On writing

How many words can you write in a day?

NaNoWriMo aims for a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s not quite 1,700 words a day. In their frequently asked questions they explain:

Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that more of a novella?

Our experiences over the past seven years show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.

NaNoWriMo FAQs

Once upon a time I would have said, “Working full-time and 1700 words a day. No way.”

On a good day of solid, eight-hour writing, I used to manage 2,000 words. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manage any more.

Funnily enough, if I only wrote for four hours I could still do 2,000 words.

It seemed an invisible barrier I couldn’t break. 2,000 words a day (eight pages) was the maximum I could do, and that was it.

Writing at night I could only ever manage a maximum of 500 words (two pages).

These were my personal bests, mind you. I normally didn’t write that many.

How much can other people write?

Two blogs linked to my site are C. J. Cherryh’s Progress Report, and Eugie Foster’s Self Indulgent Musings. Both of them include word counts.

Cherryh writes full time and has many novels published. Between 16 February and 16 September this year she wrote almost 50,000 words. That’s around 250 words per day. (Assuming she writes all day, every day. One would expect that she takes days off, and the average is really closer to 350.)

Cherryh writes from an outline, but by the sound of it her work is pretty polished by the time it’s written. Not like us, with our messy multiple draft system.

Eugie Foster is currently working full time. Over a period of ten days this month she wrote 2,500 words (8-18 October) on a short story. That averages out to 250 words a day too.

My own current average is pathetic. I’m up to 12,800 words so far on Barrain, which averages out roughly at 150 words a day. Not good, and no-where near the 1,700 words NaNoWriMo requires.

My writing speed has improved. I don’t know how I broke the 2,000 word barrier. I think it was simply perseverance. Not that long ago in a full day’s writing I wrote over 5,000 words.

That’s obviously not a common occurrence. There are good writing days and bad writing days. Some days you just can’t get anything done. But even now, on a good night I can manage 1,000 words.

NaNoWriMo’s 1,700 word goal doesn’t seem so hard after all.

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