The 1,000 Words Rule

An excerpt from my book, Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog. It’s my 1,000 Word Rule and it is what drives me as a writer even though I have plenty of other responsibilities.

You must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day.

Every new endeavor requires a period of ascetic dedication. This is yours. Some writers make this their ceiling, but many make it their floor. Either way, you must produce on a daily basis. How do you do this? You can crank out, perhaps, three posts of a few hundred words each in the morning and three in the evening. Or you can write one big post. Either way, do the word count. Why is this important? Because if you have a goal, you can meet it. After his heart attack, blogging great Om Malik set this number for himself to ensure he produced quality content in a timely manner and did not kill himself in the process. Sadly, Om’s heart attack was brought on by the blogging lifestyle, as well as too much booze, cigars, family history, and bad luck. It took a massive change in his everyday life to reorient him toward a saner blogging schedule, and he found this 1,000-word limit invaluable.

This word count is not impossible. It’s about two pages of standard paper a day. At first, do not surpass this word count. This is an endurance race, not a sprint. The recom- mended dosage of 1,000 words a day is doable by the average writer, is a concrete number for you to strive toward, and is about as much as your audience can read in a day. Do not do less, either. This is a regimen. You need to get used to producing this much content quickly and without complaint. If you use one of our favorite speech recognition tools we told you about in the previous chapter, you’ll be pounding out words without pounding on the keyboard. In fact, you’ll find that by speaking your posts you often write more than you originally intended.

This also brings up an important point: Writing for blogs is conversational. Some of the best bloggers write like they’re telling a story. For example, Eben Oliver Weiss, author of BikeSnobNYC, dodoes two pertinent things when he creates a blog post: He first offers a bit of information about an important aspect of biking lore or current bike news, and then blends that news into a tightly spun yarn connecting the news to his unstated mission: to poke holes in the smug superiority of biking experts. It’s a noble goal, and he’s been rewarded with a book deal and great popularity.

The hardest part of this 1,000-word regimen is accepting that your audience may not appear magically out of thin air as you write. Luring readers to your writer’s online lair will be addressed later in the book, but rest assured the 1,000-word regimen will give vibrancy and life to your blog. A blog that has not been updated for days is a sick blog. A blog that has not been updated for a month is a dead blog. If you do not produce 1,000 words a day, no matter what, you’re risking running out of momentum far too early.

Some bloggers do considerably less than 1,000 words a day and some do more. For example, John Gruber at DaringFireball posts small “nugget” posts and then creates long, well-written essays on technology every week or so. Like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks, Gruber’s long posts are a reward to his readers and a joy to read. Why not do the same? Post lots of nuggets—100 words each—and one or two huge posts every few days. Or you can publish one large post every day. Either way, you’re going to gain an audience if you give them something they want. Just remember our motto: ABP—Always Be Posting.

Now for the bad news: You will burn out. When this happens, take a break. Always take weekends off (or a couple of days side-by-side during the week if you’re writing weekend-centric stuff). But take time for yourself.

To recap, keep writing. Write 1,000 words a day. Do this every weekday and leave the blog alone on weekends. Or, if there is no one in your niche writing on the weekends, that might be an opportunity for you. Either way, give yourself a regular weekly break.

When John started working at Gizmodo he had to write twenty-eight posts a day. If that sounds like Grandpa complaining he had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school, so be it. But it was awful. He wrote ten posts in the morning, hit a few more by 3 p.m., and then wrote from 6 p.m. until midnight. This kind of regimen—as far from the 1,000 piffle we’re proposing—was damaging and insane. Try it at your peril.

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