Don’t Speak of It!

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WORD COUNT GOALS!  (I realize the irony of this post so close to NaNoWriMo.)

“Hey, how many words do you write a day?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  1000 maybe.  Depends on the day.  Some days it’s maybe ten.”

“Seriously?  Ten?”  *snickers*

Okay.  It’s really not that bad.  But is word count really all that important?  I used to think so, but now, I’m not really so sure.

I’ve had those days where I didn’t want to write a single word and knew that if I did they would end up being the worst words ever written and put together to make the worst sentence/paragraph ever.

I used to be adamant about writing every day.  I had a goal.  At least 100 words a day.  That turned into more.  And in turn that turned into an almost unrealistic EVERYDAY goal.

I know reaching goals is important.  It’s nice to be able to say, “Hey, I need to meet my goal,” and actually meet it.  You feel accomplished, good about yourself.  But what if you can’t meet your goal that day?  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Don’t worry about how many words you’re writing.  Worry about what the actual words are.

I think we should strive to write as much as we can each day.  I think a small goal would be okay.  After talking to Jo Eberhardt about her 100 words for 100 days word count challenge over 100 days ago, I tried it.  And although I achieved a lot of writing during those 100 days, I skipped 10-20 of those days, but I don’t regret the decision to try writing at least a 100 words a day.  What I do regret is beating myself up over the days that I missed meeting my goal.

I put too much thought into meeting my goal that I forgot about my original intention.  Write each day.  Even if it’s a little bit.

As I said, goals are great to have, but don’t put too much stock into them.  Write when you have time.  Enjoy what you do.  Don’t make writing a chore.

Now, as far as NaNoWriMo goes.  That’s a completely different story.  If you signed up for it, that’s torture we’re willing to put ourselves through.  We have to write roughly 1700 words.  (That’s what I’m shooting for anyway.)  Okay, it’s 1667 words but still – We knew we’d have an insane word count goal to meet each day.

But, aside from tortuous writing games, I’m not sure the word count goals really work for me.

Admittedly, I see how many words I write a day.  I managed 1,008 yesterday.  Woo hoo!  But, I went at it without a goal in mind.  I just wrote.  I wrote more words not thinking about the goal, because when I had the 100 words a day goal, I barely scraped by.  Some days I wrote 100 exactly.  Some days I wrote 96 and then forced a few more words to reach the 100. Then again, it really worked for me, and I wrote a lot. (I don’t want people thinking it didn’t work for me, because it did at times.

I’m not saying that this is the right way to work.  We all work differently.  (Take pantsers and plotters for instance.)  It’s all about finding the right balance for your work/schedule.

What’s your opinion?  How are you with word count goals?

14 thoughts on “Don’t Speak of It!

  1. I’ve been thinking about word count a lot lately. When I wrote my first novel, Lame Excuses, the words flew from my head to the page. I felt inspired and driven to keep going. In the end, the book was about 48,000 words. After putting the self-published book on the market, I realized that my work was just shy of the traditional novel word count of 50,000. So I retrieved it and added a chapter that had been edited out. As I write the second novel, I am obsessed with word count. I find myself dictating the story according to my word count. I will keep this article on my desk to remind me not to obsess on word count. Thanks for sharing this post.

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    1. My self pubbed novella is around 23,000 words. When I wrote it, my only goal was to tell the story and not worry about length. So, I didn’t. It only took 23,000 words to tell the story, so as long as the story is told, it doesn’t matter the length. That’s my opinion anyway!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Some people have weekly word count goals, and the individual posts can vary. It also depends on what you are writing. If your working on a story then taking a day just to work on structure is more important than writing sub par 1000 words. Also, on days when the words just flow, it might work out to be 3 days worth of word count goals.

    Writing just to write is not a good idea, but so is a hiatus.

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    1. I’m not downing the word count goal, but I have noticed that it doesn’t work that well for me. I think having a certain amount of written words in mind isn’t bad at all. I just think that sometimes too much emphasis is put on word count. If that happens, sometimes it makes writing seems like a chore, something we have to do, which it is and it isn’t. That’s just my opinion, and I respect all ideas on the matter. 🙂

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  3. I think word count goals work if, as you point out, you don’t take yourself (or the number) too seriously. That said, obviously if you treat the goal with zero respect, it’s no good goal at all! My big thing is quality versus quantity. If I am trying to make my work more than just a lump of clay (i.e. get the bulk of a story out there), a goal is GREAT. Just write! But when I am to the “honing” stage (i.e. working on the sculpture), many of the best days will be represented by NEGATIVE word counts. Or perhaps a wash. Overall, the goal should be to spend a certain amount of TIME per day, not number of words. My take, anyway. Great post!

