Curious about the daily word count of other authors compared to my own, I had a look around and found this article on authormagazine.org which takes at the look at the output of some famous authors. Here are a few highlights if you don’t want to read the whole thing.
J.R.R. Tolkein wrote The Lord of the Rings as one novel, which contains about 670,000 words. It took him eleven years, which is 245 words each working day, or a little less than a typed page.
Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, “and only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”
Another English writer, Charles Hamilton—who used twenty-five pseudonyms, the most famous being Frank Richards—was so prolific that George Orwell accused him of being a team of writers. He wrote a million and a half words a year, or about twenty pages each working day (assuming 250 working days in a year).
So it seems that word counts vary wildly from author to author, from a paltry couple of hundred to a headache-inducing tens of thousands. I do wonder how accurate some of those numbers are. I’m not accusing anyone, but you know. . . people lie. . . a lot.
There’s something to be said for quality as well. I would value writing a thousand good words over ten thousand bad ones. Within two days of NaNoWriMo starting, I saw intimidating word counts of over twenty thousand, and I had to wonder how much of that was actual coherent writing and not just mashing of the keyboard.
At the end of the day, I suppose it’s unimportant how much you write, as long as you keep writing. As Bukowski said, ‘the secret is writing one simple line after another.’ Some days you’ll write more, others less. But the moment you stop is the moment you’re finished being a writer.
NaNoWriMo update – Six days in now, and I’m averaging 2,666 words per day (I took a day off to celebrate hitting 10k). The stat tracking on nanowrimo.org tells me that at my current rate I’ll be finished by November 19th. So not bad going although I constantly feel like I should be writing more. I’m relatively happy with my progress though, and feel reassured having seen some of the outputs of established writers. Also, my hand is starting to yell at me after deciding to write it all longhand.
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