How Many Words Can a Wordsmith Smith…

woodchuck

Woodchuck. Wordsmith. You get the idea…

Ciao, SEers. Happy Wednesday!

I’m in a great mood as I write this. Although I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ve been putting up some impressive word counts this month. True, I was highly motivated (I wanted to—needed to—finish my WIP to move onto other things), but my pace even surprised me. There were two days where I wrote over 9,000 words. I had 10,000 in my sights, but one day I had to stop for an appointment and the other day? Well, I finished the draft, so there was nothing more to write.

I bring this up because I thought you might be interested in increasing your own daily word count. I went from 100 hard-fought words a day to almost 10,000. I’m no math whiz, but even I know that’s a heck of an improvement. Could I have written more than 100 words a day before? Of course. Can I sustain that elevated pace now? Probably not indefinitely, although I know I’ll be writing more than 100 words daily.

How can we increase our daily totals?

Five Tips to Increasing Daily Word Count

  1. Have a Routine
    Write in the same place, at the same time, every day. Try to keep your tools organized and unchanging. (Red pens in cup to your right. Coffee cup to your left. Post-It Notes in center drawer. You get the idea.) The more structured your routine, the less likely you are to veer from it.
  2. Use Deliberate Ambiance
    If you like music when you write, call up your tailored playlist. If you like the sound of thunderstorms and crackling fires (even in summertime), or the chatter and silverware-clinking of a coffeehouse (but you can’t get to one), then open your favorite ambient noise mix. (I’m a big fan of Ambient Mixer, and this is not an affiliate link. The site is free.) Prefer silence? Close your door and get noise-canceling headphones. Setting the right mood will go a long way in increasing your speed.
  3. Have a Plan
    Yes, outliners have the advantage here. But I’m talking about more than the plotter-versus-pantser debate. If at the end of your writing day you start thinking about the following day’s work, you will be preparing yourself for your next writing session. Even as you do other chores or sleep, your subconscious can be priming you for your next pages.
  4. Sprint with Partners
    Nothing like a little competition to get those fingers flying. Gather a group of writer-friends (online friends work just as well as local ones), set a start time and a time limit, and race. Eliminate all distractions (Internet, cell phones, whatever steals your attention from work) and write. Don’t re-read. Don’t edit. Just write. At the end of the time limit, everyone reports their totals. Best part? Every sprinter wins because everyone increased their word count. (But be honest, you want to be the writer with the most words, don’t you?)
  5. Keep a Record of Your Results
    The best way to know if you’re improving is to keep track. You can write that total every day in a notes application. You can create an elaborate spreadsheet with a lot of details. Whichever you prefer. But a record will help you start to notice trends. You write more on Tuesday. You write less after work. Days that you exercise result in better totals. Once you see your trends, you can exploit them.

Curious how your routine matches that of famous authors? Let’s compare.

Stephen King

  • Rises and has a cup of tea.
  • Has his vitamin, plays his music, makes sure his papers are in order.
  • Starts work between 8:00 and 8:30.
  • Writes for 3-4 hours; averages 6 pages a day.

Ernest Hemingway

  • Works first thing in the morning, as close to first-light as possible to avoid distractions.
  • Stops when he still has his groove, so there’s something to look forward to for the next writing session.
  • Manages 500 words a day.

Maya Angelou

  • Up at 5:30. Coffee with husband at 6:00.
  • He leaves at 6:30. She goes to the hotel room she rents by 7:00.
    • Rents only a basic room, not a suite.
    • Keeps dictionary, Bible, playing cards, and a bottle of sherry.
  • Usually writes from 7:00 to 2:00.
    • On a bad day, quits by 12:30.
    • On a good day, may work past 2:00.
  • At home, read over day’s work. Then starts dinner.
  • By the time her husband gets home, she’s put her work behind her.

Kurt Vonnegut

  • Up at 5:30, works until 8:00.
  • Eats breakfast, works until 11:00.
  • Walks to town, runs errands, takes a half-hour swim in private.
  • Eats lunch at 12:00 at home.
  • School to teach or plan.
  • Home at 5:30. Drinks a lot of Scotch then has dinner.
  • Reads and/or listens to jazz.
  • Does a lot of situps and pullups throughout the day.

So, how does your day compare? One thing they all have in common? Routine. (Refer back to point one in my five-step plan.)

I’ll leave you with one more comparison. Famous authors’ daily word counts. Where are you in the range?

  • Ernest Hemingway | 500
  • Margaret Meade | 1,000
  • Mark Twain | 1,400
  • Lee Child | 1,800
  • Nicholas Sparks | 2,000
  • Stephen King | 2,000
  • Norman Mailer | 3,000
  • Anne Rice | 3,000
  • Michael Crichton | 10,000

Whoa! There’s an outlier. I’ve come close to Crichton a couple of times, but that’s nowhere near my average. Not yet, anyway. A girl can dream…

A girl can work hard for it, too.


So, what about you? What’s your daily word average? Do you think you can improve it? Have any tips? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo

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39 thoughts on “How Many Words Can a Wordsmith Smith…

  1. Pingback: Just How Many Words Can You Wordsmith? Follow-up Tips! | Story Empire

  2. I’m not so good about keeping a word count, I’m afraid. I start my day by 7:30 or 8:00, and take care of my email first. (I can get between 350 & 500 a day, so I have to at least scan through them and dump the stuff I don’t need/want, marking the priorities as I go.) That takes me about an hour. After that, I use every minute I can squeeze out of that day to write. That may be just a couple of hours, or it may be the entire day, straight through to dinner, and even afterward. It all depends on whether I have any unplanned interruptions. If everyone leaves me alone, (yay!) I write until I’ve finished what I wanted to say. Usually, that’s at least a full chapter (3,000 words or so) and often a second one.

