Many fiction writing experts advise writers to set a daily writing goal, usually 1,000 words per day. There are several benefits for writers who commit to achieve this goal. It keeps writers on task. It allows writers to get momentum going to move their work-in-progress forward. It fosters discipline and good work habits. It also allows writers to finish the first draft of a book in less than six months, which is vital if you want to be a prolific writer.
Stephen King, in his excellent book, On Writing, describes his daily writing routine. King devotes his mornings to writing. His goal is to produce 2,000 words a day. At times, he will keep writing into the afternoon. King’s process allows him to produce a 180,000-word first draft of a novel in three months. He must be doing something right because he’s generated a string of best-selling novels.
Though the merits of setting a daily word count (whether it’s 1,000 words or 2,000 words) are clear, it’s not for everybody. Author and blogger Nathan Bransford uses a different process. Bransford writes on the weekends and he devotes a larger block of time, as much as six to eight hours. Here he describes his writing process.
My routine is closer to Bransford’s than to King’s process. I strive to write three or four days a week, but I don’t set a word count for each session. I write until I finish whatever chapter or section I’m working on (or until I can’t keep my eyes open).
The key factor for me is receptivity. My body and my mind must be receptive to the creative process for me to be productive. When I am physically tired or mentally wiped out and I try to write, I am likely to produce drivel. Then, the next time I sit down to write, I will end up spending an hour or more editing what I wrote the previous time.
Another way to approach a word count is to decide when you want to complete your novel. My goal is to produce a novel each year. Ideally, I’d like to complete a first draft in six to eight months, set it aside for a month, and then use two to four weeks for line edits and substantive edits. Then I am ready to show it to other critics.
If there’s one lesson from this discussion, it’s this: everyone’s different. What works for one person may not work for another. As much as experts preach writing daily, you have to find a schedule with which you are comfortable. Many of us have full-time jobs, families, and outside responsibilities. It’s a balancing act. For a lot of part-time writers, it boils down to this, “I write when I can.”
What really counts is this: set a realistic time frame for when you will complete each novel or short story and do your best to stick to it.
How do you go about the writing process? Do you use a daily word count? Do you have a specific time and place where you write?