I began taking a daily word count after I sold my first book and was working on its successor. It was – and is – one of the easiest ways to calculate my progress, especially if I’m writing with Word or Pages. Oh, the joy of hitting my target and then overshooting!
But it is also a bit of a blunt instrument. It’s all too easy to use it to beat yourself up. And there are other risks attached, too.
There is more to writing a novel than volume of wordage, after all. A book needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Above all it needs a point. If you lose sight of that, watching the words pile up gives you an entirely false picture of your progress.
Unexpected Risk of a Daily Word Count
Confession time here. This is something I did myself, when I was in my first few years of writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon. I was on my fourth or fifth story and thought I’d got the process sussed. I’d recovered from the illness which set me off writing so hard in the first place and I had a full time job.
I had moved into a flat that was pretty much next door to St James’s Park Underground Station. On a bad morning-after-the-night-before, it was pillow to desk in 35 minutes.
So there I was, writing my books in a regular early morning slot before I left for work. A standard contemporary Harlequin Mills and Boon was a maximum of 55,000 words. My plotting had improved immensely with editorial guidance, as my then agent had prophesied. I turned in Book No Whatever at 54,500 words on the nose and skipped along to meet my lovely editor, positive that I was on roll.
Um. No. Continue reading