"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: How Many Words Do You Write?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Many Words Do You Write?

The author John Braine once said, "A writer is someone who counts words."

Do you?

You should - because it's a sure fire way of getting around writer's block -and a good way of keeping yourself on track.

Having specific word counts to aspire to, will keep you writing more - and for longer. 

You'll have more to show for your efforts, more to submit, and consequently more work coming in. 

Your writing success is directly correlated to your word count.

Last night I was talking to a writer - well, someone who wanted to be a full time writer - and she told me she'd taken a year to get to her manuscript to where it was now. 

I asked, casually of course, how many words she'd written so far.

"Four thousand," she said. 

Four thousand! 

G'ah - that's less than eleven words a day - what's she doing, I thought, chiseling them in stone?

By stunning contrast, Robyn held the whip to me yesterday (metaphorically speaking) and I produced 2500 words for a treatment we have to get to a producer by 5pm today. 

And I did that between 10am and 2pm - taking a break to make lunch - because I had to pick up the kids at 3. 

Talk about pressure!

But that's the point. 

If you don't pressure yourself, you ain't never gonna have enough words down to make you a contenda (to mis-quote Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront'!)

Writing something every day is important. 

Pushing your limit is important too. 

It doesn't matter if you start out writing just eleven words a day - as long as you consciously try and increase that amount as each day passes.

I try to write - actually try is not the word, have to write would be more truthful - at least 500 words a day or I feel bad, like I've failed in some unannounced contest. 

2000 words and I feel good- complete somehow.

Which means that I could have written my friend's manuscript in two days - rather than take a year over it.

I know this is common among writers.

People call themselves writers because they have a writing project on the boil - whether they're actually working on it actively or not. 

I used to do this too. 

I felt like a writer because I had a novel that I would dip into every now and then. 

I spent years like this, believing myself a writer because I wrote sometimes.

Now I know different. 

Writing for a living means exactly what the phrase suggests: you write because you have to live, and you live to write

Writing becomes the center of your life - and you make a living from it!

The whole idea of that seemed like a fantasy before I took the plunge - before I realized I just had to let go of the silly 9 to5. 

Before I realized that holding on to a false sense of security was wasting my time - time that could be better spent being a writer.

This would be my advice to you:

Don't wait, plan, and dream about being a writer. Just do it.

Take the chance - we're only here once, our lives are on loan.

Do what makes you happy.

Reject compromise. 

Reject criticism. 

Reject everything and everyone who would want to see you live a lesser life.

Simply, write, and...

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy


Kristi Holl said...

Thanks for a great reminder today. By any chance, do you keep track of your daily words written by using a spreadsheet? I've had that system of counting words recommended to me, and once I learn how to do spreadsheets, I think it would be a good encouragement to see those words automatically add up every day.

Rob Parnell said...

Hi Kristi,

Great to hear from you. Yes, I used to record word count on a spreadsheet - until I realized I was spending far too much time making the document look pretty!

Nowadays I let my conscience decide my word count - and my partner, who gives me no quarter!

Best of luck with your books.


Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.

Danny said...

Right to the point, Rob. I've just re-read your blog again and what I found here, though I have read it, is still a great motivation.

You remind me I have to write now, and tomorrow too.

Best of luck, Rob.

Beth MacKinney said...

Lol. That gal needs to do Nanowrimo. It's a perfect excuse to get an entire manuscript done in a month. Let's face it, your rough is going to be awful anyway. You might as get it over with so you can begin the rewriting process asap.

Victor said...

I am soo guilty of dabbling. I think I've been telling people that I am an "aspiring" writer for ten years now! Blech! Aspiring is just another word for "Chicken" LOL

Rob Parnell said...

Thanks for the post, Victor. I've read your MS now - and you should now call yourself a proper writer. You have the talent, the right attitude and now all you need is time, patience and perseverance.

Anonymous said...


Pollo said...

That's good advice you're giving, especially if one wants to be a commercial author. But writing is also an art, and sometimes dipping in is good for you. It just sounds a little like you're trying to make people feel guilty about how they write, when really, any writing is good!


Anonymous said...

As a writer who has taken two and a half years on my WIP I have spent this long because at 65000 words I realised my story wasnt progressing the way I wanted because I had started in the wrong place. I write EVERY weekend because I have a full time job, but I have written scenes and or story line notes as I explore getting my storyline 'right'. Ive probably written over 400,000 words - and my writing and storyline are so much better than when I first started. But my greatest achievement with word count was 12589 words in 1 day :) my kids didn't dare interrupt me

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!