Minimum Daily Word Counts
I have had a slight break in work that has allowed me to meet my 2000 word daily minimum word count every day for three whole days. This takes me on average three and a half hours to accomplish. At this rate, I could finish the first draft of my current work in progress in 40 days. However I seldom have the freedom to set my minimum daily word count to 2000. During busy times, I set it to 500 at least four days a week and aim for 1000 words six days a week.
What is a Reasonable Word Count Goal?
If I had the freedom to write full time, how high I could push my daily word count. After all, if I had six hours, could I not theoretically write at least 3500 words a day?
A bit of research into the minimum daily word counts of established writers produced little enlightenment, as it does not seem to be readily divulged information. Apparently Hemingway wrote between 500 and 1000 words a day and Stephen King has claimed to write 2000 words a day. Many lesser known or unpublished writers who blog claim word counts anywhere in the range of 500 to 3000 words a day with 1000 being the average. A few writers claim to produce between 4000 and 10,000 words per day. A man I met in a writing workshop indicated that during the 3-Day Novel contest he averaged 15,000 words a day with little difficulty. This, he noted, meant that he was pretty much writing as fast as he could type. But I guess you would have to write that fast if you were going to produce a novel in three days.
A few bloggers noted that pushing beyond the magic 1000 to 2000 word a day mark may not be productive, as you would be burned out and your writing would reflect that. This may be possible. Certainly many famous writers have set schedules of working for three to four hours in the morning and then calling it quits for the day. I would like to see what would happen to my daily word count and the quality of my writing if I pushed past the three and a half hour writing block.
Tips for Increasing Your Daily Word Count
In researching daily word counts, I stumbled across a great article by Rachel Aaron about how she increased her daily word count from 2000 words a day to 10,000 words a day. Although I doubt I could hit 10,000 words a day, I thought her tips were valuable and could make hitting the 2000 word a day requirement easier on those days when I have less time. I then started compiling other ideas out there with regard to increasing daily word count. These are what I found:
1) Sit at the screen at the same time every day
This is a common technique and one used by many established writers. Having a set writing schedule and writing at the same time every day means that you arrive at the screen ready to write.
2) Find the most productive location for you
This was in part one of Rachel Aaron’s tips. She found that she was most productive working in a coffee shop away from the distractions of email, Facebook and her house. Certainly tracking your word count in a variety of locations would be helpful in establishing where you work best. Keep track of how often you check Facebook or email (some writers report doing it every 7 minutes).
3) Know what you are going to write each day/Dreamstorm
This also was based on a tip from Rachel Aaron, but it is related to the concept of Dreamstorming developed by Robert Olen Butler. Although the precise techniques vary and proper dreamstorming requires a certain method, the idea is to visualize your scene in detail before you sit down in front of the computer. In the case of dreamstorming, you should visualize every scene in the entire novel and write down key words associated with each scene, (preferably the concrete sensory details) on index cards before you even start to write. You do not have to go this far to make some use of this method to increase your productivity. Aaron notes that she spends 5 minutes visualizing a scene and writing out the details before she starts to type.
4) Write in bursts/Use the Pomodoro Technique
This tip was from Dalya Moon at ya indie. The Pomodoro Technique, used to increase productivity in a variety of types of work, basically involves setting a timer and writing in either 25 or 50 minute bursts without checking the internet or allowing other distractions to intervene.
5) Have an outline
This was also from Dalya Moon at ya indie. Although this is not exactly the same as knowing what you are going to write each day or dreamstorming, it is similar. If you have an idea of what is coming next and what needs to happen in each scene, then you will spend less time floundering around with what your characters need to do next. Some writers who like to write more serendipitously will not find this approach useful.
6) Set weekly goals instead of daily goals
This is from Lauren Harris who indicated that she found daily goals too constraining and that to meet her daily goals she was writing choppy disjointed sections that met the word count but did not fit together in a coherent narrative. She found that for her it was better to set weekly goals that often resulted in longer working sessions a more coherent story and still resulted in the same weekly output.
7) Set a contract with yourself or someone else
Some writers find that writing out their daily word count goals and posting them above their desk, or sending them to someone else, or setting an agreement with someone else to send them something on a certain date helps ensure that they meet their daily word count. I have used this technique a lot and knowing that someone is waiting to read a chapter and expects it on a certain date helps to keep me churning out the words.
8) Make sure none of your scenes are boring
This was also from Rachel Aaron. This is a very good point. I often find that my productivity flags when I am working on a scene that I don’t particularly like, but feel has to happen. Rachel makes the point that if the scene bores you, it will probably bore other people too and that if it isn’t working, re-imagine it so that it is exciting enough to interest you in writing it.
9) Keep stats on where/when/how you are most productive
This is a last tip from Rachel Aaron. Tracking when you are most productive, where and what you are working on will help you to pinpoint what works for you.
Okay, so there is a 1000 words for my day. Now I need to move on to the WIP and do at least another 1000 there.
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