When I first started writing, I used to give myself daily word count goals, like 500 or a thousand words. I think when you first start writing, daily word count goals are probably a good thing. It helps you to develop discipline, to sit your butt in the chair and get the job done. It’s also forcing you to get words out, to experiment with them freely, and to try to mold them to move along a story. As you write more words, more and more ideas come to you. This is probably the greatest value of NaNoWriMo.

But I’ve since decided that daily word goals are counter-productive for me, at least in terms of the quality of my writing. I find that if I’m writing just to reach my thousand words or so a day I often will write total crap, and then I have to go back anyway and rewrite it later, when the muse is speaking a little louder.

So instead I just have certain hours that I dedicate to my writing. Some days I feel particularly tenacious and I write 5000 words. Other days I feel like blubber and I write 5, or I revise the 5000 I wrote the previous day. Some days I don’t write at all. I do something mindless, and allow my brain to wander freely and allow the good ideas to walk in by chance. Usually after some mental rest I have a great writing day the next day.

I think as long as your butt is in the chair and you’re dedicated to writing the very best you can, there’s no need to make yourself meet fat word goals. This isn’t a race. Creativity has to simmer every now and then, you know?

What do you think? Do you have daily writing goals?


12 comments

  1. I find that weekly word goals work much better for me than daily ones 🙂

  2. I’m with Sarah. I do much better with a weekly goal than a daily goal. When I try a daily goal, I also have a tendency to let missing a day affect way too many days after that.

  3. I’ve never given myself daily or weekly word count goals or even a time goal. I’m one of those lucky mommy-writers whose kids give me a very set amount of time every day to write, and writing is what I want to do, so I use that time to do it.

    Sure, there are days when I feel stuck, when the scene just isn’t flowing, but those days are few and far between, so I just muscle through them. And after a day or two, I’m back to wanting to write, so I just go with that.

  4. I think I have about the same schedule. I’ve decided that just a number of words isn’t enough it’s about what you put into them!

  5. I’m like you. If I’m really out of the habit of writing, I’ll give myself a daily goal. Like next month, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo. It will get me back in the routine. When I’m at the top of my game, I just write when I’m feeling it. And usually, that’s pretty frequently.

  6. Sarah and Jeni, weekly word goals sound more realistic to me, but somehow still stifling to my ultra-free spirit.

    Krista, I’m in your mommy camp. Nap time and bedtime=writing time. No time to dilly-dally!

  7. Ooh, I posted about this a while ago. And I always do a chapter a day, but not necessarily writing a chapter a day…I read when the creative juices aren’t flowing. I read things that will help me unwind, or relax, and sometimes it sparks that drive in my heart that says, ‘get out that ms, and write the next chapter!’

  8. Hmm, I agree with Sarah and Jeni – weekly words counts are much more managable and I tend to aim low so that when I surpass them I feel even better 🙂

  9. I usually write out my first drafts by hand, so I have page goals rather than word goals. Since I like going to coffeehouses to write, I always tell myself that I won’t leave until I’ve written at least four or five pages, which is about an hour’s worth of work. Somehow that motivates me to keep writing.

  10. NW I draft long-hand too! Somehow that helps me not worry about how much I’m writing and just focus on what I’m writing. It also helps me to not get distracted by the internet. 🙂

  11. Love this post. I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing, trying to figure out how to juggle that with life and still haven’t figured out if word count, time, feeling of progress, etc. is the best for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Lovely post. Congratulations !! It is a pleasure to visit your site and I like that your server is blazing fast. This page loaded in half a second 🙂

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