What's the Right Daily Word Count for You?
Are you writing too much or too little? In this post, we'll answer the question that many writers are asking — how many words should you write every day?
Writing requires deep concentration for extended periods and plenty of mental space to do well. It can be exhausting. The speed at which different writers work varies anywhere from a few hundred to over 10,000 words in a day. Ernest Hemingway was known to write 500 words a day. Barbara Kingsolver writes 1,000 words per day, Stephen King 2,000. Michael Crichton routinely produced over 10,000 words per day.
How many words you will be able to write regularly depends on a range of factors — including your personal preferences and circumstances.
As you can see from the list of authors above, how many words you write per day doesn't affect your chances of success. You don't have to be a fast writer to have a great career. Being consistent and having the discipline to show up every day is far more important.
Another common misconception is that fast writers produce very rough, unpolished drafts while slower, more deliberate writers write in ready-to-print prose. Although this may be true in some cases, writers who work rapidly can produce clean drafts and writers who work slowly can still go through many rounds of revision. There's no rule. The writing process is a deeply personal affair.
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
If you're a slow writer, it may seem that everyone around you writes faster. Everywhere you look — on your social media feeds and in blog posts — people are talking about impossible daily word counts that seem ludicrously high.
It's an unfair comparison because any public account of people's writing achievements is inherently biased towards faster writers. When you write 8,000 words in an afternoon, of course, you'll be happy to share that with your audience.
Slow writers don't brag about writing 236 words in a day on Twitter, but we're out there.
How to Figure Out What's Right for You
The best way to find the right daily word count for you is by experimenting with different goals. Start low, way below what you think will be the sweet spot — even as low as 50 or 100 words.
How hard it was for you to hit that goal? Way too easy? Then double it the next day. Keep doing that until you start to struggle. By that time, you will have tried a range of different daily word counts. Which one did you enjoy the most?
Instead of striving to reach an ambitious goal every day, set a baseline and write more when you can.
Less is More
Don't feel like you need to maximise your writing productivity. If you want to be doing this regularly for the rest of your life, it should be a challenging but pleasant experience. Otherwise, you're running the risk of burning out.
Writing fewer words every day means that it will take longer for you to finish your projects. As long as you're writing more than zero words every day, you'll get there.
You won't reach your writing goals when you over-stretch yourself in the first quarter, then burn out and stop writing altogether.
If you can write 100 words every day, you will finish a novel in about two years. That's way better than never.
Change Your Daily Goal Frequently
Your daily word count needs to work for you, not the other way around. When it stops working, change it.
Life brings about all sorts of challenges. Your circumstances change. You may find that, for a period of time, you can't write as much as you'd like. That's ok. Adjust your daily word count down so you can keep the momentum going. Even if you only write a handful of words every day, it's vital to keep going so that when you have the time and energy to write more in the future, you'll be ready for it.
What's Right for You?
What's the right daily word count for you? It's what fits your lifestyle so that you can keep writing for the years and decades to come. Write fewer words every day to avoid burning out. Adjust your daily word count frequently. Anything above zero counts.
Find out how Writing Analytics can help you create a sustainable writing routine.