Day 8: The 30-Day Book Launch Challenge

Posted on Posted in Starting a New Story

Timed Writing and WordCount Tracking

This week is all about story development and getting new words onto the page.

W/c Monday 27th November. What has to be done by the end of this week?


1 Work on a pro-forma template 4-Act structure for a cozy mystery story.
2 Develop the list of 5 suspects and their motives, means and opportunities.
3 Select one suspect who is going to be the main antagonist and an equal match for my heroine sleuth. Build up their backstory. Why now?
4 Recreate how the first murder was committed and then create the clues that will lead the sleuth to the killer. Add in possible fake clues and distractions from other suspects.


Start filling in the outline text with expanded scenes and dialogue. Use timed writing sessions.


Track the wordcount for each scene sequence every day.


How to Use Timed Writing Sessions

I am a great fan of the Pomodoro technique that was developed in Italy by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s  and use a simplified version to help break through my chronic procrastination.

This simple six-step technique has transformed my writing process.

Step #1: Centering

Get comfortable with your back straight and both feet solid on the floor. One by one, cast off all the negative thoughts, brain chatter, self-doubts and anything else that “the lizard brain’ is chattering into your ear whenever you even think about starting something exciting and exhilarating. If it helps, visualise your favourite calm,safe and quiet special place.

Step #2: Clarity

Take a maximum of five minutes before any writing session to write down on paper what you plan to accomplish and why.  Example. I want to work out how the art thieves could steal the Picasso and get away with it.

Step #3: Set a Kitchen or other Timer for 20 Minutes

The goal is to dive into 20 mins of focused work where your total attention and focus is on the work.  Nothing else.

Why 20 Minutes? You can set any time you want.  My attention span is so short I know that 20 minutes works.

AND HERE IS THE KEY. Be ready to write very rough pages.  No editing or spell checking or reading through and putting things right – just head down continuous writing in one complete session.

I know this is hard for perfectionists but it has to be done.

If you have a problem or need some research, leave a marker or jot it down and come back to it when your session is finished. You can find the information you need on the internet later. Don’t interrupt the writing flow to go and look it up.

Just full on enjoyment and delight with words. And write as fast as you can. You should feel the words are flowing out of your fingertips onto the page/keyboard. Many writers use pencil or pen and paper since they somehow feel less inhibited than typing into a computer system.

Step #4: Stop Writing and Give your Creative Mind Space

When the timer or buzzer sounds, quickly finish what you were doing then save the file or close your writing pad and get up and walk around.  Take 5 mins to stretch and let your brain play and freewheel on what you have just been doing. Let your mind work out what to do next all on its own.


You have to protect your writing and make your creativity welcome.

Step #5: Go back to the Second Timed Writing Session

Go back to your workspace/sofa/bedroom and take a few minutes to reconnect with the work, reading through and thinking – but not editing or revising, just thinking.

Then dive in again for another 20 minutes of complete focused work giving it your full attention. When the timer beeps, finish what you are doing. Then stop.

Step #6:  Wrap Up and Make Notes for the Next Session

For the last 5 minutes save the file and back it up, or put your writing pad or journal in a safe place.  If you want to, make a note of the computer word count or number of pages.

It has been my experience that combining two 20 minute timed writing sessions, in a one hour sequence, has the greatest impact on both productivity and a sense of momentum. It is long enough for you to create high quality, in depth work, but short enough to fit into a busy schedule.

If you want to know more about this technique, I talked about it in my book Become a Fearless Writer.


Tracking the wordcount every day.

My target for the first draft is 40,000 words

Why 40,000? Because I know that when I edit I will be adding in a lot more layers of text which will increase the net wordcount, and my target for this book is 45,000 to 50,000 words. Sometimes I have to add complete new scenes because the original story idea is bound to have changed by the time I get to the end of the book.

40,000 words = 4 Acts of about 10,000 words each. This is to keep me on track so that I don’t go mad and write 30,000 words with the first half of the book and end up with a rushed ending, or the other way round. Pacing is so important for the reader.

Each Act = 4 scenes. So each scene = an average of 2,500 words, which is the length of a decent chapter. If won’t be exactly that. Some scenes may be 1500 words, others 3000 words. So this is an average. But it is a guide.

I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my wordcount for each scene/chapter/Act. This is completely adaptable if I want to change the number of scenes etc.  In book one of this series I had 18 chapters.

With these two tools in place, I am ready to start building on my rough outline and write the scenes.

Back to work!


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