This question appeared in my inbox from Adam Nicholls after I reported on Facebook that I’d managed 4,000 words of The Mountains Novel in one day. Adam DMd me, in not a little anguish: How many words do you write per day? And do you have to force yourself to do it? I love writing, but it’s work. There are two significant points in this question:
- output; books growing steadily at a satisfactory rate
How many words per day? I asked this question of a group I’m a member of, The League of Extraordinary Authors (which now blogs under the name Boxing The Octopus… times change!).
Romance author Melissa Foster says she has no difficulty getting 7,000 to 10,000 words written in a day and that she adores the blank page. No issues with output there. (But there’s more to writing a good novel than stacking up the wordcount, as she points out in the comments below.)
Romance author Colleen Thompson says ‘When on a publisher’s deadline, I write 1,000-2,000 words a day 6-7 days a week. Otherwise, I try to produce 20-25 new pages per week. Right now, I’m editing, so all bets are off!’
And contemporary fiction author Linda Gillard says ‘I don’t have a regular wordcount but I doubt if I do more than 2,000 new words a day. I think of it as a chapter a week. It’s more important to me that I should work every day on the book – research or editing. For every day spent drafting, I spend 3-4 days re-writing/editing. Drafting I find quick, editing slow. Once a book is under way, I expect to work most days.’
Ultra noir detective author Eric Coyote says he ignores wordcounts – ‘because so much of my writing is re-writing. I clock time: 2-6 hours a day. Usually I work a couple of hours in the middle of the day, then a blast at night until 2 or 3am.’
Graham Greene, who was hardly a publishing slouch, would set himself a modest target – 500 words a day he was satisfied with, and he stopped even if he was in the middle of a sentence so he could pick up the following day.
Stephen King talks in this interview for The Paris Review about how he aims for 1,000 words a day.
And since you asked (or Adam did), I track wordcounts if I have a deadline, as when I’m ghostwriting. The plot is agreed beforehand and by the time I write it’s simply a matter of enacting what’s in the outline. I’d usually get 2,500 words done in a day, 5 days a week.
My own fiction is trickier because there’s much more discovery and exploration, even though I plan, so wordcounts grow erratically. They might shrink, too, as I realise I can’t leave the passage I wrote the day before.
The day of 4,000 words isn’t a consistent norm although I didn’t stop there. By the time I closed the file that day I’d added another 2,000. Only time will tell how much of that I’ll keep as I’m sure I was cross-eyed by the end. Indeed, like Eric, I find it more useful to record the hours spent. With novels like mine, part of the work is understanding how to handle the idea. So a session on the book may produce no new footage in the manuscript, but several hours writing notes or reading.
Get on with it
Of course, we could research and tinker endlessly. It’s easy to slip into procrastination instead of getting the writing done. There are two main reasons why we might dither for ever:
- we can’t immerse
- we’re worried about getting it wrong – the inner critic
Where do you write? Stephen King in The Paris Review says he creates a ‘refuge’ where he can shut away. He also remarks that being close to a window is fatal because it’s easier to look outside instead of inwards to the imagination.
I posted last week about getting into the zone, using music. Writing tutor and suspense author James Scott Bell explains in this post how he subscribes to the oft-repeated philosophy of writing when he feels inspired, and making sure this happens at the same time every morning. Yes, be brutal with your muse.
Don’t lose contact with the book
A surprising number of writers feel a stab of stage fright before they sit down with their novel. I do myself, but only if I’ve had to leave the manuscript for more than a few days. The more I keep my contact with the book warm, the more I feel comfortable to venture back inside it. It helps that I’m drawing on the experience that the other novels worked in the end. What if you don’t yet have that or for some reason that isn’t enough?
Warm up the writing engine
Some writers favour freewriting exercises. Freewriting is basically splurging onto the page or screen, regardless of grammar, spelling, quality or any other critical issue. The point is to remove inhibitions and let the ideas flow, to connect with your creativity. Famous exponents include Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones, Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, and another of my cohorts in The League of Extraordinary Authors, Orna Ross.
Get out more
In my conversation with the League of Extraordinary Authors, Linda Gillard had this terrific advice. ‘I find the best way to stimulate the flow of ideas and the desire to write is to put myself in a situation where it’s impossible, eg Christmas.’ Indeed, this is one of the tactics I recommend in Nail Your Novel – if you’re stuck, go and do something messy that will make holding a pen impossible. Make meatballs or go to the gym. Inspiration is no respecter of convenience.
Do you have wordcount goals? Do you find writing a struggle? What would you tell Adam? Share in the comments!
#1 by winterbayne on March 30, 2014 - 7:23 pm
I switch between word count goals and time spent writing. I’m doing Nano in April so I’ll have word count goals to meet a deadline.
I find the very beginning very, very difficult. Once I get rolling and accept the draft will not be anywhere near perfect, I do fine.
#2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 7:42 pm
Great point about the beginning. In fact, that’s probably the one part that is going to challenge our inner perfectionist more than anything because it needs to be written with full knowledge of the end!
Is there a Nano in April? I didn’t know that! Or is it a mini-Nano (to extend a metaphor….)
#3 by winterbayne on March 30, 2014 - 8:24 pm
Camp is set your own goals. Same as Nano in Nov though. Usually fewer participants but still plenty. Still time to join! I’m carolinagrace, shoot me a note of you camp with us!
#4 by johnaalogan on March 30, 2014 - 7:35 pm
For the first 17 years, I wrote 2000-3000 words a day. I think that was my “volume” phase, and was probably crucially necessary to get a “flow” going. For the last 8 years, though, I found a “flow-limiting”, “tourniquet-application” technique, was better for me – so 500 words a day as a rule. This allows a night’s sleep between each 500 word “island”, an opportunity for the subconscious to thoroughly process the parts and the whole before moving forward to the next “island”. The subconscious is much better than “me” at seeing the structure and upcoming narrative possibilities and junctions- I’d prefer it had the opportunity to “inform” “me” of these deeper insights at 500 word intervals, rather than longer ones. I believe this can enhance quality of perspective. So, no, I don’t have to force myself to do it – for me, it’s been more about learning to STOP while I might still feel like going on – stop today, while there is still water left in the deep part of the well which I can come back and use tomorrow, to paraphrase Hemingway.
