The Top 5 Tips to Writing 500 Words a Day

Could you write 500 words a day for a month? For a month with 30 days, that’s 15,000 words. When you add up the numbers it seems like an insurmountable task. Let’s forget the concept of just writing for 30 days straight, to give yourself a word count just adds to the mountain. That rigidity of must write – must meet a quota certainly should lead to writers block or at the very least writers fatigue.

I wrote 500 words every day for the month of January.

Every day, I sat down either with my notebook or on my laptop and wrote. Sometimes I barely squeaked by with 500 words, other days I ended up with twice as much. I wrote in the car on the way to family birthday parties. I got up early when I had a full day, I even wrote on vacation. In general, it took less than an hour each day. One day I only had 20 minutes and pushed myself to reach the word count. At the end of the month I had a first draft of a full length play, half of a one act, and the first drafts of ten articles.

It’s not an easy exercise, but it’s not hard either. There are procedures you can put in place to make sure each day gives you usable material.

What’s Your Endgame?

The overall goal is to write 500 words every day for a month. Beyond that however, it’s important to think about your specific goals.

  • What would you like to have accomplished at the end of the month?
  • Are you working on a project like a novel or a play?
  • Are you writing blog posts?
  • Are you a new writer and simply want to create a habit of writing?

All of these examples are valid and useful expressions of the exercise. If you establish your end game before you even start, you have a reason to write every time you sit down. You have a goal in mind.

And don’t worry if your goal is to work on a book and a couple of days you end up free writing because your brain just isn’t in the mood. The exercise isn’t a punishment.

Further to that, over time you may find that your goals change. My end goal was to finish the full length play. Around the third week I had enough material to start rewriting, which is why I switched my 500 a day goal to articles.

Plan the Night Before

Staring at the blank page is the easiest path to writers block. And there’s no worse feeling than when you set a task for yourself and nothing comes to mind. Spend five minutes at the end of each day thinking about what you’re going to write. Put a question at the top of a piece of paper, or a sentence, a theme, or idea. That way when you sit down to write half the work is done for you. You don’t have to think about writing, you just do it.

500 words does not mean 500 perfect words

This project is hard enough on your brain. To worry about the quality of the writing only adds extra hardship. Don’t be afraid to free-write your 500. Throw your focus into staying on topic but after that just get those words on the page.  You may even not want to worry about rewrites at all during the month. That’s a mistake I made during the exercise. It was difficult to use one part of my brain for rewrites and then switch over to another part to get those 500 words on the page.

Announce Your Work

One of the best parts of my experience was that I had to tell people my word count each day. Writer Jeff Goins set up a closed facebook page where participating writers committed to posting each day. This set up didn’t work for every participant – Facebook can be a time suck afterall. For me it was the accountability I needed to keep writing, and keep track of my words. I also liked having a place to share with others going through the exact same experience.

If you don’t have a group to share your count, reach out to some fellow writers and start your own. Announce your daily results on any social media platform. Aside from posting on facebook, I also Instagramed a writing picture each day.

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You could even ask a friend or family member if you could email them every day. The method matters less than the act itself.

Celebrate Your Efforts

A exercise like this will illuminate for you the true nature of writing.

When you’re writing that much on a daily basis it’s becomes easier to see how much of the process is work. It’s easy to see how often your brain doesn’t come up with wonderful shiny ideas.

You’ll see what it means to have to sit down and crank out words when you don’t want to. You’ll learn how to write on a consistent basis rather than when the muse strikes. You’ll figure out if writing is something that you really want to do.

For me, this project was an overall joy. I love to write and love to push myself. It wasn’t always pretty and the last week was by far the hardest. But I came to the page every day and put something there.

You can do the same.

Make a commitment to write 500 words every day for a month and see what happens. Make a commitment to write 100 words a day. Or make it a time challenge. Get up five minutes early and write. Or take fifteen minutes out of your lunch to write.

You’ll be amazed at the results.

Ritual or Habit

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Is writing a ritual or a habit? To which ideology do you subscribe?

Writing as Ritual

Those who believe in ritual worship words. They respect the power of words and the ceremony of writing. The writing ritual has certain and specific steps that must be followed.  There is a specific atmosphere that must be invoked in order for words to flow and prosper. Writing only happens in a special place or at a explicit time. The ritual must be authentic or else the writing will be disingenuous. This writer has far too much devotion to the word to ever let their work falter or become base. The ritual is everything and the ritual is what makes words come to life. That is what makes this writer thrive.

Writing as Habit

Those who believe in habit are practical. Writing is a job. A wonderful awesome job, but a job nonetheless. Writing is work – sit down, roll up your sleeves and get it done. Writing doesn’t happen at a special time or place or with a special pen. It happens when this writer puts words on the page. And this writer is dedicated to words on the page; good, bad or ugly. Writing on a consistent basis is what defines a habit. Words on the page makes this writer fulfilled. And then once the words are on the page, the habit becomes to craft the words, make the words better.

What do you believe? Do you savor the ritual? Are you a roll up your sleeves type? Which ideology is right?

Which ideology is right?

That is what the beginning writer wants to know. What path do I follow to become a writer? I need to know the exact steps that will take me from A to Z. Am I on the right or wrong path? If I’m on the wrong path, I’ll never become a writer.

The right path is the one that gets writing done. If a belief in ritual works for you, it is your path. If you squirm at the thought, don’t subscribe. If you find yourself following a completely different path altogether, don’t look back.

There is no formula, no doctrine, no one way to write.


Finish this sentence starter: I believe writing is…..  What? What do you believe about writing and being a writer? Get it on paper, keep it close by. See if it changes year after year. Define your own path.