There is a belief among writers that, every day, authors must put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and reach a certain word count. Stephen King has said, more than once, that he writes 2,000 words a day and rarely takes a day off. Jodi Picoult admits to sneaking away to her office to write on weekends. For much of his life, Frederick Forsyth insisted on working, 7 days a week, without fail.
Like many other writers with lofty writing goals, I initially found it easy to get overwhelmed. I would begin with a goal of writing 2,000 words a day – sometimes hitting it, sometimes not. Then, the pressure began. A mere 500 words seemed trite. 850 appeared a half-hearted effort. On some days, it seemed that reaching 1,000 words might cause my brain to shut down.
But with five books to my name, and two more in the making, I can attest– through trial and error, that consistency and tenacity, not word count, are key to churning out stories.
As you can see from this chart highlighting famous authors (below), word counts range from 500-10,000 words a day. All of the authors are equally well known, yet no formula exists for one magic word count.
Jack London, perhaps, said it best. “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
I agree. I believe that success isn’t measured by word count. It’s reached by striving for the best writing you can do, whenever you sit down to write. Bestsellers are defined by quality. Must-read books resonate with readers. Favorite novels leave you with a warm feeling in your heart or a lasting impression long after you finish the last page. It doesn’t matter if the books are 300,000 or 60,000 words.
My sweet spot for writing is in the morning, from 6 am – 8 am, Monday through Saturday. Sometimes I write on Sundays, also, and I aim for 1,200 words each day.
You might find midnight or 2 o’ clock in the morning is the magic hour. You might discover you do best aiming for 450 words a day Tuesday through Friday. More power to you! That 450 becomes 900 words, and in 6 months, on that Tuesday-Friday schedule, you’ll have 45,000 words.
Just keep at it. It’s a solitary job. No one else but you will set your alarm clock or put your bottom in a chair. But when you are able to type “The End,” it’s the best feeling in the world!