The Writer’s Life: Two Pages Plus

Soon I’ll reach the six and a half year mark on a challenge I’ve been doing: the 2+ pages challenge. I got this from Julie Hyzy, who inspired me to give it a try.

Simple idea, really. Write two manuscript pages a day. More if you want, but at least two.

Every day.

Rain or shine, sick or well, disaster or no.

I wrote on the Katrina days. It helped me remember the world beyond the horrible sadness of that time.

Two manuscript pages equals about 500 words. Some writers have asked me how I manage to write so much every day. Others I know would laugh at how little that is.

What matters is the “every day” part. I learned about this idea long ago. Roger Zelazny used to require himself to sit down three times a day and write three or four sentences. The idea was that at least one of those times, he’d get caught up in the writing and do more. Regardless, even nine sentences a day adds up surprisingly quickly, and what’s perhaps more important, it keeps the writing fresh in your mind.

Some writers work in spurts, producing many pages in a short amount of time (like a novel in a month, or in a week), and then take long breaks, maybe a month or two or more. Me, I have trouble getting started again after that long away. If I need a break from one project, I find it’s better to write on a different project for a while than to stop writing altogether.

So I write two pages on weekends, on my birthday, my anniversary, and when I’m on vacation. On regular work days I try to write more.

Two pages a day = 730 pages a year = 182,500 words which is about two novels or one really big one. Again, some writers can’t fathom writing that much in a year. Others write a lot more than that in a year.

The point is, find a process that works for you and stick to it. Two pages plus has worked pretty well for me for over six years.

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The Writer’s Life: Two Pages Plus — 7 Comments

  1. The other rule, if you use this kind of process, is the ratchet. If you happen to have written ten pages today, you do not get to take 5 days off. Tomorrow you still have to write two pages.

  2. I only aim for 250 words because that’s the point at which I found myself getting warm to my work. And I have to make it up if I fail but I don’t get future credit for what I did today.

    Has anyone found a good quota for revision? Neither pages revised nor word count (plus or minus) really is a good measure.

  3. A lot of my revising gets done by re-reading from the beginning of a scene before beginning the new day’s work. I look for repeated words, wrong word choices, clunky sounding things — Since my average scene is seven pages, this gives me several shots at a scene before moving on in the story. I generally have up to 90% of the novel done by the time I write the last page.

    This used to be my system. We’ll see this month if it still works!

  4. Mary –

    Revisions are a different animal for me. The most successful tactic seems to be to schedule the time for it – I will spend two hours on Thursday afternoon – rather than try to do it by pages or some other quota.

  5. Kathi –

    Yeah, I also reread and touch up the previous couple of pages before writing new. It’s a way of getting back into the work.