#5 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 7:45 pm
Hi John! What a lovely way to think of it, with word islands. What you say about the subconscious is important too. Although I don’t do formal editing when I’m drafting, I often find that the work I did the day before has transformed in my mind overnight and I need to revisit it to add or illuminate.
I’m bad at pulling myself away until I’ve done what I need to, though.
#6 by symplysilent on March 30, 2014 - 7:36 pm
4,000 words in a day means War and Peace in how many days? Then, of course, comes the editing. I’ve heard that writers should budget less than one quarter of their time to the first draft, and the rest of their time to revising, editing and proofing?
#7 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 7:48 pm
War and Peace LOL! You’re right about drafting versus rewriting. It’s not unusual for me to go through a manuscript 40-50 times when editing. And then, once the text is as I want it, the production phase of copy-editing and proofing is another few passes. Rookie writers who’ve never been through this don’t realise how many times we might go through a book before it’s released.
#8 by DRMarvello on March 30, 2014 - 7:41 pm
What I’d tell Adam is to experiment until you find a place and time where you are most productive. My best time is the morning and my office is a great quiet haven where I can concentrate. That said, I think it’s more important to find any time when you *will* write reliably than it is to find the perfect time when you *might* write at peak performance.
I typically write 500 words per hour. My word count goal is 10,000 words a week, although anything over 5,000 is satisfying. My output is variable, depending upon how much I allow the Internet to distract me from Butt-in-chair time. Writing normally isn’t a struggle for me, although uncertainty and doubt put me into a second-guessing loop once in a while.
#9 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 7:53 pm
Hey, Daniel! Great points. Experimenting is the only way really, and understanding what stops you writing.
I’m glad you mentioned the dreaded internet. When my draft is going well, I don’t feel like straying into the ether at all. When it’s dragging, then I’m distractable and the internet is fatal.
#10 by Melissa Foster on March 30, 2014 - 7:44 pm
Roz, you asked how many words we write, but I’d like to add that I think novels are more complex than word counts. A person can write 10K/day of crap or 10K/day of solid, meaningful words, the same with 1K or 4K, etc. I think the most important thing when writing is to feel the story when you sit down to write. Recently I wrote a full 300 pages – a full novel, and the more I got to know my character, the more I realized that he wasn’t the person I thought he was. I tossed that manuscript and wrote a killer one next. I felt the story, but it was the wrong story–in other words, it’s not how fast we can write, it’s the quality of the final product, and whether that take a year, two years, or six months makes no difference.
For me, the numbers are less important than finding the “right” words. I don’t recommend that anyone rush to the finish line, and certainly hire competent developmental and copy editors, and proofreaders (plural).
#11 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 8:08 pm
Excellent point, Melissa! Some of the wordcount we achieve is probably exercising the idea – as you say, feeling the story. That’s how I define a first draft, actually – it’s the first time I test what it’s like to be the characters living in the story, minute by minute. I think it’s very telling that you chucked away so much because it wasn’t working right. There’s a lot more to writing a good novel than spilling a pile of words.
#12 by KarlaAkins on March 30, 2014 - 7:48 pm
Great ideas and tips. I usually go by hours as well, but need to be more firm regarding daily word counts. I haven’t found my sweet productive space yet. Seems I can write in the middle of a hurricane (I have twin adult sons with autism living with me, a husband with ADD, a son and his fiance planning a wedding living here and three dogs). Maybe I don’t need a specific area to write because I’ve had to learn to be inside my head no matter the situation. But the idea of a little hidey-hole somewhere sounds delicious. I think I’m going to explore that.
#13 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 7:55 pm
Hi Karla – you must have phenomenal concentration skills, with such a tornado family! I saw a house the other day where the owner had made a hidey-hole in the cupboard under the stairs – and that was where she kept her computer. I didn’t find out what she did in there, but it looked very secluded and inviting. Perhaps she was expecting Mr King?
Good luck finding your hidey-hole.
#14 by mgm75 on March 30, 2014 - 7:49 pm
As a professional writer, I write in a day as much as I need to or before my brain starts to protest and shut down! On average, my paid work amounts to around 2000 words per day.
I set aside one day a week for fiction writing (usually Sunday) and it isn’t uncommon for me to write up to 4000 words but on average 2000-2500. If I write fiction in the evening after writing all day then I would consider 1000-1500 words quite an achievement 🙂
#15 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 30, 2014 - 8:03 pm
Thanks for sharing your wordcounts mgm – it’s most interesting to see how they vary and why. I think we naturally reach a stage where we can’t tip any more out of our brains in a day. As John says above, we need to refill the well.
#16 by Carla Monticelli (@ladyanakina) on March 30, 2014 - 8:13 pm
I feel comfortable with about 2,000 words per day, but if I have more time to write I can get to 4,000-6,000. Anyway I don’t like to write too fast during the first draft, I prefer to take more time to think.
#17 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 8:10 am
4,000+ is a great rate, Carla!
#18 by Melanie Marttila on March 30, 2014 - 9:04 pm
I’m a writer with a day job, so it can be a challenge to rack up the words.
Though I’ve been published as a poet, won prizes for my short fiction, and even made a professional sale in my mid-twenties, there was a time when I wasn’t able to write every day. I call it my period of writing agnosticism: I couldn’t get my butt to believe in the existence of the chair enough to sit down and write consistently (!).