    I try not to stop in the middle of a scene or chapter. Kinda like when I read, I like to finish up at a good stopping point, because quitting in the middle of a scene can result in my losing my train of thought. Then, it’s hard for me to pick it up again next time, and can result in me ending up with something that sounds disjointed. But tracking the exact number of words I write a day has never been a big priority for me. I just want to be sure that I got from Point A to Point B in a way that works, and wraps up the scene or chapter well. If I have time, I’ll start the next one, but only if I think I’ll be able to finish that one, too. Does that make sense? 🙂

    Love the statistics, Staci. Michael Crichton? Holy Moly! Even without counting, I know I’ve never done 10,000 words in a day! 😯

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I slack off during the summer, when my garden needs attention. Of course, by the time the garden is done, I’ve lost the habit of writing almost every day. So I use a NaNo goal (not always in November) to get back in to the habit, so I try to hit about 2k words a day, but that only applies to drafts. Editing is a whole different animal, at least in my mind. And thanks for the ambient sound link!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gardening was my most beloved hobby, until I started writing four years ago, and forgot I even had roses in my backyard. And a goldfish pond. And oodles of other wonderful things, drawing butterflies and birds galore. I sat at my desk, writing, writing, writing, and let my garden decline through six novels, a novella, and a book of poetry. Just as I was realizing what havoc four years of neglect can wreak, Hurricane Irma hit us, and flattened what was left of our yard, along with the garage and our cars. 😯

      Now, I’m determined to work out a schedule that allows me to restore my yard, and maintain it, in far fewer hours. That way, my writing won’t cause it to turn into a weed-infested hot mess! 😀 Unlike you, though, our prime gardening time down here is winter, when temps are low enough not to induce heatstroke during pruning and planting. So, as we clean up (STILL!) the debris from Irma, I’m making plans to plant new, drought-hardy, low-maintenance things that will look beautiful, without eating into my writing time. I’m aiming for 4 hours a week for maintenance, spread over a couple of days. Think that’s doable?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A routine would be so awesome. Time is a precious commodity, and writing time is not always the top priority around here. I have always written in fits and starts. I’m still fairly prolific, but would love to have dedicated hours, preferably in the very-early morning. I even topped ten thousand words once, but I might go for two weeks without writing at all. I once skipped the entire summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I fall between Mark Twain and Stephen King, not a bad place to be 🙂
    I do most of my promotional work and family stuff through the day, then write for two-three hours each night. Could maybe do more, but this works for me. It’s interesting to see the big league writers tallies, thanks Staci!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a structured person anyway; it’s in my nature. So, having a set routine works for me. I’ve never kept word counts. To me, it’s more important to write the right words than a set amount. I do write daily and use music to set the tone of the scene I’m working on. Headphones help to block out the world, especially when it’s raining or snowing and my husband is in the house. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I write I’m Scrivener, which keeps track of my daily word count and lets me set targets. I haven’t yet started a spreadsheet to keep track over the long haul, but I have a friend who does, and since she’s been monitoring her trends, her daily average has skyrocketed. It helps to see patterns and know what behaviors will slow you down. And it’s on my to-do list of things to start.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m one of those people who doesn’t write daily, but I do have a set routine and that’s a huge help in being productive. It’s taught me to be disciplined and write even when I’m not feeling it. I write on Sundays–most every Sunday–for about 5-6 hours starting late morning. The most I’ve ever produced in one session was around 7500 words. I tend to average in the 2-3K range, but when I’m under pressure with a deadline, I stay more in the range of 5K average.

    Thanks for the Ambient Mixer link. I have a few apps on my cell phone like that, and will also put Soundscapes on the TV when I’m writing. I really liked the look at the word counts of other writers, though Stephen King’s count surprised me. I would have put him in the 5-10K daily range easily!

    And congrats on the awesome word counts you’ve been turning out. You’re not doing NaNo but I think it inspired you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was surprised by King’s count, too.

      My daily totals when I was procrastinating were pathetic. I usually average 3-4K. I’m hoping to get up to a 5K average now that I know I can get more when motivated.

      Like

  8. Great post, Staci, and one that inspires me to get back into my groove. I must confess that my energy these days is low and I am struggling with that old routine. My best time for writing does seem to be the early evening though, lols. Which worked fine when I was single!!! ha ha ha. I really need to press reset. I have done 10,000 words a day before, but that is not anywhere near an average. 2-3000 is more my average when I do get writing. It’s sitting down and getting going I’m finding hard just now! 🙂 Well done on completing your draft, and wow on the 9k a day! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Mornings are definitely better. The brain must become exhausted after lunch, I know mine does. Anything I do at that time is a struggle, one I only sometimes win.
    Thanks for this post, reminding me to get back on track as my word count struggles to get into triple figures these days!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’ve never really kept track of my daily word count because it fluctuates, but I did notice that the three examples you’ve of authors write starting from the morning. I wonder if it’s similar for most people? I tend to be able to write a lot better in mornings too, because if I start in the afternoon or at night, I get way too tired and distracted easily.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m not sure. In high school, I was a night person, but is t that kind of by necessity? As college progressed, I shifted, and in grad school, when I lived by myself and could stay up late or get up early and not disturb anyone, I switched to being an early morning person. But I say, do whatever works. What’s good for one won’t be for another.

      Like

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