How to finish a novel in three months

The importance of word counts

If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo, then you know the importance of word counts. If you’re part of any social media network, you’ll see constant updates about other people’s word counts and this number will be tied to your success for the day.

Before reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, I never put much stock into the importance of word counts. I preferred to work organically, but I usually hit 1,000 to 5,000 words per day anyway (without what I previously saw as the added, unnecessary stress).

The importance of word counts

I’ve re-framed my thinking around the importance of word counts because it’s easy to lose sight of a goal in our gogogo culture. Without one, writing is ad hoc and in spurts rather than consistent. This makes it difficult to assess progress and stay accountable.

For 2019, I’ve assigned myself a daily word count to see if it helps or hinders my typical process. If the master, who has arguably had more commercial success than any other author, tells us about the importance of word counts, there must be something to it.

So, how do you find time to meet a daily word count goal?

How many words should I write a day

How to meet your daily word count goal

I wrote a post on how to reach a goal, but here are some tips for word counts in particular:

  • Set a reasonable target. If you decide to write 10,000 words a day, you may get frustrated and give up when you realize that isn’t possible given you have, you know, a life. If Stephen King’s suggestion of 2,000 seems high, start with 500
  • Start a habit. Dedicate time to writing whether that is early in the morning, on your lunch break, or later in the evening. Whatever you choose, make that time sacred to you and stick with it
  • Try writing sprints. Some authors set the clock and write as many words as they can during that time. If you have author friends, you can have a friendly competition with them. You will meet, if not exceed, your  goal for the day and have fun in the process
  • Don’t make excuses. Writers’ block isn’t real, but it’s a great way to avoid getting anything done. Take your task seriously, sit in your chair, and write. It may not be gold, but it’s better than a blank page and you can edit later
  • Avoid all distractions. Leave your phone in another room, turn your WiFi off, tell your family that you’re busy, and focus on doing what you need to do. It isn’t selfish to put yourself first every once in a while and spend time doing what you love
  • Track your progress. I don’t have any fancy writing software. It’s just me and Microsoft Word. Anything else is just noise in my opinion and I’m sure the folks who wrote books by hand would agree. Track your successes in a journal or even an Excel sheet and celebrate your milestones, such as completing the first draft (or if that’s too lofty, a certain number of chapters)

The importance of word counts

Do you set daily word count goals? How do you stay on track?

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3 thoughts on “The importance of word counts

    1. I started up a daily journaling habit in January, but then I fell off the wagon. I should really start up again!

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