Saturday, June 20, 2009

Word Count Goals

Many writers set daily or weekly goals. Stephen King in his book On Writing tells how he sets for himself a daily goal of 2000 words, after which he is free to do as he pleases. Other writers set goals of 1000 or 500 words per day. Some go with 4000 words per week.

If you do use your word-count to measure your progress, what exactly is the goal you set, and what counts towards that goal? Is it words only, as measured by your computer? Does re-writing a 1000-word excerpt count for a whole new 1000-word stint? What about anti-words? Do you give yourself word-count credit for cutting out excess words? Let's hear from the writers.

Personally, I find that setting word goals is very useful. During those times when I set goals, I meet them, or at least I come close. When I do not set goals, I can become quite lazy! How about you?


  1. I keep it simple: when writing, I have word count goals in number of words added. When editing, I have word count goals in number of words cut, depending on the type of editing.

    My actual goals vary, depending on what time it is. I am one of those weird adults who, when sleepy, goes to bed.

    Yes I seem to be the odd duck, I know.

  2. I must make 1000 words a day. But then again, I'm a real quick writer, and can usually get that in an hour.

    I find my upper limits to produce stuff I would want to keep in a final draft is about 3k.

  3. I'm a lazy dog without goals - lying on the floor, you'd swear I was dead kind of lazy. Amazingly, when I force myself to write every day (or 4 x week), I actually do. :D

  4. My goal is a minimum of 500 words a day. Anything else is a bonus. I don't give negative credits! If the words are chopped, you just keep going. Re-writing counts for your daily word goal, yes.

  5. I usually write during my lunch hour, so I can't necessarily set a word count, but I do set a time limit. Some days I am planning out the plot, some days I am editing, some days I am writing like a fiend.

    I put my iPod headphones on and go into the writing zone.

  6. I definitely have a word count goal for every day. Last book it was 500 per week day, 1000 on the weekends (4000 per week). But for the next book I'm thinking of trying to change it to 5000 per week. I'm in the research phase right now, and I don't know how to set tangible goals for researching other than setting an amount of time. So, I don't feel like I'm making as much progress as I'd like. Any tips for setting research goals?

  7. I set goals, but not word count goals.

    For example, when I was finishing up the first draft of my novel I made checklists. Things on the checklist were typically scenes that I wanted to write. If I completed a scene or two in one sitting that was good.

    Now, I might spend a day or two developing ideas for what I want in my scenes. That might involve research, or it might involve going for a walk and thinking through the action and the setting. I count all that stuff as progress, and feel good about it.

    The bottom line is that as long as there is some kind of forward momentum I count that as good, as long as I did one thing to make the story move forward in some way I consider that as progress.

  8. I don't set firm goals. If I'm in the zone, I might tell myself that I won't quit until I hit the 5,000 or 10,000 word mark. I think that just gives me more of a sense of accomplishment when I hit than anything else. The rest of the time, I don't set goals because there are too many other things that may get in the way. I write when the words flow. When they don't, I spend time letting the story cook for a while and do more productive things.


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