Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Word Counts: Time Available vs Ability to Produce

J.W. Waterhouse "Miranda - The Tempest"
Just because one has the time does not mean one has the ability.

That's what I tell people who boast if they could write full-time, then they'd produce ten novels a year.

(Well, those are the words passing my lips. The angry monkey in my brain is doing something entirely different.)

Whilst drafting, my word-count daily goal is 3,000 words gross.  My word-count daily average is 2,000 net.  That takes me all day. As I have mentioned before, I am by no means a fast writer.  I am an overly analytical one. With or without a day job, my brain gives me a set amount of creative wherewithal and that's it. No more. The one time I achieved 6,000 words in a day felt like an embalmer was extracting my brain with hooked rods through my nose, ears, and eyes. And the next day? I wrote ... wait for it ... nothing.  There was no creative spark just gelatinous ooze. The aftereffects of pushing myself weren't worth it.

When it's time to edit, word-counts mean less than chapters completed. Goals vary per book. Averages ... there just aren't. For some edits, the fixes are a line here, a transition there, or policing dialogue tags. Other edits are more like full-on revisions and those fall back to the drafting goals and averages.

My Twitter feed is constantly filled with calls for #1k1hr and #AmWriting sprints. When folks answer with "2567 words, #1k1hr" or "5834 words #AmWriting sprint done. off to make dinner!" I ... ignore them. Admittedly, there was a time that shit freaked me out, like I was back in school and we're taking timed tests. I'd worry more about the time than the story. The end results were always useless crap.

As a writer, the most important thing is to be aware of our personal averages and timelines so we have reasonable expectations of ourselves. If and when the times come to sign contracts and promise deliverables, we can commit in good faith...and not develop an ulcer along the way.

Writing a novel isn't a competition.  It is art. Quantity produced does not equate to success; no matter what the e-book revolution tempts you to believe. Quality and value will always be subjective. One man's Pollock is another man's Waterhouse. And as always...

Tell the best story you can.
Finish the damn book.


  1. "Writing a novel isn't a competition." SO AGREE! I really dislike the competitive aspects, which is part of why I don't do NaNoWriMo.

    1. Thankyouveddymuch. I'm a big fan of motivation, but there is a decided moment where "how do I win" overtakes "how I do I succeed."

  2. Couldn't agree with you more! Any time I've tried to write fast (like for NaNo or a fast draft class), I stifled myself. Be disciplined, LOVE WHAT YOU'RE DOING, and screw everything else. (Or at least that's where I am today. :))

    1. Thanks, Rhenna! I heartily second, "Love What You're Doing (and screw the rest)."