Archive for November 1st, 2010

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Writing by Number

Daily word counts are oh so useful.  They give us a goal, inspiring us to write every day, whether it’s 250 words, 500 words, 1000 words, 870 words, or whatever.  On very tight deadlines, they allow those of us who don’t work well under pressure to pace ourselves.  (For example, I’m about 45,000 words into a rough draft that’s due December 1.  I have a month to write another 25,000 words, roughly.  Just under a thousand words a day.  That sounds slightly better.  I can do that.  And if I write 1000 words a day, I’ll have a few extra days to read the manuscript over and make fixes.)

I follow a lot of other writers’ blogs.  I like to see what people are doing, and I like to see the smart things other writers say about writing.  They often validate my own thoughts or give me something new to think about.

But I need to not pay attention to other writers’ daily word counts.  I never measure up and it makes me feel bad.

I’ve noticed something, though:  many writers who post impressive daily word stats (I’m talking in the 3000 words a day range and higher) are actually binge writers.  They’ll bang out a novel in six weeks, posting very high daily word counts during that stretch, then take a break, only working on little projects for days or weeks after.

I am not a binge writer.  I have to get a little bit done every day.  I’ve always been like that.  I was the annoying kid back in school who finished all her papers days in advance.  I need about four to six months to write a first draft.  I may only write a little bit every day, but I do it every day.

Here are my stats:  I can usually write 1000-1200 words a day.  I aim for 800.  500 is my minimum.  Setting such a low bar means I usually exceed it by quite a bit, which makes me feel really good.  Positive reinforcement.  Even 500 words a day — about one page — will get you a 180,000-word novel in a year.  Or two 90,000 word novels.  The Kitty novels average around 75,000 words, just to give you an idea.  Makes it all seem a little more doable, doesn’t it?  I think in the end, the binge writers and I produce the same amount of work.  And it really goes to show that there is no Right Way.  Only the Way that Works for You.

And on that note, I will once again not be participating in NaNoWriMo, which begins today.  I just can’t take the pressure.  For those of you who love it and are participating — start your engines, and good luck!