I’ve once again run into the enemy of all writers: employment.
Granted, it’s only temporary employment, but it’s amazing how much less time you have to write when you’re contributing to society and feeding your family.
But whether you’re a full-time writer or a hopeful on Wattpad, if you want to be a serious writer, you need to write. Books don’t materialize on wishes.
So how much should you write every day? Unfortunately, there’s no broad answer. Every writer is different, and what about editing? When you cut a whole page out, a numbers-based approach would see that as a backwards step when actually you’re closer to the end.
Instead of giving you a flat amount, I’ll give you three quick rules to apply to your story, your situation, and your ability.
As Much As Your Deadline Demands
This is an easy one. If you have a deadline from a publisher, agent, contest, or whatever, then you just do the math. I have X days left and need to write Y words. Y divided by X equals words per day you need to write.
Well, ALMOST. Remember, you’ll also need to edit, so give yourself more time for that. And if you need to bounce back and forth with an agent and/or publisher, give yourself even more time.
When you have a deadline, the answer is “as fast as possible.” The more you write now, the more time you have to fix things later, and the happier everybody will be.
And if your deadline is a non-urgent one, like NaNoWriMo or some self-imposed contest where nobody will fire you for failing, still put in as much effort as possible. If you do, you’ll probably get even more words done than you needed to.
But what if you don’t have a deadline?
As Much As You Can
That sounds obvious, but hear me out. Jobs, families, hobbies, sleep, eating, these things all sap our time faster than we’d like. Writing comes harder to some people.
To them, I’d say this: make time. Don’t wait for it, carve it out. However little you can manage, even as little as half an hour a day, or perhaps only on weekends, guard that time like a rabid bulldog and fill it with words.
A simple solution is to average one page a day (about 500 words). If you do that, you’ll have over 350 pages a day. And that’s computer pages. In actual book format, you’ll have closer to 500 pages, which is huge (175k words at a constant rate). All because you committed to a simple amount every day.
Even when time is scarce, write what you can. It adds up, I promise you. Commitment will pay off.
As Much (or Little) As The Story Needs
Some days you write ten pages, but others you only write ten words. But if those ten words are absolutely perfect, then you’ve done a better job than if you’d forced yourself to write 990 more.
Currently, one of my stories needs brainstorming. Another story needs editing. Yet another needs research. None of them do much for my word count, but all are part of writing.
And I haven’t even mentioned rest. At times, you’ll need to turn off your computer and go for a walk, watch a movie, do anything that’s not writing. This puts your brain in a new gear, absorbing new data, and thinking in different ways. All of these things contribute to writing your story.
So where is your story right now? Does it need more words? Does a single sentence or paragraph need all your attention? Do you need to do some research or take a nap?
Do what’s best for you and for the story. These things aren’t always quantifiable, but everything you do for your story is a step closer to finishing it.
If you’re putting words to paper, set a timer and fill it with as much writing as you can, or write down a word count and scramble to meet or exceed it.
But otherwise, don’t ask yourself “How much should I write?” Instead, ask yourself, “How can I add to my story today?” Edit, research, give the story to beta-readers, or just rest.
Now please excuse me. I need to grab my iPod and go imagine my next scene.