It’s an inevitable question if you’re writing a book. You feel like you aren’t making any progress, and you ask yourself, “how many words per day should I be writing?” Let’s talk about why you should never ask that question and better goals for you to set.
Look. I used to give way too many fucks about words per day. I have this whole post on how to write fast, this one on how to write a lot of words, and then these post on how to write 10,000 words a day and 9 tips for writing 10,000 words a day.
Writing fast used to matter to me a lot.
This came from previous careers as a ghostwriter and content writer with tight deadlines that meant I had to write a lot fast. Those jobs were also the reason I was so burnt out for so long.
Now that I work for myself and set the pace, I rarely get over 2,000 words in a given day. Sure, there are moments where I feel inspired and my brain is on fire and I’m ready to write my ass off.
But for the most part, I’ve slowed way down, and I don’t worry so much about my daily word goal anymore, nor do I think about how much I “should” be writing.
The Problem With “Should”
Should is a word that really doesn’t matter.
Sure, if you’re beholden to someone else, maybe it does. When I wrote more for others than I did myself, it was a word that was constantly top of mind.
I knew I should write more than I was simply because my paycheck depended on it.
Now, I keep should out of it.
I write what I want to write. I focus on the amount of writing I can do without burning out. Thinking about my capacity for work has changed the game for me.
No longer do I think about should. Instead, I focus on what I can do to chip away at a goal.
Sure, as an indie writer, there are all those examples of writers making tons of cash because they write 10,000 words every single day and never get enough sleep.
That’s not for me anymore.
I recommend taking a moment to look at all the “shoulds” you have piled up. How much pressure are you putting on yourself? Do you expect too much of your writing?
Instead of thinking about how much you should write, let’s talk about how you can set some healthy writing goals.
How to Set a Words Per Day Goal
Every writer is different. Projects require different things from us. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing.
We know that intuitively, and yet, here we are. You found this page because you Googled something about writing a specific amount of words per day. Clearly, you’re looking for what you think you should be doing and not what you need to do for the writer you are.
Maybe you want to know how many words to write a novel in a month. Maybe you want to know how many words per day to write a book. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
Instead of focusing on writing a book fast, let’s look at various daily writing goals. Here are some examples to get you started.
3,000 Words Every Day
If your writing muscle is well-developed, then this may be a good daily goal for you. You’ll have yourself a 90,000 word novel in a month.
The bonus of writing this much per day is that, over time, you’ll be able to crank out this word count relatively quickly.
The Stephen King Daily Word Count
Stephen King writes 2,000 words per day. It’s a tidy amount, and it lets you get words on the page without burning out.
King also says this is the amount that helps him keep the characters and story fresh in his mind so he doesn’t lose the ideas while writing.
The NaNoWriMo Daily Goal
I have a whole post on how to hit your NaNoWriMo words per day if you want some more information. Typically, though, to hit the 50,000 words in a month, you need to 1,667 words a day to win NaNoWriMo.
The Holly Black Words per Day
Holly Black, a prolific writer who has written tons of middle grade, teen, and YA books writes 1,000 words per day. She is a believer in steadily working toward her goal, and she has a ton of published novels. So her method works.
The Hemingway Words per Day
I don’t think there’s much about Hemingway’s life that we should emulate. He didn’t seem very happy, and he was an absolute bastard. He did, however, write 500 words per day.
This is misleading though, because he was the type to really edit the ever loving hell out of his words. He is known for saying writing is rewriting, so who really knows how much he wrote with all the rewrites he did?
The James Joyce Words per Day
I have another squiffy statistic for you. It took James Joyce 17 years to write Finnegan’s Wake. Because that book is 265,000 words, people say he wrote 90 words a day on that novel.
We all know that he probably had super productive days and super slow days, though, right? He probably wasn’t shooting for 90 words per day.
Finnegan’s Wake is not an easy read, so it stands to reason it wasn’t an easy write. It took the time it needed to take. words per day goals be damned.
Non-Words Per Day Goals for Writers
So, maybe you’ve gotten this far and have decided to swear off daily word count goals. That’s totally cool if you have. Or you might just be in need of a new metric to track your writing. Either way, here are some non-words per day goals for writers to focus on.
- Number of hours written
- Number of pages written
- Number of chapters written
- Number of scenes written
- Number of songs listened to while drafting
- Number of writing sprints completed
- Number of days written per week/month
- Number of drafts completed per year
- Number of deadlines hit
- Amount of money earned from writing
- Number of articles/pieces/essays/books published
Whatever you choose to track, make sure it’s a metric that matters to you.
What Goals Do You Set for Your Writing?
Do you stick with the words per day goal? How many projects do you want to complete a year? Do you track your writing hours?