Excerpted from William Garner’s How To Write Your First Book: A Simple & Practical Method For Anyone Who Can Tell A Story.
Each time you sit down and write something, there’s a finite number of words that will spill onto the paper during a session. It’s not always the same amount, because you may be more inspired one day than on other days.
The fact that this fluid number exists is proof that there is some invisible barrier between your conscious and subconscious selves that prevents further continuous flow of words onto paper.
The maximum number of words your conscious self, the typist, can put to paper at any one time is called your Warehouse of Words, or WOW. And even though this is a fluid number that can fluctuate day to day or week to week, it can be nurtured and, with practice, greatly improved.
The first exercise you should do to test the volume of your WOW is to sit down in your comfortable office, in your optimum atmosphere, and pick a subject. Any subject will do, but it should be something that interests you. Set a timer nearby and start writing. Write for as long as you can without stopping. When done, count the number of words you wrote. That will be your WOW. For that subject, at least. If you already are working on your story, this is better because it will give you a good idea about the maximum number of words you will write in a day. As you progress through your project, your WOW may very well increase, and if you make a diligent effort to tap into your Inner CHILD, your WOW will increase significantly.
I used to write short pieces like articles for journals and magazines, and my WOW was about 3,000 words a day. When I got into writing novels and nonfiction, my WOW expanded with practice, and I wrote up to 10,000 words in a day. But then I felt drained after spending all that time on a single subject each day, so I defined an end point each day—I stopped cold turkey and went on to something else, even if it were taking a long drive along the coast or having dinner out with friends.
After years of writing, I trained myself to write no more than six hours each day on any one subject or project, sometimes breaking this rule when I felt especially inspired or had some self-imposed deadline. Normally, this came toward the end of a book when things flowed so well that I couldn’t stop. Didn’t want to stop. It was like having a grand adventure, riding in a futuristic aircraft that took me through the story, and I didn’t want to get off or stop it in any way. I was dying to see as many sites and experience as much as I could in that short period. It can be addictive after you do it a lot, so be careful not to overdose or get burned out. Remember, too much of one thing, even a really good thing, can be hazardous to your health and detrimental to your writing. Let’s hope you don’t experience this unusual phenomenon of overindulgence.
So, as I said before, my general rule is not to write for more than six hours a day, allowing me time to do other supplementary exercises and actions that feed my subconscious, that nourish my Inner CHILD with great food and drink. It’s very important to have a wide variety of things to do each day and week, so you don’t get bored or tired doing just one thing all the time. By taking necessary breaks and vacations, you expand your subconscious in unaccountable ways. While I’ve studied the subconscious in me for many years, I have not detailed all the inner machinations of it. Some, but not all. I just know how it works well for me and I know how to nurture it to my advantage, and not just in writing stories.
The more you get in touch with your subconscious, the larger your WOW becomes. And the more you write, the more you will be able to write at any one time. And with more time and practice, you will get in better touch with your subconscious and further expand your WOW. It’s a strong, positive feedback cycle that reinforces itself.
Just knowing this should blow your mind and serve as incentive to carry on with your work. I’m excited just explaining it to you!