Writing Advice to an Eleven-Year-Old Boy

Question from an eleven-year-old reader:

Do you have any suggestions about how many words I should write in a day? I generally get 300 to 900 words on a good day.

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

300 to 900 words is very good. If you averaged 600 words per day, in 100 days you would have a 60,000 word book! That’s a pace of three books a year.  Of course, that’s more than most professional writers do—but it doesn’t count the time for revising and editing your writing, which is what really makes it good.

A professional writer might get 2,000 to 4,000 words a day in a first draft (but remember, they are writing full time, while you have other studies to do, so writing is part time for you). For me, some days it’s 0 words, when I get other things done, some days it’s 5,000 when I do nothing but write. However, the only way to write that many words is to write freely, even carelessly, knowing that LATER you will be coming back to edit.

One thing I’ve learned as a writer: when it comes to the first draft, resist the urge to edit as you go—don’t sit there trying to think of just the right word, or you will lose the flow. Instead, write whatever comes to mind. Then LATER you can edit, find a better word, delete some sentences, add others and improve the rest. So, instead of writing 600 words one day, try writing 1,200 without stopping to correct yourself. Then, the next day edit that 1200 and make it shine. You’ll still average 600 words a day but you will probably find your writing is better. Or, write 1200 words a day for a week. Then take the next week to edit your 6000 words.

It’s worth the experiment. Writing a first draft and editing it are both vital, but they involve two different ways of using your mind. Everyone is different though. That’s why you should experiment and see what works for you. 

One last thing: don’t lose the joy of writing by forcing yourself to write too much. Quit before you get sick and tired of it. Take a break, and come back to writing fresh. The more you enjoy writing, the more others will enjoy reading it.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries