Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lowering Word Count Goals

Like many writers, when I'm working on a first draft, I give myself word count goals. It's a great way to feel like something has been accomplished that day in the draft. Personally, since I outline quite heavily before I ever start with the first draft (which sometimes makes me wonder if I'm right in calling it a first draft, but that's a topic for another post), I don't throw big chunks of words away, so the final word count of my draft is almost always in the same ballpark as my finished product. This makes the word count goal that much more important to me (in my mind, anyway, and at this stage in the game, that's what's important, right?).

I tend to set my word count goal at 1000 words daily, though when it's all said and done, I make it a weekly goal. Therefore, my word count goal is actually 7000 words a week. Or was.

When I'm being productive, 1000 words are usually what I'm producing, on average. But at times that number gets to be intimidating. If I fall behind one day, it takes a lot to get back to my goal the next day. And two bad days in a row? It might spell disaster for the week, and I may decide to give up for the week, which is stupid, but that's how the mind works at times.

So what can I do about it? I've cut my goal in half. Instead of writing 1000 words a day (or, more appropriately, 7000 a week), I now put my goal at 500 words a day (or 3500 a week). I'll admit that it looks like I'm much less productive, but I've actually found the opposite to be true. 500 words a day, for me, is easy. And on days where I can't get to my draft for whatever reason? Making up those 500 missed words isn't nearly as hard as making up 1000. Heck, on good days, I write 2000 or more words, which instead of making up for one missed day now makes up for 3! Sure, it's all a mind game, but I'm guessing many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. And what's more, I've discovered I continue to write about the same number of words as before with the lower word count goal - it's simply that I have much less stress now, which makes for more pleasant writing experiences (which usually means a better quality writing session).

You may find this helpful, too. You might not make 1000 your goal, but whatever number of words you choose, halve them. If you normally write 2000 words, make your goal 1000. If you choose 500 words, now make it 250. Easy! But here's the kicker. Don't just stop when you hit your word goal. Keep going! You'll do so with the knowledge that you've already conquered your words for the day. Everything else is simply gravy! Try it for a few weeks. If you find you need the pressure, the stress, of a higher deadline, no one says you can't go back to your original word count goal. The whole key is getting your draft done as quick and efficiently as you can!