All that changed with a workshop with Governor General Award-winning author Nino Ricci. One of my issues was a devastating series of “guardian” experiences (in hero’s journey terms) that had trained my inner editor into a fearsome beast. Nino shared his own guardian experience and a few tips about “writing through” as he put it. From that time forward, I’ve been writing (almost) every day. It’s such a positive habit now that I really miss it when I can’t write.
I started with a very reasonable goal: write something every day. If that something was just a few lines, so be it. If I wrote, I was happy.
Then I got to the point where I was consistently writing a page a day. Then two. Week nights these days, that’s where I sit on new material, about 2 pages or 500-600 words.
Last year, I had some leave time in November, and I set myself the challenge of NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, the challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I only had to November 19th off, so I knew I’d have to “front-load” the word count burden. Since I wasn’t working, writing 3,000 or more words a day wasn’t too challenging. It gave me a taste of what it might be like if I ever get to the point where I can kick the day job to the curb.
Then I returned to work, and there were days where (and I knew it would happen) I couldn’t manage much more than my traditional 500 words. Still, I “won,” and validated my draft at about 52,000 words.
It was a liberating and validating experience. I know now that I can write to a deadline, and while there is revision and editing to do, it’s not as much as I thought. I’m kind of addicted to word count now 😉
In January, I discovered women’s fiction author, Jamie Raintree’s spreadsheet (Excel) and I’ve been using it religiously this year.
So for Adam, I would say, don’t lose heart. Start by writing something every day. Momentum will build. Trust me.
#19 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 8:13 am
Hi Melanie! Thanks for such a detailed answer, and for sharing your struggle. You’ve done a great job of turning a crisis of confidence into a triumph and a sustainable and rewarding habit. Rock on!
#20 by Jessie Costin on March 30, 2014 - 10:37 pm
I tend to go through periods of gluttonous writing, where I just write as much as I possibly can squeeze into a day. I can write about 1500 words and hour when I’m in this frame of mind.
And then I might go days – sometimes weeks – where I write barely anything on the project. But in the back of my mind the story is always percolating. And then suddenly I’ll have a whole lot of story itching to come out and I’ll go back to it.
In the writing slow down phases I may or may not work on other projects, or just write down notes on other ideas. Or read. Or none of those.
Not the most disciplined approach but it’s what works for me at the moment.
And I’m more disciplined when it comes to revising and editing. Because I have to be. That’s not always such gleeful fun! 🙂
#21 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 8:23 am
Hi Jessie! 1500 an hour is a good rate!
It’s funny that you say you aren’t so gleeful about the editing. I far prefer editing to first-drafting. Although it’s often more difficult, I like the process of changing and adapting with a purpose in mind. And I feel I’ve made something that’s more like the finished book!
#22 by Jessie Costin on March 31, 2014 - 8:51 am
I like the result of the editing process, but I think I get impatient in actually going through it. 🙂
It feels like doing the dishes to me. I liked the eating and I like the clean dishes afterwards, but I don’t like actually having to wash them in between.
Maybe I’m just lazy 😉
#23 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 7:09 pm
‘Like doing the dishes…’ Well, when you put it like that, I can quite see what you mean 🙂
#24 by acflory on March 30, 2014 - 11:54 pm
Immersion is my particular bugbear. I can edit in fits and starts quite happily, but I can’t draft that way. Due to financial concerns, and being distracted by the highly logical demands of training, immersion has been next to impossible lately. I just hope I’ll get back into the daily habit once life returns to some kind of routine again.
#25 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 8:25 am
Hi Andrea! Ouch, such times are not easy. I hope your situation settles soon – and thanks for commenting!
#26 by acflory on March 31, 2014 - 12:55 pm
I should be thanking you. After writing that comment I actually sat down and managed two solid hours. 🙂
#27 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 7:10 pm
Excellent to hear that, Andrea
#28 by Ileandra Young on March 31, 2014 - 8:53 am
I don’t have a particular word count goal when I write (unless I’m doing NaNo). I just write in the time I have, which can vary from 20 minutes to three hours. It’s all a big sporadic and erratic because my boys are so young. This works well for me though, and there are no restrictions or pressures to get more words down than I can handle.
I find that 500 words is probably a minimum I’m happy with, in a first draft phase, but on ‘good’ days that can reach 10,000 – 15,000 pretty easily. Depends on the flow. But to aim for that every day would be ridiculous so I don’t.
Hmm… that was a bit rambly, sorry. Apparently I need more tea. *slurps*
#29 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 7:11 pm
These are some pretty enormous wordcounts, Ileandra! You’re even beating Melissa, who has astonished many of us.
#30 by Ileandra Young on March 31, 2014 - 7:44 pm
Those aren’t every day, promise. I’m taking about ‘perfect conditions’ days. I get those maybe three times a month. 😉
#31 by tomburkhalter on March 31, 2014 - 1:22 pm
I think I’m with Colleen Thompson and Linda Gillard. While drafting I try for 1-2,000 words per day, just to have a goal to work towards. When editing, though, that tends to change, and then it’s more in the “hours per day” category. I’ve pushed 4,000 words a day writing for NaNoWriMo, but I’ve come to view output like that with caution; much better to pace yourself although, hey, if the words are flowing, let ’em flow!
As for Melissa Foster, ma’am, I say this with all respect: you are a MACHINE! Doubt I could ever match that.
I remember Stephen King writing in one of his books that “many a novel has been written at the rate of one page a day” which would accord with Graham Greene’s output, more or less. I also recall reading something C.S. Forester wrote about having his writing desk against a blank wall with no windows visible — otherwise he’d be off for a walk instead of writing.
Some of my best “production levels” are achieved at the local Barnes & Noble — I’ll write a few hundred words, then go off and ramble among the bookshelves, which lasts until I get bored or notice that I’m opposite the authors whose name begin with “B” and “Tom Burkhalter” hasn’t magically appeared among them, at which point I get back to work.
Writing IS work. I find it astonishing that people who don’t write think it must be so easy: “After all, you’re just making that stuff up.” “You’re just sitting there, typing.” The most astonishing thing is the blank look they get when you offer them a pen and a pad of paper and say, “Here. Give it a go.” Amazing how few of them take me up on it!
#32 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 31, 2014 - 7:16 pm
Hi Tom! What a great idea to write in a bookshop. Mind you, my study looks like a bookshop, so perhaps I’ve unconsiously designed it quite well. But I find the environment of book spines and lovingly created covers is encouraging – a world of books that makes me excited about pushing on with my own.
Your challenge to naysayers made me laugh. Are they the same people who say ‘one day I’ll write a novel’ in a tone that suggests that at the moment they’ve got more demanding things to do, and they’ll dash off the magnum opus one day?
#33 by Stacy N. Elliott on April 3, 2014 - 6:39 pm
I had always wanted to write since I was in elementary school, and for years I kept putting it off because of the hard work that you have to put into it. One day, I finally decided enough was enough. Now, I can’t stop writing.
I love your idea of writing in a book store and browsing. Next time I visit a Barnes & Noble, I am going to go to the “E” section and look for my name. This will give me an extra incentive to write more and push for publication.
#34 by Dianna L. Gunn on March 31, 2014 - 8:58 pm
Lovely ideas 🙂 Personally my usual goal is to make sure I write a page of my novel each day, plus whatever paid assignments I have that day. Now that it’s getting warm again, I also find brainstorming in parks incredibly effective.
Also, I think the most important thing when you’re really struggling is to care less about how much you produce, and instead focus on making sure you produce *something* every day.
#35 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 1, 2014 - 6:51 pm
Good tip, Dianna. Some days won’t be as good as others, but often I’m surprised at what I can produce when I think I’m not inspired. Stubbornness definitely counts for something when trying to get a draft complete!
#36 by Dianna L. Gunn on April 1, 2014 - 7:37 pm
I’d even go so far as to say stubbornness is the most important factor in getting published–I mean, everybody’s read at least one poorly edited book right?
#37 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 8:53 am
Not me – I throw them aside! Joking apart, though, I know what you mean.
#38 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller on March 31, 2014 - 10:00 pm
On my current project, I decided to count research as part of the writing. I know that goes against common wisdom, but I dislike research so much that I wouldn’t do enough of it otherwise. I’m experimenting with random word counts. I wrote word counts on Post Its (i.e., 1,110, 750, 3,700) and I schedule it. If I know I’m going to be burned out from my job by Thursday, it’s a 500 day. But I have to accomplish that word count, and yet, it’s not the drudgery of the same word count every day.
#39 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 1, 2014 - 6:52 pm
Linda, what a fun idea to have different and random goals! Do you ever get round to the high days?
#40 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller on April 2, 2014 - 1:35 am
Yeah, I have them planned out with a mix of both smaller numbers and larger numbers. Yesterday as 750, today 1150, tomorrow 1700, Friday 750, and Saturday 3100.
#41 by Jaclyn Paul (@jaclynleewrites) on April 1, 2014 - 2:02 pm
I’m curious about authors who track word counts closely: is the 1k-per-day average truly an average every week? When I’m drafting, I definitely do not settle for less than 1,000 words per day, though I seldom top 2,000, either. This is a good pace for me to avoid burnout while still remaining connected to my characters.
However, once the first draft is done, I let it sit for some time before coming back to it — however long I need to feel disconnected from the piece such that I can give it an objective edit — and move on to a different project. This may be editing or drafting. Sometimes I am only editing, in which case any sense of daily word count is meaningless. I don’t think I could ever write 1,000 words of new prose every day, five days a week — I’d have too many irons in the fire. During an intense editing time, I won’t write anything new for months.
That said, I love editing and view it as far more important to the creative process than drafting. I tell people who struggle with writing not to worry at all about their first draft because its only function is to give you something to edit. It’s like going shopping and picking up all the supplies for a project. Editing is where the real work happens, at least to my way of thinking. Perhaps that’s why I struggle to find meaning in any estimates of daily word count.
#42 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 1, 2014 - 6:55 pm
Jaclyn, it seems the average is anything from 500 words per day to 2,000. I just heard Kirsty Wark interviewed by Simon Mayo about her new novel and she said she does 500 words per day. The writers I’ve talked to seem to be in the 1,000 to 2,000-word bracket.
But all that changes when editing anyway, as you rightly point out. I know far fewer writers who track wordcounts when editing. I certainly don’t. I agree with you about this process being where the real creativity starts – and usually there’s a lot of trimming as I refine what I want to say!
#43 by Bill McCurry on April 3, 2014 - 12:49 pm
I also have a full-time day job, so I devote nights and weekends. For my first novel I wrote almost every moment I wasn’t eating or sleeping. I averaged 500 words an hour, but it devastated my family life. Now I write 4 nights per week plus times my wife is otherwise occupied, targeting 6,000 words per week and actually getting about 9,000 words per week. It ‘s worked for the next two novels, and I still have a marriage!
#44 by Stacy N. Elliott on April 3, 2014 - 6:27 pm
It’s hard to put down the pen when the thoughts are flowing. I have to remind myself that I have a family and that I must make time for them, too. Good point!
#45 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:32 am
I sometimes have to be forcibly removed from the keyboard…
#46 by segmation on April 3, 2014 - 5:38 pm
Sounds to me like you have listed great tips! I think writing in a quiet and beautiful place is key for me! I can’t wait to see how the others respond. Thanks! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com
#47 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 8:54 am
Hi Segmation – thanks for stopping by! It’s good to have a writing place that feels special.
#48 by dbaiba on April 3, 2014 - 5:58 pm
Reblogged this on and commented:
#49 by dbaiba on April 3, 2014 - 6:00 pm
I have never liked that freak Stephen King , to be honest : too crippy for my taste .Thanks .
