Lesson #57: Making a Word-Count Goal and Schedule

Deadlines? Goals? Writer’s Block?

These are just a few aspects of the Writers life which can cause stress, migraines, coffee overdose (is there such a thing?) and emotional melt-downs.

But have no fear! Every dedicated writer has to deal with these things. I’m here today to give you some pointers on how to beat the blues, obliterate a writer’s block, achieve those goals, and meet your deadlines. How?

Well, let me tell you.

Using a Word-Count Schedule

As an aged, dedicated, and experienced writer (says the 20 year-old), I’ve learned/seen how valuable word-count goals and schedules can be. Using the word-count technique is life-changing and helps get the job done. Don’t believe me? Ask an author! Most authors and bloggers of today use some sort of accountability “sheet” to track how many words (or chapters) they’ve written and motivate them to finish a deadline – via smaller chunks.

How does it work?

The concept is simple. A writer makes a word-count (or chapter-count) goal that is achievable and relative. Then, the writer comes up with a game-plan on how many words he/she will write per day/week. The key then is to keep track of how many words you’ve written. If you miss a day or write less than your goal, don’t stress over it – you can do your best to catch up the next day.

For example: my word-count goal for the New Year is to write 3,000 words five days a week. By the end of the year, this means I will have written approximately 840,000 words. That’s a lot of words! But for me, it is relative (to get my series finished) and achievable (I’m a fast writer, so 3,000 words is about an hour and a half of writing per day.)

3,000 words isn’t right for everyone. I know several writers who have a goal of 1,000 words per day. Other writers have a big goal (such as 5,000 words per day) for a week or two at a time.

Making a word-count goal and schedule is going to mean making a unique goal/schedule for you and your needs. I’d suggest giving yourself wiggle room. While it’s ambitious and honorable to stretch your boundaries and capabilities by giving yourself a “big” goal, it’s MUCH better to make an achievable goal. This way, you don’t set yourself up for failure if life throws hurdles at you when you least expect them.

Steps to making your word-count goal and schedule:

  1. Determine how much time you have to write. An hour a day? Three hours a week? Underbid a little bit, so you can give yourself wiggle room when life gets crazy.
  2. Now, write down how many hours you will spend per week (or day) in allotted and specific writing time.
  3. Determine how many hours you want/need to write per week.
  4. Divide your desired/needed word-count into the hours you’ve allotted for specific and dedicated writing time.

Note: If you don’t think you can fit your desired/needed words into the time you have available, there are several solutions. Firstly, determine whether or not ALL of those words MUST be written in that amount of time. If you’re on a deadline, it will be harder to tweak your word-count schedule. But I assure you, it’s not impossible! Consider a few of the following options:

  • Do you write slowly? Do you write quickly? In either case, though this sounds obvious, try to write faster. Many of us edit as we go along. Don’t let yourself think too much about what you’re writing – you should know where the story is going, so just let it flow.
  • Is the story at a stand-still? Are you finding it hard to “find the words?” Take a ten minute break between every 30 minutes of writing, and just read writing prompts. You can easily find these in a google search of “writing prompts” and “dialogue prompts.”
  • Are you stressed? Looming deadlines can be a very scary/stressful/aggravating thing. But, once again, we urge you not to worry. You are not alone! Do you have a friend who writes? Whether they live in your town or across the globe, why not invite them to some lively Word Wars? (Set a time limit such as 30 minutes or an hour. All participants will begin and end at the same time. Whoever writes the most words, wins. But don’t stop at one Word War – sometimes it takes a Word War or two to warm up.)
  1. Make a Word/Excel document (or a graph in a notebook, etc.) that you will use to keep track of how many words you write and how many hours you utilize as your dedicated writing time.
  2. After a few weeks of utilizing your word-count goal and schedule, determine whether or not you need to make any changes. Are you writing words more on average? Are you writing fewer words on average?

Some tips for making your word-count goal and schedule:

  • Take every opportunity to get ahead.
  • Don’t get discouraged! Remember, this is a tool to use – not a law to abide by.
  • Life changes. People change. Stories change. Don’t be afraid to tweak your schedule as needed. It may (and probably will) take a while to find that “perfect fit.”
  • Get all of your research and notes together before you begin writing. Don’t let the internet or books distract you. Dedicated writing time should be just that – writing time (not plotting, planning, or organizing time.) If you need to add in a weekly/monthly/daily chunk of time to do research, formulate your notes, work on a proposal, etc. then do so!
  • And lastly, if you ever need help or advice, feel free to email us at thewritenook@kimandkaylawoodhouse.com

Best wishes!

With pen to paper,

Kayla Woodhouse


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