Back in the Habit: What’s a Good Word Count?

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Image: StuartMiles (freerangestock.com)

Happy first week of 2018 everyone! I hope you all are well and had a quiet, safe, New Year’s. Back to business with the blog and everything else in my life!

There’s one thing I’m feeling positive about this week:  I’m writing again :). For the past few days, I have been writing at least 500 words a day, with the exception of yesterday. In a span of three days, 1,500 words were written. I’ve been working on a fiction piece for one of my writing opportunities and gave my piece a 1,500 word limit, feeling that was enough for a short story. The interesting part is that this piece has been giving me a hard time, and I walked away from it for a couple of months so I could focus on other projects. When I came back to the work on Tuesday, I felt the ideas come alive without any struggles! Now I’m giving it a day or two before I go edit and submit.

As I thought about my own word count, I’ve considered how many words other writers aim for with their own projects. How many words do they target in a week? How many a day? A month? For example, for those of us who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, you have to write 1,667 words a day in order to reach the goal of 50,000.

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Image: Chance Agrella (freerangestock.com)

If you do a simple Google search, you will find numerous articles advising you about how many words one should write every day. Except, the word counts vary! For example, Writers Write, a website dedicated to providing writers with resources, writing prompts, and courses for creative writing, blogging, and business writing has an article titled “The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors.” Here, we are given a list of 39 famous authors including Ernest Hemingway (500 words) and Stephen King (2,000 words) with their daily word counts and routines. Here are a couple others:

  • Nicholas Sparks: 2,000 words
  • Maya Angelou: 2,500 words
  • Ian McEwan: 600 words
  • Anne Rice: 3,000 words
  • Sophie Kinsella: 1,000 words
  • Michael Crichton: 10,000 words
  • Lisa See: 1,000 words

So how can you figure out what word counts best suit your writing style and schedule? Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Start small! Achieve little set word counts and then increase the number by 100 (or 50) until you find a comfortable amount to balance with your day.
  • Time yourself: use a timer to calculate how many words you can write in an hour. Use this as a starting point for developing a routine schedule.
  • Writing prompts: a writing prompt can help you jump-start your creativity. Some have a minimum word count while others do not. Try both ways and see which ones are more productive.
  • Make a list: Try writing every day and see how many words you reach each day. Choose from the list and try reaching that word count until you find the one that’s most comfortable for you. This gives you options to try out instead of sticking with one particular word count.

So what word count works for you? What strategies help you figure out what word count is best?

Happy writing!

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