm doing more words per hour on Sword's End than on TPOC, inexplicably. Knowing this helped me temper my expectations for sprint word counts.

  4. I'm becoming more comfortable with my iPad than my desktop computer.

  5. A fancy drink doesn't hurt. :)

Now go forth and write more than you did yesterday!

I believe in you!


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