As a parent with a full-time job, I usually have a limited amount of time to write each day. What are some tricks I can try to reach a specific word count in a specific time (e.g. 500 words in an hour).

I know I've seen some things like this posted on NaNoWriMo forums, but it seems like those folks tend to offer ideas that increase word count at the expense of quality, like writing out your character's grocery list or having characters mishear one another, requiring them to repeat themselves.


While I don't think those NanoWriMo tricks are good -- just trying to increase word counts -- I think there is something you can take away from NaNoWriMo: just write. Don't stop to edit yourself. Sit down with a kitchen timer, or the timer on your iPhone and set it for say, 20 minutes. Start writing and don't stop until that timer dings. Will this first draft be Pulitzer Prize material? Probably not. But good writing comes from rewriting anyway. Getting that first draft down is half of that battle.

  • A slight alternative is to set a daily goal for word count. Whether you are using time or word count as your daily goal, just focus on keeping up with that. If you get to where you can easily maintain that goal, then try bumping it up slightly the following week. – Steven Drennon Jul 25 '11 at 0:52

Your best bet is going to be to try and improve your typing speed. The fast you can type, the more you can write in a short amount of time. Also, you can try carrying a small notebook and pen with you during the day. Then you can write a bit during small bouts of free time - waiting in line at the grocery store, stuck in traffic, etc. Another way to get more "written" might be to carry a voice recorder or a voice recording app on a smart phone and dictate writing when your hands are busy and transcribe the recordings in your free time.

  • Even better, there are iPhone apps that will both record and transcribe your notes for you. Just think: you could write a book during your daily commute, without ever touching a keyboard! ;-) – Dori Jan 18 '11 at 10:44
  • @Dori - Do you know of a particular app that does the transcription well? In most cases, I've found that computer language recognition is iffy at best. – sjohnston Jan 18 '11 at 15:30
  • @sjohnston - I was thinking of Dragon Dictation (free) when I wrote that. Yes, it has a time limit on each recording, but I expect that a paid version will be coming along without that limit. It's from the same company that sells Dragon NaturallySpeaking, so they know their stuff when it comes to speech rec. – Dori Jan 19 '11 at 0:17

Have you tried tracking your progress? Setting up a spreadsheet that graphs how many words you do each day, shows you averages, etc.? It's an awesome way to motivate yourself, as you see those numbers and totals going up.


One of the things I had to do was to start scheduling time to write. It sounds a bit extreme, but it really started to work for me. My problem was figuring when I could realistically make time to write. I ended up getting up an hour earlier each day and using that time. If I wasn't able to do that, then I would try to add an hour at night after everyone else went to bed. Make a date with yourself, and eventually you'll find that you don't want to miss those dates!


One of the tools that I have used for NaNoWriMo is Write or Die. Read about it here. It motivates you to keep writing at a steady pace by turning red, playing an obnoxious noise, or even starting to delete your words if you stop writing for a certain amount of time.

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    Starting to delete sounds to much like punishment. It takes the fun out of it if the tool starts to sabotage me. – Jürgen A. Erhard Jan 18 '11 at 20:52
  • @jae - It's only an option. You can choose to make it severe or very easygoing. – sjohnston Jan 18 '11 at 21:02
  • Yeah, I found that out when I checked the site; have to try it out, although I have no idea how. Maybe blocked by NoScript... – Jürgen A. Erhard Jan 18 '11 at 21:49
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    @jae - The layout of the site is a little busy. You can try the online version by going to the "Write or Die Online" sidebar on the right side of the page, entering in a wordcount or time goal, selecting the Consequence and Grace Period, and clicking "Write -->". The page loads for me in Firefox with NoScript, but I did have to enable javascript for writeordie.com. – sjohnston Jan 18 '11 at 22:17
  • My main problem was that you linked to the "about" page... took me a bit til I noticed that. ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard Jan 18 '11 at 22:20

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