If you do much of reading what successful authors say about what they believe made them successful, one of the recurring messages you’ll find is that they set for themselves a daily word count goal, meaning, they have to sit down and write X number of words each day before they can consider themselves done with writing for the day. Authors, such as Stephen King (arguably the most prolific author ever) ensures that he has to do this every single day, holiday or not, vacation or not, traveling or not.
I want to go on record right now that whether or not this is the key to becoming a successful author, I do believe this is something every aspiring (or accomplished) author should do. If you’re working on a book, it’s too easy to say, “Nope, not going to work on that today. I’ve got video games to play!” or some other version of a very similar procrastination-type method. You have to think of it as a job. However, since this would be a self-employed-type business, you have to think of your daily requirements as producing x amount of units, not sitting around on facebook for x number of hours.
I’m a huge fan of the word count goal. Honestly, if it weren’t for this goal, most days would go by without me writing a single word. I like to make things even harder on myself by stating that days I don’t meet my goal, I have to take those words onto the quota for the following day. I usually allow myself the opportunity to reset any carried over words when I’ve finished one book and began another.
When I start writing a book, I usually tend to set myself with a rather small daily goal, as I’m generally still trying to work out some basic plot points and developing some of the more integral parts of the early story. In other words, I’m setting a lot of stuff up, so there’s a ton of time where I just sit in front of my computer and think. 1000 words a day is usually where I sit for at least the first third of the book.
But when I start getting around the halfway point of the book, I usually severely up the number required…partially because I can get into a great flow once I get past the initial thousand and should really use that momentum, but also partially because once I get to the halfway point, all I can think about is the end and how much I want to be there already. My standard high-point daily goal sits at around 5,000 words.
Now, where things start to get interesting is when I fall behind on word counts…specifically those days where something comes up, when I’m in that last half of the book, and I don’t get the chance to write at all. Suddenly I’m in a severe backlog (this usually happens a lot during the final fourth of the book) and if I were to actually catch up to my word count quota debt, I could be in need of writing up to 15,000 words in a single day.
That’s a lot of words…
Which really just means that once I get to my final fourth of the book, all of my free time is spent just writing. If I have a minute or three during the times of day where my brain is operating effectively, I’m flinging words upon the page and trying to get my word count debt back down to zero.
I never make it.
But it’s an interesting concept, this word count debt. Instead of just saying, “Screw it, I’ll never make it there,” I still continue forward. Possibly because I’m able to see the point in which those quotas no longer matter, due to the fact that I’ll actually be finishing the book.
It also probably helps that the end of my books tend to be where most of the action lies, meaning that I’m flying through describing battles and whatnot…things that are typically quicker to write and fill pages than the more delicate character and plot building scenes.
All the same…Daily Word Count Quotas…it may not be the key to winning the author race, but it’s the number one method to getting yourself a good spot in line.
Speaking of which…I’m currently 6,000 words in the hole, with another 5,000 due today. Better get to it!
Have fun out there!