#50 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 8:55 am
LOL – isn’t that his stock in trade? Thanks for the reblog!
#51 by dbaiba on April 26, 2014 - 6:23 pm
You’re welcome .Please , do keep that Stephen freak away from me haha,thanks , kidding .have a nice day .
#52 by helenjain21 on April 3, 2014 - 6:13 pm
As an aspiring author working on the first novel (I’ve been doing freelance/ghost writing articles for four years, but this is the first time I’m working on a novel), I’ve discovered that sometimes writing comes easily and words just flow. Other times, it is like walking through molasses. Word count isn’t necessarily as important as the quality. And I’d rather do 100 words of quality that doesn’t need to be cut out than 500 words of fluff that ultimately gets cut to 20 or 30 words I keep.
#53 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:33 am
Hi Helen! In the first draft I find a lot of that flow is thinking into the page. The words I write might stay, they might not, but they get me to a place I need to be. Thanks for stopping by!
#54 by Stacy N. Elliott on April 3, 2014 - 6:25 pm
Since I started writing on a regular basis five years ago, I discovered that daily word count really does not matter unless you are committed to a deadline. I am currently working on a novel that I have committed to finishing the first draft by May 12th this year. To do so, I have to write at least 1,500 words a day. If I take a day off, my word count goes up. If I exceed that amount, my word count goes down. Just like you, on any given day, it wouldn’t take much to punch out between 4,000-10,000 words; especially if the muse is talking. Consistency in commitment is the key to successfully accomplishing any goals that you set for yourself. If you have a dream to be done with a project by a certain time, it just takes a little dedication and a lot of discipline.
#55 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:00 am
Thanks for dropping by, Stacy – some sensible points there! And best of luck meeting your deadline on May 12th.
#56 by rami ungar the writer on April 3, 2014 - 6:31 pm
Writing can be a struggle to me, but I mostly keep track of my word count because the industry places such emphasis on it. If Adam’s worried about the word count, I’d tell him not to focus on it if it’s distracting him from his novel and to worry about it only if he needs to cut down or bulk up on the number of words during the editing phase. Otherwise he’ll go insane trying to reach the perfect word count.
#57 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 8:58 am
Some great points here, Rami.If monitoring the wordcount helps, do that (like Stacy above). If not, there are other ways to feel you’re making progress.
#58 by rami ungar the writer on April 4, 2014 - 12:56 pm
When I’m working on a novel with very short chapters, I try to get a chapter done at least once a day. That’s how I usually measure my progress.
#59 by Rii the Wordsmith on April 3, 2014 - 6:50 pm
I care about word count when I’m doing the first draft…maybe the second. But this is because I try to pound out drafts NaNo style. Because I have severe ADD, it’s vital that I write the first draft as fast as humanly possible because I’m likely to start thinking about a different or – even worse – a new idea in the middle of the draft I’m working on, and then my inspiration ebbs from my current work to what I want to do instead. This leaves me with slews of half-written manuscripts which are all crap anyway. If I try to say “no, we’re finishing this”, the quality of the writing becomes even poorer and I end up giving up anyway because all my words are trash.
Forcing myself to pound out words for the first draft also prevents me from editing at all until it’s done. I’m okay doing partial re-writes and then going back and editing before I go through the whole manuscript, but that kills my first draft, mostly because of the attention span thing again. But if I HAVE the first draft, my waxing and waning attention is pretty useful for my slow editing. I edit, I get frustrated with how pathetically bad my manuscript is, I want to burn it, I let my attention drift, and by the time it circles back to the manuscript, what I wrote either doesn’t seem so bad, or destroying and re-writing doesn’t seem so hard.
As for my word count – I think the best I’ve ever done is 10k in a day. But I tend to do better when I have something more important to be doing – the art of the ADD procrastinator, I guess. If writing is the most productive and useful thing I can be doing, I will divert to Facebook and video games. If I absolutely needed to wash dishes, or if I’m at work and I should have been making outbound calls, I write really, really well. (Luckily my current job is such that when I do things is a little flexible, so it usually does not cause me problems). With the 10,000 words in a day, I believe the more productive thing that I should have been doing instead of writing was sleeping.
#60 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:02 am
Rii, the problems you describe are so familiar! Wanting to edit instead of write, the mind hopping to a new idea, the fingers hopping to Facebook instead. You clearly know your confounding demons very well and have worked out how to best them!
#61 by Rii the Wordsmith on April 4, 2014 - 6:02 pm
Demons and I get along very well. They often come over for tea. It’s still a little frustrating, because I don’t drink tea.
Most of figuring out how to deal with them just came from trying a lot of things until I found things that worked. I might be young but I’ve been trying to do this for a long time! ^^;
If anything sounded familiar, hopefully some of my solutions might work for you, if you haven’t found your coping mechanisms 🙂
#62 by Ted Luoma on April 3, 2014 - 6:58 pm
Very interesting post. I’m no writer, I just clown around, but I had never considered what goes into it.
#63 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:03 am
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Ted!
#64 by lubega1 on April 3, 2014 - 7:13 pm
I am a new writer.I use the Island approach of 500 words a day.I take each Island as an entity which I work through before progressing.I may edit backwards and forwards but the approach gives me time to revisit my subconsciousness sometimes over night or I may just go shopping or cook with my story in between.
#65 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:04 am
It sounds as if that’s working for you Lubega – keep at it!
#66 by Fantasy Angel on April 3, 2014 - 9:49 pm
Reblogged this on Avid Reader and commented:
This one’s for you fellow writers!
#67 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:04 am
Thanks for the share!
#68 by Fantasy Angel on April 6, 2014 - 9:32 pm
#69 by simonreadbooks on April 3, 2014 - 11:32 pm
I abandoned the idea of trying to hit a certain number of words each day. Now, I just write and stop when I feel the momentum starting to drag–whether I’ve written 100 words or a thousand. I always make sure I finish the day’s writing knowing what comes next. This makes it easier to continue the next day. The problem I have with trying to meet a certain daily word count is that it puts too much pressure on you to produce.
