Challenge,  On Writing

Don’t Panic Or Give Up…

Just Because the Year is Starting Off Slow…

Sometimes, this time after the first of the year can be rough. Job issues, family, travel, and a ton of other stuff. And even though you wanted to get off to a fast start, you didn’t.

I sure didn’t this year. Annoying for sure. But no big deal.

Let me show you some math on why it isn’t a big deal.

Say your goal for 2024 is to write a half million words.  An average of 1,370 words per day. If you write 1,000 finished words per hour, about 1.3 hours a day or 9 hours a week on your writing. (That’s right, only 9 hours a week will get you a half million words a year.)

So stuff really goes bad the first two weeks before you can get going. Now you have to write 1,425 words a day for the rest of the year.  In other words, an extra 55 words a day average.

At this point this post is 160 words.

Now, you don’t want to let months drop away. That tends to bury you in a hole you can’t recover from, then you have to shift your goal. But a few weeks here and there, at the middle of the year or the first two weeks of the year, will make little difference on your overall goal.

So don’t panic. Make the writing a focus and get to it and then just hit your word count and at the end of the year you will be stunned at how much you ended up doing.


  • Emilia

    Going through some liferolls currently, but decided to do a challenge on my own. Made an excel sheet and my goal is to average a 1000 a day for the year.

    Had a slow day at 700 words. But on other days I’ve got 1100-1500 words. Seeing the word count go up is surprisingly motivating and I’m getting better at ignoring the critical voice and listening to my characters. I’ll probably speed up.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    Terrific advice, Dean.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter is my slow writing time. I tend to concentrate on business during the darker months because my generative brain works better with more daylight.

    But after the final two weeks of 2023, where I barely wrote at all & focused on business and rest, I’m back to writing daily. Even if it’s 350 words some days, it’s still words!

  • Leah cutter

    Thanks Dean. I needed this message this morning. I’ve been sick this past week, unable to write. This month’s word count will be bad. As well February. Much of that is already planned for, though. It’s a nice long walk, not a sprint. Thanks again!

  • Kate Pavelle

    Great advice. If I may share from last year’s experience with the Great Dean Challenge, don’t try to use Dean as your pacing car. You do you. I started out strong in April, but by July I slowed down for understandable reasons.
    It sucked.
    I kept watching my word count falling behind Dean’s with dismay. As happy as I was for him to be able to push ahead, I became equally frustrated with myself for falling behind. I kept writing, but the heat of frustration just about evaporated the fun part. And if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong and it will show up in the story.
    Once I allowed myself to reformulate my goal, I relaxed! Et voila, writing was fun again!

    This is not saying that you should give up on your goals. This is saying, if you have a life roll, write sustainably, not grumpily. When I did a post-mortem of my challenge, I could clearly see that I could have written more, had I been less stupidly stuck on matching Dean. I still wrote 520K between April and the end of the year, so I did meet my revised goal of 500K.
    I failed forward!
    Next time I catch myself failing forward, I will try my best to do so with a smile on my face. “Look! I meant to do that.” So graceful, right?
    Lesson learned.
    (And yes. It was totally worth it 😁)

    • dwsmith

      Thanks Kate. Really great advice. And I am in the middle of learning that with the limitations caused by my arm at the moment. Tough adjustments at times with life rolls, but if you focus on keeping the writing fun, it is doable.


  • Michael W Lucas

    When I only got to write after work or at lunch, my trick for these goals was: prepare for your days off in advance.

    Suppose you work an extra hour every Saturday for January and February. (It’s rainy or snowy out there, you don’t want to go outside anyway.) That’s eight hours, 8k words. When you catch a nasty bug in March, you already have words in the bank to cover them.

    You want a week off in the summer? Pay for it in advance. Leave the goal at 1370, but write 1500 or 1600 a day. Only a few minutes, once you get the words rolling.

    When you have free time, add to the bank. Some days, that 1.3 hours could be 1.4 or 1.5. Even an extra fifty words a day adds up.

    There’s a vast emotional difference between “I’m getting behind” and “I have earned this and can rest with a clear conscience.”

    Now that I’m a full-time writer, of course, it’s the same thing but with larger numbers.

    • Kate Pavelle

      Ooh, I like this! I’ve been known to take my laptop camping and sneaking an hour of writing out of a folding chair while friends were having fun conversations not far away. Banking words for vacations is a definite system upgrade!

  • Katharina Gerlach

    Great advice but not always doable. My life has the tendency to blow up in my face. Like September 2022 when I had to move closer to my in-laws and parents (all 83) to help when they need me to, which is increasing in demand. Add to that an intelligent 6yr old who needs brain fodder when he comes back from school and two disabled YAs who phone at least once a day, and carving out 1.5hrs a day for writing becomes a dream. Currently, I’m aiming for 100 words a day because I can still do that when I’m too tired to think straight. Of course, I also get days with many more words, but I also get times when writing just isn’t happening due to family demands (actually it’s more please than demands but you know what I mean). The important part to remember when you’re living in unstable times (like mine currently are) is that you can always pick yourself up and start again, maybe (or most likely) after adjusting your goals to the new situation.

    • Michael W Lucas

      We all have times like this. There’s no point in saying “I met my wordcount goals, but all my family is dead!” Life happens, you gotta be realistic. When my appendix went gangrenous, my word count went to zero for two months.

      And know that when things ease up, you only need to write 1400 words a day to break Dean’s goal.

      There’s the old saying “When we make plans, God laughs.” The second half is, “When we don’t make plans, God cries.” 100 words a day, or ten words, beats zero.

    • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

      **HUGS** Katharina…

      Life is like that. Kudos to you for getting SOME writing done. I spent years and years doing little more than opening files and looking over what I’d already written… at months-long intervals.

      I can’t really *complain* given that (other than some health issues in the summer) what is sucking my time is all “good” things… but it does take time. I was experimenting with selling books in-person – which was more successful than online has been so far – but left me flat for 2 days to recuperate each time.

      And I lost most of the REST of the time between Thanksgiving and New Years for homeschooling-related stuff. Kids coming back and forth from college, a model government team’s conference (I ended up as the coach more or less by accident), and then 4,000 miles of driving coupled with family-time in 3 different cities all over the SW.

      Your writing days will come back… and your writing will be deeper and richer after all the things you’ve experienced.
      Hold the faith!