What Do Numbers Have To Do With Writing?

On the eve of our first Word Count Report, a simple question . . .

Why focus on word count?

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What do numbers have to do with writing?

Read the series of numbers below, which represents daily word count totals, over a two-week period, for four very different writers.

As you read the numbers, imagine the writing life of each writer . . .

  • Writer #1
    1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000.
  • Writer #2
    0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3500, 4500, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2800, 3200.
  • Writer #3
    6200, 3600, 3400, 600, 200, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0.
  • Writer #4
    1200, 800, 900, 1100, 900, 1100, 200, 1800, 200, 1800, 1000, 1000, 500, 1500.

What do these writers have in common?

They all reached 14,000 words over a 14-day period.

If they repeat these patterns, all four writers will write 85,000 words in 90 days. Different writing pace, different word counts, same outcome.

But why do their word count patterns look so different?

What do these word count patterns infer about the writing life of each writer?

  • Did one of the writers get sick for a few days?
  • Have trouble getting started in the New Year?
  • Maybe one of the writers has a demanding day job and can only write on the weekend.
  • Is one of the writers an outliner that often takes a break from writing to work on plot points and story structure?
  • Is one of the writers a pantser who writes quickly but sometimes loses his or her way and needs time off to figure out what comes next in the story?
  • Which writer makes adjustments in their word counts based on the preceding day’s output?
  • Which writer could push their output just a wee bit more?
  • Could all of the writers push their output just a wee bit more?

There are countless reasons why the word count patterns are different.

But it’s important to note that despite the varying patterns, each writer arrived at their 14th-day destination with the same number of total words – 14,000. Each writer is on track to completing the 85K Writing Challenge with 85,000 words by March 31.

And it’s important to note that many writers will join the 85K Writing Challenge in February or March.

You certainly don’t have to start on January 1 to write a novel by March 31. Writers are welcome to join at any time of the year.

The moral of the story is this.

All writers have their reasons and their rhythms.

And varying word counts are the norm on the 85K Writing Challenge.

If you didn’t write 1,000 words per day this week, so what. Write more next week. You’ll catch up.

One thousand words per day is just a guideline; an average, if you do the numbers and calculate writing 85,000 words starting January 1 and ending March 31. A writer joining us halfway through the challenge on February 14 should write at an average daily pace of 2,000 words. Certainly do-able if you set your mind to it. For those joining on March 1, remember this: entire novels have been written in 30 days. And we still have April’s 30-Day Finish cycle as wiggle room before editing begins on May 1.

Trust me. You got this.

What is the value in keeping track of daily word counts?

I argue that no one writer is “correct” in their method of accumulating word count because every writer is as unique as the story they are writing. We all lead very different lives. But I do argue that each writer in the examples above can improve at least one aspect of their writing productivity. And I propose we all might learn a thing or two about our writing life if we track our word count and stay accountable with twice-weekly check-ins.

One last question.

If you were to “coach” each of the above writers in a way that would improve their productivity, what aspect should Writer #1, Writer #2, Writer #3, and Writer #4 improve?

A discussion about this topic has been opened in the “90-Day Write Discussion” forum. Click this link to join the conversation. Let’s see where this conversation leads us.

Julie Valerie

You know what I think?

If numbers stress you out, write more. You’ll find they won’t bother you as much.

Happy writing everyone!

– Julie

P.S. I’m so glad you’re here.

DUE TODAY: Friday Word Count Reports. Here’s a nifty link that will teleport you to Friday, January 4 in the Word Count Report forum. Report your words even if your word count total is “zero words written.” And don’t stress if you’re behind your targeted word count. The act of checking in is an important part of staying accountable, forming a writing habit, and making your writing wish come true in 2019. Read 10 Ways to Make Your Writing Wish Come True in 2019.

For complete details about our method of Word Count Reporting read Word Count Reports: Every Monday & Friday. Daily word count reporting is optional.

Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie

85K Writing Challenge: Embracing the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from the first word to the first reader.

2 thoughts on “What Do Numbers Have To Do With Writing?

  1. I keep repeating the mantra that “purposeful” productivity for writers is about much more than word count, but I think it’s very true that during the first draft stage, the numbers are the surest way of making certain we’re getting our job done. Still, I love your point that there is no “correct” daily word count to make sure we get there. I recently listened to a podcast where the speaker suggested there’s a move these days in the direction of “binge” writing – people are struggling to make time every day, but once a week, or once a month, they step away from other responsibilities and crank out thousands upon thousands of words. Love the message that there is no one single way to be successful!

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