#70 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:05 am
Excellent point about maintaining the mental momentum, Simon! A novel needs plenty of thinking time – it’s not just hammering the keys!
#71 by alexis334 on April 3, 2014 - 11:34 pm
#72 by alexis334 on April 3, 2014 - 11:34 pm
Reblogged this on alexis334.
#73 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:06 am
#74 by vladojanjicbg on April 3, 2014 - 11:54 pm
Reblogged this on WLADOJANJIC BLOG.
#75 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:06 am
#76 by jlbf4 on April 4, 2014 - 2:52 am
Finishing up my first nonfiction book, I am still definitely figuring this all out. Feel like my goal has just been to finish this last chapter, but think I really need to have a word count goal a week. A daily goal may feel too disjointed for me with the day job ;). Thank you for this post!
#77 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:07 am
Best of luck with that, and I hope you’ve now got plenty of options to try!
#78 by beezzacademy on April 4, 2014 - 3:33 am
The post and the comments are very insightful especially for a novice like me. Congrats on the FP! May we all get this too. :=)
#79 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:07 am
Thanks – I’m thrilled to be Pressed!
#80 by brandyramirez on April 4, 2014 - 3:56 am
Admittedly, I have lost count of how many words I write a day because I write more for other people these days than I do myself. If I can write a paragraph of my own work a day, I’m happy.
#81 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:10 am
Slowly but surely? Certainly before I start my draft I’ve done a lot of thinking and developing. And I find it helps to have other writing projects, because my mind starts hopping to problems I need to solve in my own book. It’s a variation of the distraction problem Rii mentions above.
#82 by David J Delaney on April 4, 2014 - 4:19 am
Word count is variable with me, sometimes I think I prolific and ploughing through words by the 1000’s then other days (like today) I can’t manage more then a couple hundred. I’ve spoken about the state of Flow on own blog and when everything seems to align my word could rockets along. Great post.
#83 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:11 am
Thanks for stopping by, David – I’ll check out your blog. And may the flow work for you today!
#84 by Claire on April 4, 2014 - 5:18 am
Thanks for this! I thought I wrote pretty quickly (2,000, at a push 3,000 words 5 days a week) until I recently read about some writers that average 10,000 words a day – I don’t think I could physically type that much, never mind think it! Horses for courses though, one thing I’m learning (not least through the fantastic writers’ blogsphere) is that everyone is different, it’s just a question of finding what works for you!
#85 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:12 am
Claire, your wordcount is pretty respectable. And, as you say, your output is working for you. Thanks for dropping in from the wonderful blogosphere (what did we do before it existed?!)
#86 by tasiabarber on April 4, 2014 - 8:46 am
What do you write about the most??
#87 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 9:13 am
Do you mean my fiction? It’s best explained here – http://rozmorris.wordpress.com/whats-my-genre/
#88 by tasiabarber on April 4, 2014 - 9:16 am
I write about everything that interests me but I am french so I write blogs about that.
#89 by tasiabarber on April 5, 2014 - 10:14 am
I didn’t know your a writer your stories look really interesting.
#90 by Amlakyaran on April 4, 2014 - 12:49 pm
very nice post…
#91 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:35 pm
#92 by HOT WINGS Memoirs of a Pan Am Stewardess on April 4, 2014 - 4:56 pm
good stuff…(word count please?)
#93 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:36 pm
Love the name of your blog! Upcoming book?
#94 by sydneyellen1996 on April 4, 2014 - 5:10 pm
I love this post. I have a hard time getting writing in daily (constant essay writing for college has stolen my muse lately), but I never thought about making a word limit each day so I do get some writing in. Great article!
#95 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:36 pm
Hopefully it’s the nudge you need, Sydney – good luck!
#96 by themathmaster on April 4, 2014 - 5:34 pm
I don’t have a word count by any means, but I find that when I do sit and write it ends up between 1,000 and 2,000 words. I think my highest is 1,800 or there abouts. Much like James Bell I write when I feel inspired and I make sure it happens most evenings after the pawns are asleep. Inspiration comes easy enough because I run everyday, and since I can’t write at that time that’s when the ideas start flowing. I struggle most with just not falling asleep before I start writing. After I put the pawns in their bed I just want to crash, but I trudge on… usually.
I would tell Adam to track his counts but not worry about them. I would be more worried about writing on a consistent basis in a mode that works best for him. After all we are all different.
#97 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:38 pm
‘The pawns…’ that’s a lovely phrase, Mathmaster. I find running, walking and driving are all great ways to get the muse babbling – and then I have to run fast to get to a pen in time.
#98 by themathmaster on April 4, 2014 - 8:02 pm
Thank you. I was trying to find a funny way to reference my children when I started my blog. The best I could come up with is pawns, because I like chess and such. So I try to use it when I can. Running is a great muse for me. My biggest problem is that I usually do it during lunch so I can’t just get home and write afterwards 😦 So I end up rushing back to my desk and argue with myself over whether or not I have time to write some stuff really quickly or if I have to get work done 🙂
#99 by emmadol on April 4, 2014 - 6:36 pm
Reblogged this on emmadol's Blog.
#100 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:39 pm
#101 by emmadol on April 30, 2014 - 3:28 am
Two hundred word a day.
#102 by mansaramjogiyal on April 4, 2014 - 7:38 pm
Yes like this
#103 by simplycomplex on April 4, 2014 - 7:44 pm
Interesting never contemplated half of these things
#104 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:51 pm
Have fun with them!
#105 by mansaramjogiyal on April 4, 2014 - 7:46 pm
Reblogged this on mansaramjogiyal and commented:
#106 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 7:51 pm
Thanks for the reblog!
