Forums Writing and Publishing Conversation The problem with word count goals

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    • #52159
      Jennifer Lawler

      I spend a lot of my writing time staring out the window. I call this, “Sometimes you have to get the thinking out of the way first.” I might have an idea for a plot twist but have to think about the various ways it will play out and how it will affect other aspects of the story. I’m running down these scenarios when it looks like I’m watching people with their dogs on Mass Street. Sometimes in my head it is all gruesome bloodshed and won’t Martin be surprised when he walks in on that while outside a girl in a yellow dress is drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.

      Other times, admittedly, I am hoping a muse will come by and zap me with a totally awesome inspiration, but she never does that when I’d like her to, just when I’m in the middle of something else (“Oh my god if he would just finish I could write this down!!!”).

      Mostly when I am staring out the window, I am getting the thinking out of the way so that the writing, when it comes, doesn’t have to wait for the thumbs’ up from my brain. That is why I think word count goals can be counter-productive.

      Sometimes I make a huge amount of progress in a day when practically speaking I have only written fifty words. What you need to write is time and space, and not all of writing (in fact very little) actually takes place on the page.

      This is why I focus on time-based goals rather than word-count goals; giving myself the space for the writing rather than assuming the only metric that matters is the number of words.

      Do you swear by word count goals? Tell me more!

    • #71516
      Rachel Poe

      I completely understand what you are saying, but if I’m not careful, I end up spending all my time thinking and never get any words on the page. I need deadlines. Maybe not word counts so much as chapters, or sections, or ideas that need to be on the page by a certain day (lest I forget them before they are ever written).

      • #71554
        Jennifer Lawler

        Yes, I can see that. What might be useful is some combination of time and word goals; “I’ll set aside SOME AMOUNT OF TIME each morning and intend to have the first draft finished by SOME NUMBER OF WEEKS OR MONTHS HENCE.”

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