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March Update: How Many Words Are Enough?

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At the start of the year I decided I set myself the goal of releasing four books in 2017. I recently sat down and did some rough maths to figure out how many words I need to write per day to achieve that. I discovered, rather unsurprisingly, that it would require a pace that’s just unrealistic to keep up every day. So I decided that instead of rushing out content I’m not satisfied with, I’m scaling back my expectations made during that naive period of New Year enthusiasm and aiming to release a more realistic target of three books this year.

The Maths

Working 5 days per week (everyone needs a few days off sometimes) gives me ~20 days per month.

3 books per year means I get 4 months to spend writing each book, so that’s 80 days.

6 drafts at ~80,000 words each means 480,000 words written/edited per book.

480,000/80 = 6,000 words written/edited per day.

So that’s my target daily wordcount to stay on schedule and release 3 books this year. I’ve been keeping to it for a couple of weeks now, and it seems achievable. I wrote a post about the wordcounts of some famous writers back in 2015 when I took part in Nanowrimo. Back then I was averaging just over 2,500 words per day, so I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with my productivity since then.

The downside of all this is that I’ve hardly found any time for reading so far this year, which as a writer, is a shameful thing to admit. Also my blog has suffered, with my posts coming nowhere near as frequently as I had hoped at the start of the year. (Weekly posts? Hah, past me was so naive).

So what do you think, is 6,000 words a day too many or not enough? How many words do you write per day? Every writer is different, and I’m always interested in other people’s methods, so let me know in the comments below.

Current Project

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Solace Within, the second book in the post-apocalyptic Fielding series and follow-up to my first book, Forged in the Dawn, is coming along well. In a couple of weeks it’ll be nearing completion, however I’m holding off on rushing it through and releasing by the end of March like I originally planned. Instead, I’ll be pushing it back a month to line up with my new 2017 schedule. An extra benefit being that I get more time to polish the finished product and make sure it’s up to a standard I’m satisfied with before releasing.

Planned Release: April 2017.

If you would like to follow my work, you can keep up to date with progress on all my writing from my current projects page, otherwise you can follow my blog for updates.

Other Random Stuff

Despite having already been covered a million times, I’ve been thinking about making a post on the subject of opening lines for a while now. Until I find time, here’s a Reddit discussion on people’s favourite opening lines in a fantasy book.

I stumbled over this song by Weird Al Yankovic and it made my day. Anyone with an affinity for words or irrational hatred of the lazy way people talk on social media will appreciate this one.

Lastly, here’s a video of the rockstar author Neil Gaiman himself giving out some advice for aspiring writers from a couple of years back. Pretty inspiring stuff.

So that’s my update for March. TL:DR is things are moving forward and my next book is coming out soon, but it’s at the expense of finding time for everything else I want to do.

I hope your own writing/reading projects are going well. Until next time, never give up, never surrender.


Solace Within images Copyright © 2016 Gavin Zanker

A Writer’s Daily Word Count

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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.


© 2015, Gavin Zanker. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photo by Stephen Train licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.