Word Count Per Day

Posted: February 1, 2011 in writing
Tags: ,

If you’ve ever thought of becoming a writer, and felt inspired enough to read into it, you might’ve noticed many writers try to set you a quota, a certain number of words you have to write, if else you are doomed to fail. Stephen King’s magical number is 2000, NaNoWriMo actually expects us to churn out 50k a month which averages to 1.667 words per day, any many websites actually offer tips for writing more than a thousand words a day. I myself aim to get 500 words down a day, which is not all that hard. The average word count in this blog (without factoring in posts like yesterday’s) should be about 450-500. All in all it takes about an hour with every distraction possible, so if you’ve got time to spare, it shouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong.

The actual reason behind setting a word quota for one day is continuity. Which I absolutely suck at. If you are not working on a novel and simply aim to get x words done by evening purely for self-satisfaction, be my guest. Posting in a blog is easy, you just have to speak your thoughts about something for x words and you’re done. If you’re a novelist, 500 words suddenly become a daunting task. You have to follow a certain plot (or at least, a plot), have to deal with characters, setting, and whatever else comes to your mind (none come to mine at the moment). And no matter how much you have written, you are never done with it, not until you put down the last word of the novel and call it a day. Which simply never comes. Between the time you start your first draft and you, the first time novelist, get published, years pass. The tension is not good for your brain. Writing kills (which is cool enough to be a blog title, and has left me wondering why I haven’t thought about it before).

So if you are demotivated enough now, lets talk about my take on this word per day business. I am trying to write a novel, but haven’t worked on it for months. This post was actually meant to motivate myself into writing, but it’s already out of the question. I now aim to finish a scene in one sitting, without bothering with the word count of that scene. Since some days I can only find time to scribble a sentence or two at most, I simply don’t write those days. I regularly get two free days that I can sit and write a scene in a week, and I try for 3 scenes per week. Scenes are to me the smallest coherent parts of a novel, and you should ideally finish getting them across before you go to sleep. Works fine with smaller scenes (your main character visiting his grandfather), but if you’re in for a climactic showdown between the evil king and the forces good, you have to divide it up further still. The evil king boasting his invulnerability could be one, you protagonist activating the super secret power of love another, and the “No! You cannot win!” speech of the evil king as he dies would be the third. Of course if you’re writing a fast paced action novel you would have to write more than a few scenes per week, but fantasy authors can leisurely write 3 scenes a week and still have something to show at the end of the year.

In the end you just have to continue writing. It’s fine if you have to take a break for a week since you’ve got finals the next week, but don’t turn it to a month-long holiday. Don’t leave your novel hanging until you forget why you started it in the first place. Just like listening to music does improve your drumming skills, reading a good book also improves your writing prowess. But if you don’t write, even if you are a world-renowned writer, you will accomplish nothing. Practise is supposed to make perfect. Make it happen.


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