Word Count: Quantity vs. Quality?

There is a lot of buzz about word count lately. In my writing group, members make goals of writing so many words per day. There is even a page on the RWA website where you can keep up with your word count. It seems it is important to churn out x number of words a day or you aren’t–gasp!–a dedicated writer.

I agree you have to write a certain number of words in order to actually end up with a book. Or a short story or novella. But why this push to write a certain number of words every day?

I don’t keep up with word count for one simple reason: It sets a false goal.

If I have to come up with a certain number of words, I’m going to write whatever comes into my head. The problem with that is the next day I have to go back and delete, rewrite, and generally use my time correcting instead of writing.

One writer in my group wondered if she could still count words she wrote one day if she had to delete them the next. Absolutely not, she was told. If you wrote 5,000 words on Tuesday and deleted 2,000 on Wednesday, your word count for Tuesday is only 3,000.

So it’s as if she never wrote those 2,000 words?

I’m saying there is too much emphasis on numbers. I wrote yesterday, but I have no idea how many words. I’m revising a story I wrote a few years back with a new slant. Yes, I’m deleting scenes, writing new new scenes, and rewriting old scenes. I’m not going to drive myself crazy adding and subtracting to come up with some elusive total.

And how do I count the time I spent researching something so one sentence would be accurate? It might have been only 10 words, but if it took me a half hour to get it right when I could have written many, many sentences in that same time frame and not worried about accuracy, what does that say about my goal?

Just don’t get too caught up on word count.

Instead, make every word you write count.





4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. misswatzername
    Aug 23, 2015 @ 05:39:58

    I fully agree. If I am fully sticking to a word count my writing loses its passion. It is more sticking to a guide line which will in turn take away from the story.


  2. KellyZ
    Aug 23, 2015 @ 16:15:34

    I absolutely see your point, and I’ve been there. I’ve had great luck training for 5K races by increasing the number of minutes that I run rather than the distance. Have you ever done that with writing – write for a certain period of time rather than number of words?


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