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    1. “Overall, the goal should be to spend a certain amount of TIME per day, not number of words.”
      I am in COMPLETE agreement!

      I don’t want people to misunderstand what I am trying to say here. I think a word count goal is perfectly fine. I just think that sometimes it becomes too much. I strongly believe in spending a certain amount of time on writing per day, but if you can’t write, there’s no need to get bummed about missing your word count total for the day.

      Thanks, Rob!🙂

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  4. I’ve been writing fairly seriously for 40 years, and I’ve never thought about word counts at all until recently. The only exception was when I published A Sane Woman, because with printed books you have to think about word count and page count. Other than that, it never entered my mind. My second novel, U-town, is available online, and the Internet is more flexible than the printed page, so I never even tried to count.

    Then, when I started reading some blogs where people track word count, I decided to find out how long U-town really was. I used one of those word-count websites and found out that it’s around 170,000 words.

    So, now I do pay attention to word count, because I would really want any future books to be shorter than that. I mean, I think it’s good, but that’s a lot of words.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m putting together a collection of mystery stories, and it was a great feeling on Monday when I figured out how to trim around 100 pages. Less is more, after all.

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    1. That’s definitely understandable. Usually I try to keep my manuscripts between 80 – 100,000 words. (Not my novella of course. It’s only around 23,000)

      What this post is about is relying on that daily word count. I, mean, having goals is amazing, and I thoroughly believe we should write everyday. But, I feel like I put too much thought into reaching my word count goals that I was losing sight of quality and focusing on quantity. Writing soon became a chore. Something I HAD to do instead of WANTING to do. After breaking from it about I week, I went back to writing with more zeal. So now, I write with a count in mind, but if I don’t reach it, I don’t beat myself up over it. I accept it as is.🙂

      But, I understand what everyone else is saying, and I definitely understand trying to keep it down to a minimal. 🙂

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      1. I think that when it starts to feel like it’s something we have to do, rather than something we can’t wait to do, that’s a big sign that things are off track.

        I hear these stories about publishers insisting om a book every year, or two a year, or whatever. That’s bad enough, but why would we want to put that sort of pressure on ourselves?

        No matter where we want our writing to take us, we’ll get a lot farther by writing well than by writing fast.

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  5. I’ve used word-count goals in two instances: Last year’s NaNo (what a trip!), and that novel’s sequel (which just got its “The End” typed yesterday, whoo-hoo!).

    It wasn’t too stressful during NaNo, because I had the luxury of putting much of my life of hold. Not so, for the latest book. Stress was had in spades as I obsessed over the self-imposed deadline in conjuction with “other stuff to do”. I got there, but it sucked some measure of the fun out of it.

    I much prefer to simply let writing happen, however many words get managed during the hours I have to give them; let the story get told fast or slow, short or long, and just enjoy the process. And with the extra pressure removed, more may well get written faster, anyway.

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    1. Well said! That’s exactly how I felt. In my opinion, the word count goal can hold you back in instances. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. I just think that sometimes, you work better without all that pressure. And NaNoWriMo is something completely different. We understand the torture we’re putting ourselves through! haha

      Thanks for the insight!🙂

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      1. I agree that the word count goal can cause undue pressure on creating. I totally believe in showing up to the page every day, and sometimes I end up with a handful of words. Other times I surprise myself with how much pours out. For me, measuring output gets me feeling a little paranoid about the next day’s work and/or the previous day’s work.

        That being said, I can see how keeping track of word counts could be a useful motivator. I just haven’t used it that way (yet). Perhaps with my next novel…

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      2. I’ve used it a lot, but as I mentioned, eventually, I started setting almost unrealistic goals and would feel horrible for not meeting them. See, I’ve not written in days ( been busy with the nieces and nephew, brother in law’s birthday, and being sick). And, if I had a goal, I would’ve beaten myself up about not meeting it, but instead, I’m okay with it now. 😉 I wish I could’ve found some time to write, but life happens.😉

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