Tag Archives: productivity

In Defense of Small Word Counts

Let me let you in on a little secret. I don’t write a lot of words per day.

My daily word counts vary from 350 to 700 on a good day, but I almost never break 1,000 words unless I’m at the very end the book because the resolution is often easy for me to write since all the major strings have been tied.

On social media, it’s common for people to post their word counts after a writing sprint or just as a daily thing they do to hold themselves accountable. When I see people post that they wrote 4,000 words in a few hours, I feel sick. That’s more than I write in a week sometimes, most times. Seeing giant word counts is something that bothers me on and off. When my writing is flowing well, I don’t really care. When I’m struggling, all I see are other people’s numbers and I begin to feel inadequate.

When I’m writing consistently, it’s easy say to myself, “Why do you care? You’ve published 5 books. It isn’t like your words don’t add up to a full book.” And my books aren’t exactly tiny. Most are over 90,000 words. So what if it takes me 6-9 months to write it? I’d like to blame capitalism for that. Everything we do is measured in productivity and inevitably we tie our self-worth to the outcomes of our labor. How many words per day is merely a metric by which I measure my self-worth when things aren’t going well.

Someone might say, “Ditch the word count. Just write.” I tried that last year when my mental health was rather shitty, and it did the opposite of help because without something to push me, I wrote nothing for a few months. When writing is a form of self-care, you understand how this can cause a downward spiral. My small daily word count goal of 350 words is like saying I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes every day. It’s something I have to push myself to do because my brain, when it’s feeling low, resists doing it even though it’s good for me. A small, doable goal gives me the push I need to get it done.

Once I hit my 350, I can stop and go to bed. Most of the time I keep going. Days I don’t write because I just don’t have mental or physical spoons to do so, I make up for it the next day. I have a word count tracker that I use to chart my progress and hold myself accountable. Days I don’t write, I don’t put a zero in. Some may think it’s cheating, but zeroes made it harder to write when I was down. Now I just fill in 350 and make up for it the next day by writing 700 words or as I tell myself 2 350s.

We do what we must to trick ourselves into taking our medicine.

For years, I’ve dreaded things like NaNoWriMo where you write 50,000 words in a month or 1,667 words a day. Before I made friends with other writers, I thought you had to be a pro to accomplish such a massive daily word count or be on speed. It never seemed possible. Then I made friends with writers who seemed to do it without a lot of trouble and my confidence cracked. I couldn’t do it. I tried to do NaNo and gave up within the first week. Despite all the hype and support of other writers, I stared at that word count like it was Mt. Everest. Only the strongest and best could do it, and I couldn’t.

What I failed to notice is how many writers do NaNo and don’t publish or shop the book after. Plenty of books grow out of NaNo, but most don’t or they need to be heavily revised. That’s far from my usual process. Until last year, I had never had to totally rewrite a book. My books need editing, but most of it is fact-checking, copy edits, and cleaning up/beefing up descriptions. What I start, I finish, even if it takes the better part of a year.

I guess the point of all this is that you have to do what works for you. If writing a lot and then editing a lot is what comes naturally, then do it. If you write a little at a time, that’s fine too. There’s no one way to write even if there are plenty of books that try to teach you how to boost your productivity. At some point, you have to come to terms with what your process is and embrace it as best you can.

2 Comments

Filed under Personal Life, Writing

Camp Nanowrimo

This year I have decided to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. If you have never heard of it, Nanowrimo is short for national novel writing month. Normally, Nanorwrimo takes place in the fall, and the goal is to finish 50,000 words in a month. Camp Nanowrimo differs in that you only set a goal of however many pages you want to write. In my case, it’s 15,000 words, which means to meets to meet that goal, I have to write about 500 words a day.

Typically, I don’t do Nanowrimo. When I first heard the premise of it a few years ago, I scoffed at it. My friend, who was taking a full load of university classes at the time, was on the brink of tears daily because she couldn’t juggle all of her coursework and writing about 1,667 words a day. It didn’t seem like it was worth the stress. In the spring, I was invited by my fellow writer friend Kate M. Colby to participate in the first session of Camp Nanowrimo. Still dubious about the idea, I joined and gave myself a goal of 15,000 words. Unfortunately, it was April, which is the big crunch before final papers and projects were due. I updated exactly once the entire month. It was demoralizing to say the least to watch the number you needed per day to meet your goal grow while you can only type out a hundred words or so a day while writing a twenty page essay. Too bad the paper didn’t count toward my Nanowrimo goal.

Once again, Kate invited me to be part of her cabin for July Nanowrimo. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it again. I had been having writers block on and off with The Earl and the Artificer and wasn’t really getting anyway. My anxiety was rising because I need to turn it in to my professor/advisor at some point since it’s my thesis project. Did I really want to add stress by tacking on a daily word count? Hesitantly, I agreed. The worst I could do was not write and drag the cabin’s word count down (sorry, cabin mates).

I am so happy I did. In my last post (June in Review), I mentioned that one of my goals for July is to stop focusing on perfection and focus on writing. My perfectionist tendencies were holding me back and paralyzing my writing. With my Camp Nanowrimo writing, I know I need to write about 500 words per day to meet my goal. In the big scheme of things, 500 words isn’t that much and comes out to maybe half a page to a page, depending on whether the scene is dialogue-heavy. Thus far, I have written 2,035 words in the past 3 days, and while that isn’t much for some writers, it’s probably more than I have written for that book in two weeks.

Why does it work? I’m not a hundred percent sure. Part of it, I think, is that there are other writers in your cabin doing the same thing. You aren’t all going for the same goal, but you’re all writing. There’s a message board where you can post or ask for help or congratulate someone else on doing well with their goals. It’s a bit of synergy even if you aren’t close by. Everyone sets a goal that is specific to them, so there isn’t any peer pressure to write 60,000 words in a month. It’s relaxing, and because I don’t have any classes or pressing work, I can leisurely write and update my progress without worrying when I’m going to squeeze it in. One of the things I have noticed while working toward my Camp Nanowrimo goal is that I do my most productive writing from 11 PM to 1:30 AM. I think it’s easier to focus once everyone else (including the dogs) has gone to bed, and at that point, I’m a little tired and am not as uptight about my work. The next day, I do a little tinkering before I work again on my next session.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo or any writing retreats this summer?


If you would like news about new releases, promos, and previews of future projects, please sign-up for my newsletter.

newsletter button

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing