Goal: 500 Solid Words Per Day

The recently concluded National Novel Writing Month competition got me thinking about the daily writing habit. To win NaNo, a writer must write 1,667 words per day—every day, for 30 days. That’s a nearly unachievable pace for any writer to maintain for long. If it wasn’t for a few 5,000-word days in late November, I never could have reached 50,000 words.

So my question is this: what is a realistic daily word count for a writer? For me, the answer lies somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words, but I’m convinced it’s 500. Why 500 words? It’s achievable. During our regional NaNo writing sessions, we would take part in “word wars.” Our leader would set a timer for 15 minutes and we would write. I was consistently around 450 words. These were not Pulitzer Prize-winning words, but they were good enough to advance my story. And let’s face it: everybody has 15 minutes to a half-hour of down time each day. Take your laptop or tablet with you in your car. When you sit down at a coffee shop with your latte, do some writing. Write on your lunch break, or before or after dinner. Write first thing in the morning or last thing before going to bed.

Writing 500 words per day six days a week (one day of rest will help to fill the creative tank) will produce 3,000 words a week, or, 12,000 words a month. In eight months, a writer will have an 84,000-word first draft. Of course, 500 is an arbitrary number. If a writer is in a creative groove, there’s nothing stopping her if she wants to keep going and achieve one of those glorious 5,000-word days.

When it comes to word count here are some considerations:

  • Determine first what you are capable of achieving and how much time you have in a given day. Do you find yourself losing steam after 500 words? One thousand words? Does your writing time consist of sneaking 15 minutes here or there between household chores or work?
  • Set a goal that is achievable. For me, 500 words is do-able.
  • Decide whether you need a daily word count or are you the type of “binge writer” who can crank out 5,000 to 7,000 words in a productive weekend.
  • Test your limits. If 1,000 sounds like a mountain you can’t scale, try for 300. When that becomes too easy, go for a higher number.

There’s no doubt writers benefit from putting words on the page every day. It’s a tough habit to get into and an easy one to lose. Distractions abound, from social media to the natural tendency to procrastinate. If NaNo proves one thing, it’s that the daily word count is a good habit.

What is your daily word count? How did you determine your word count?

 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Goal: 500 Solid Words Per Day

  1. I’ve had similar experiences, and truthfully, 500-1,000 will probably work for me, straight writing. Editing, not sure about, I tend to go for finished scenes, there.

  2. I’m not sure I like the idea of setting a specific word goal per day. Maybe per week– or something to shoot for. Some days the muse is sitting on my shoulder, other days she is MIA. I know that’s anti-writing advice, but maybe it suits me a bit more. I’m also not on a goal or trying to write a specific number of novels a year. Maybe someday I will be!

  3. Julie,
    I know what you mean, I am more of a “binge writer” at heart. I have to be receptive to the creative process and, as you point out, that receptivity doesn’t necessarily happen on a daily basis. However, over time I have come to see the value in writing daily. A have an acquaintance who is a published author and I ran into him last summer at an evening cocktail party. It was a gorgeous summer day and he was up at six in the morning writing that day (while I was sleeping). I couldn’t help but think that’s why he is published and I am not. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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