#107 by morganhowland on April 4, 2014 - 9:55 pm
I love this post.
Although I write historical essays and not fiction, I find that a 2500-3000 essay, from beginning to end, takes about 12 days including editing time. That’s a paltry 250 words per day at the maximum compared to fiction writing. But I can produce a short, rough draft of around 1500 words in about three hours.
Pop Song History
#108 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 4, 2014 - 10:18 pm
It’s interesting to see how the writing figures translate for non-fiction and essays. Nice to meet you, Morgan – and thanks for commenting!
#109 by RCMP Major Crimes on April 5, 2014 - 12:16 pm
Her story should be written and so should mine both are from the Maritimes and deal with the Canadian Justice System
#110 by Maribeth on April 5, 2014 - 2:30 pm
Instead of giving myself a word count I just insist I write each day. If it’s a bad day two hundred words is better than none. If I had to guess though, I’d say between my novel and blog I write at least 1000 words a day.
#111 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 5, 2014 - 5:57 pm
That’s a good, steady rate, Maribeth. Thanks for stopping by!
#112 by ZigZagZoum on April 6, 2014 - 2:28 am
Does it also have to do with what the author was writing with? For example, some people write by pen and say the words just flow out onto the page, and the entire manuscript is a stack of paper. Some people fire up Word. Then there’s the more professional Scrivener. In the opposite direction we have the minimalistic OmmWriter. What would you say “works” in light of a deadline?
#113 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 6, 2014 - 8:17 pm
In light of a deadline? Surely that must be delivery of the final copy! 🙂 But you raise a good point here about our comfort levels with different writing media. Some like the pen. Others like the marshalling of a Scrivener document. Personally I like a Word doc when I’m drafting, and I’m fussy about it having no formatting. Much later when I do the final polish I work on the typeset page using Page Plus because it looks like a final book (and in fact IS the final book).
#114 by melssecret on April 6, 2014 - 9:58 am
Reblogged this on melssecret.
#115 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 6, 2014 - 8:05 pm
#116 by Matthew Wright on April 6, 2014 - 12:43 pm
Word count is almost meaningless for practical writing. In the profession it’s specifically used as a tool to define finished length – editors commission by word count. That defines the scale of a work, and also its structure – the scale of components (‘beat sheet’). The skill in writing is to meet that length and structure. To the extent that it has to be done by deadline, yes, there has to be a target, and it is possible to break that down into a ‘daily word count’. However, writing from blank-to-deliverable-MS is far more than just blurting words. A first draft may be only half the job or less. If you edit, re-write, change and so forth, your word count may be static or even drop. What counts more – certainly for me – is the results. Are structural goals being met in the right time-frame? Is the work in good enough order, relative to the remaining time before deadline? That sort of thing.
#117 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 6, 2014 - 8:04 pm
Matthew, I am a total believer in structure. And revision. So the wordcount of the first draft is largely immaterial once the draft is finished, as many things will have to change once we get our sharpening tools out. One of the common misconceptions of novice writers is that revision is simply a case of polishing a few sentences and spotting the typoes – in fact, it’s this deeper assessment of the structure that is more important. (I love that phase, BTW…)
#118 by glitterwriter on April 6, 2014 - 4:35 pm
Reblogged this on Glitter Writer Book Blog and commented:
One of my favorite authors, Roz Morris, is featured on “Fresh Pressed. She discusses the sticky subject of daily word counts and how successful authors to meet their deadlines. Check out her blog, which is full of tips for writers. Her “Nail Your Novel” books have helped me through the rough patches of writing.
#119 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 6, 2014 - 7:53 pm
Thank you, Mary!
#120 by appslotus on April 6, 2014 - 7:53 pm
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#121 by neocup on April 6, 2014 - 9:29 pm
Reblogged this on My Soul's Retreat.
#122 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 7, 2014 - 8:20 am
#123 by siegmomblog on April 7, 2014 - 8:09 am
Reblogged this on Blissful Pages.
#124 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 7, 2014 - 8:18 am
#125 by jpodest on April 7, 2014 - 10:02 am
Very interesting and helpful – thanks!
#126 by Amy McCalister on April 7, 2014 - 2:10 pm
I am using a new technique for my writing this past month and it has really improved my writing. I have set my reasonable goal (my pesky inner perfectionist likes to push me around, I’m learning to push back!), my reasonable goal is to write at least one free written scene or character profile a day. I find outlines not very useful. I used to just start writing and let it all fall into place. I would print out the draft and put it in a 3 ring binder and keep editing and rewriting, printing out the corrections and repeat over and over and over. So with my new novel I started this winter (the same way, chapter 1 and so one straight through for over 100 pages until I stopped myself) I began to free write a general idea of the plot and characters and then I listed scenes that came to mind in literally just that, a list. I started with #1 and on through about 78 scenes. Each are just a few words and no longer then one line. Then I did something similar with the characters, names age, relationships to other characters, just basic information on a few sheets of paper in the short list form. Now I have my one page general plot/idea, my list of possible scenes and a list of characters. Every morning I randomly choose a scene or a character and free write it, print it and stick it in the binder. I realized the first original 100 pages was boring and not working. Now with the way I am writing today I was able to find a much more efficient way of drawing the reader in and making the plot rich and interesting. I just thought I would share, it’s changed my writing and my experiences with writing, I have a renewed spark and excitement!
#127 by sweetserendipityxoxo on April 8, 2014 - 5:55 am
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#128 by stunningbrownie on April 8, 2014 - 4:44 pm
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#129 by Bill Carson on April 8, 2014 - 10:49 pm
Helpful article, thanks! I remember reading about Steven King’s 1000 word-a-day policy a long time ago in his “On Writing” book. I took it to heart and went on a year-long streak of writing no less than 1000 words a day, regardless of quality. However, over time I’ve found that “ballpark” word counts work better for me than strict round number word counts. I found that in many cases my inspiration was exhausted before I reached my particular goal, and then I’d just sort of write windy filler until I crossed the finish line. Invariably, that filler would be the first thing I edit out on the next draft. So these days I aim simply to get in the neighborhood of 1000 words and call it quits when the time feels right. Takes me longer to finish projects this way, but it sort of evens out, as I have less “crap” to sort through later!
