When it comes to writing, “practice makes perfect.” The more you write, the better you’ll get.
That means by this logic, your improvement should look something like this:
As you can see, at first you’re not so great; however, the more time you put into learning how to write, the better you’ll eventually become.
And by the 10,000 hour rule, this is when you’ll theoretically become a master of writing.
However, learning to write is (and isn’t) that simple.
Sure, the more time you put into learning the craft, the better you’ll naturally become. The more you practice, the better your writing skill will be over time.
But it’s a known fact that some people may accelerate like this:
In this chart, the individual improves at a much faster rate with less hours put into the writing process.
The writer didn’t put 10,000 hours in to becoming a “master” of writing — instead, it’s 8,000.
But why? Wouldn’t everyone like to improve their writing in less time and reach their goals sooner?
Here’s an example we can see this in the real world: take art for an example. Some people have never picked up a pencil in their life, but their art looks better after six months of practice versus someone who may be working at it for two years.
Could it be natural talent? Sure, to an extent. But that’s probably 1% of the population who’s naturally gifted.
So what about everyone else who improves at a faster rate? Well, the answer is easier than you think: it’s the quality of practice.
That means while the amount you practice your writing has a impact on your level, then there must be something more some people do to improve quickly.
And it isn’t that these people pull it out of a magician’s hat: it’s hard work and dedication towards improving. There is more focus on the type of practice and how it aligns to an overarching writing goal.
Let’s take a look at how quantity vs. quality can affect your writing skills.
Quantity of Writing: How Much Should You Write?
When it comes to the question of how much you should write in a day, authors and professional writing experts will give you different answers.
After all, there is partly a time game when it comes to this. In order to improve, time needs to be spent on the writing craft.
Both of these authors are published and are objectively good at writing. While they both have different styles and approaches, they have reached their goals of finishing complete, coherent novels with proper grammar and storytelling that suits their genres.
But this doesn’t answer the question of how long you should write each day.
And to make things even more confusing, every writer has their own processes, family obligations, jobs to juggles, and setups for concentrating.
Some people will also focus on word count while others will work on completing a single chapter every day. That means every writer has their own method to finishing their lengthy novel.
This certainly doesn’t help when it comes to choosing the quantity you write. After all, depending on your lifestyle, you may have less time than someone else to write.
Furthermore, there isn’t a one size fits all plan. Even if six pages works for Stephen King, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you.
But this also proves one thing: there is a difference in the quantity that these writers write each day. And both writers are still successful.
Now you’re probably more confused than when we started the article, but hang in there: we’ll find a way you can determine the quantity and quality that works for you.
How different genres play into quantity
The good news is there’s a lot of different genres when it comes to writing. Each of them has their own rules when it comes to length and expectations.
And you want the quality of your work should be superior to all else — after all, you want to be great, not good.
That means you’ll need to master the quantity and expectations that are needed of you. In turn, the quality will improve, as quantity and quality naturally improve together.
But it’s a fact some genres may take more time to master than others.
For example, if you’re writing a history book, you may need to spend more time researching, fact-checking, and learning the way you need to phrase that book.
On the other hand, a middle grade novel will be less words and center more around a child character’s experience.
I’m not saying one is harder than the other — it just takes different lengths of time to learn how to write for your audience. There’s no doubt the history book would take longer to create than the middle grade one.
So this just means the amount of time it will take you to get to that quality can be determined based on your genre.
And that makes learning to master writing sound a lot less intimidating, right?
But the good news is you can learn to master any genre if you put the time in. And all you have to do is be smart about it!
Quality of Writing: Your Writing Practice Matters
Now that we’ve established that there’s variables when it comes to the quantity, we need to talk about the quality of those words.
After all, 1,000 stellar words will be of a higher value to you than 10,000 so-so ones.
So does that mean you should always focus on producing shorter — but better — content?
Take this for example: you write the first chapter of your novel. And then you edit it so it can be perfect again. And then you write it again, with enhancements and slight improvements.
Initially, you’ll have yielded a return on practicing this chapter. The quality is there.
However, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t help you improve over time. In fact, it could be holding you back!
That means if you never write the next chapter, or try writing different stories, you’ll stay stagnant for a longer period of time. The more experimentation you have, the better your quality will be.
The Process of Identifying Your Quantity vs. Quality
Now that you know a little bit about how quantity vs. quality plays a role in your writing improvement, you’ll need to find out what amount of quantity and quality works for you.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you identify the right word count and practice you’ll need to have every day.
Your first step: Identify your quantity and quality
Because answers on how much you should write every day are conflicting, the best way to find out how much you write in a day is to measure your word count yourself.
Why do this?
You don’t want to use someone else’s method if it doesn’t work for you. You’ll burn out quickly if it’s too much, or will accomplish too little if it’s not enough.
And while more time put in each day will see greater improvement in the long run, you want to make sure you’re able to reach your daily goals. After all, the quality of practice still counts in this, and writing just to write won’t help you improve quicker.
That means you have to find out how much time you have to write quality words yourself, even if you’re busy.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Record your workcount. Sit down and record how many words you can produce before you run out of good ideas.
- Keep track of time. Also keep track of how much time passes. This will give you an idea on how long you can focus on your writing before you need to take a break.
- Repeat this for a week. In order to find out how much time and length you can complete, you’ll want to do this for a week. This will help you in case there’s an outlier in how much time you spend writing.
If you haven’t done this before or don’t have a routine, I recommend doing this in a room with no distractions.
You should also start this writing on a day off so you can accurately measure your word count when you don’t have any obligations to take off and attend to.
The words you have should all be quality words and not words you pressed to be written. This will help you determine how much “good” work you can complete in a day.
Once you find out how much you can realistically write (that’s quality work) in a day, you can start making a plan.
Your Second Step: The Writing Plan
You have your number in mind – 300 words, one chapter, five pages, 5,000 words. This is your starting point as you’re trying to navigate through your writing journey.
But your starting point is simply just that: the starting point. You don’t improve by doing what’s comfortable — you improve by going above and beyond.
That means you’ll want to make a plan to help you improve your writing. Whether that’s experimenting with prewriting exercises or choosing to add an extra 500 words than what you’re normally comfortable with, you want to add value to your writing practice.
Make a plan and stick to it. One way you can do this is by diligently recording if you’ve met your goal and improved.
In six months, you should be able to read something you wrote when you started and notice a measurable difference.
Your Third Step: Stick with It
Now that you have a plan, you need to make sure you implement it in order to keep improving.
That means sticking with your writing plan and not giving yourself “cheat” days.
It doesn’t matter if you’re tired or don’t feel like writing — building the foundation daily will help you achieve your goals in the long run.
After all, you want to improve, right? Put the time in and hold yourself accountable.
Good luck, and happy writing!
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