#130 by soultransit on April 13, 2014 - 7:51 am
a good read 🙂 – http://havoknetwork.com
#131 by Sarah Magnolia on April 14, 2014 - 8:41 pm
This is super helpful for me – as a writer I’ve always been told that words and pages don’t always show how successful I’ve been while writing;however, the quantity of what I write shows that success. Does anyone relate??
#132 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 15, 2014 - 6:07 am
I certainly do – thanks for stopping by, Sarah!
#133 by chloeroberts93 on April 14, 2014 - 10:08 pm
the true word count is in the mind 😉
#134 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 15, 2014 - 6:08 am
Good point … on this novel alone I’ve written a whole library!
#135 by medievalotaku on April 25, 2014 - 12:55 pm
Reblogged this on Aquila et Infans.
#136 by jingdleon on April 27, 2014 - 11:45 am
Reblogged this on jingdleon.
#137 by Jessica Smith on April 29, 2014 - 4:22 pm
Really interesting. I’m not a writer, but it’s great to understand a bit about the process of writing a novel.
#138 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 29, 2014 - 4:47 pm
Hello Jessica! Thanks for reading and commenting – especially as you’re not a writer! Welcome to the world of words, pages and more pages.
#139 by dogleadermysteries on April 29, 2014 - 5:31 pm
I think how much I write revolves on what stage in the writing process I am with a work. Either short or long fiction can get bogged easily. But blogging and nonfiction seem easy by comparison, and they make deadlines that must be met.
My storytelling side seem to snag on my family life issues. Also my health affects my writing a great deal. I do not do well with chaos and shock. Our daughter and her friend were in a horrible car crash on April 1 and I’m still at a loss as to how catch up with my fiction work roll.
Thanks for another thought provoking topic, Roz.
#140 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 29, 2014 - 7:51 pm
Deborah, lovely to see you here – especially as you must have more pressing things on your mind than writing and blogging. Very best wishes for a good outcome.
#141 by dogleadermysteries on April 30, 2014 - 7:47 pm
How truly kind you are, I find my favorite writers, like Margaret Atwood and you, love others and empathize well, which shines in a writer’s work, no matter the genre..
Right now, I’m trying to get back to normal. Our daughter’s doing okay and her friend’s concussion seems to not have been super serious. Thank God!
Actually, I need my writing friends now, more than ever. I find that writing regularly 5 to 6 days a week keeps me mentally and emotionally fit.
What’s the good of physical exercise if I have nothing to look forward to but gardening? I love gardening, but not as much as I love reading, writing and discussing writing.
#142 by seantsmithauthor on May 1, 2014 - 12:52 pm
Reblogged this on Author Sean T. Smith and commented:
Great article. Every writer is different.
#143 by whitemowgli on May 7, 2014 - 11:58 pm
Word count…chapter goals…whatever. As long as you’re writing! Great article. Thank you! Followed.
#144 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on May 8, 2014 - 6:59 am
Thanks for leaving your calling card, Mowgli!
#145 by whitemowgli on May 10, 2014 - 12:31 am
No problem, Roz!
#146 by Helena Halme on May 7, 2015 - 12:02 pm
I too can have high word count days (I think the most was about 5K words), but I find the next day (and sometimes even the one after that) are very low word count days indeed, and I can barely produce anything. So, I’ve learned to pace myself, and keep 1-2,000 words as a perfect word count when I’m writing. When editing, as someone else said, all bets are off!
As for a ‘refuge’, strangely I write best when in a cafe or on a train with a lot of people around me. Strange, I know. At home there are usually too many distractions, but if I am on a strict (self-imposed) deadline, I have to shut myself into the office, with no sounds at all, and make myself write. If I get going, then nothing will stop me, and that is when I need to pace myself.
A very interesting post – thanks Roz!
#147 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on May 7, 2015 - 12:29 pm
Helena – nice to see you here! I find that too. High-wordcount days or good editing days seem to extract a price later on. Or maybe the jobs I’ve put off in order to clear the time start tugging too insistently at my sleeve.
I also like to write in a crowd. I’ve written some of my best ideas in a theatre, waiting for curtain-up!
#148 by CC MacKenzie on May 7, 2015 - 12:04 pm
Quality first, quantity second. Before I start a new work, I pretty much know the characters, since they’ve cooked in my brain for a while. Character back-story is already laid out and an outline (rough). Plus I make structural scene notes before I begin each day – Emotion, thought, decision, action. During a first draft I can write 8-10K per day (I’m a touch typist). Emotional/intimate scenes/dialogue I tend to write in long-hand and in bed. Which means each day I have written work to type. During the second draft where I’m bumping up valid emotional content, I also keep a close eye on dialogue structure and sequel structure, I can do 3-5K per day. Final revisions are slow maybe 500-1K – but that’s the part I love the most!
At the moment I’m writing two series in two different genres, which means I’m working on three books in each series at the same time. That way I can work backwards if I have a eureka moment. The books are at various stages of development, ie: 2nd draft, 1st draft under construction, outline. Basically, I know where I’m going with the ‘big picture.’ Working this way gives me room to stretch and breathe.
For the team behind me, there are two developmental and copy-editors. Two proof-readers and three cover designers, one of whom keeps an eye on the brand.
If I’m on a role and in the zone I can work up to ten to twelve hours per day. I take one day off a week.
#149 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on May 7, 2015 - 12:32 pm
CC, thanks for this. I particularly like your different places to write when scenes are emotional, and the prior decisions about where the scene is going, so you know what to aim for.