226 words a day is not enough.

How many words should you write a day?

Yesterday, I wrote 226 words. That’s not enough. But what is enough? Should you be writing a thousand words a day? Two thousand?

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says, “I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to about 2000 words a day. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book…”

Yes, that’s quite the “goodish length”. That’s actually quite long for a book – maybe not a Stephen King book – but it’s still it’s up there in the long novel category.  But it’s not too long for a Stephen King or a fantasy genre book. You just have to go look how thick George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons is to realize fantasy book lengths can get up there.

If this is your goal, it can be intimidating. It’s like saying you’re going to run a marathon, start training two weeks before the race, running ten-milers when all you’ve done before is go jogging for a couple of miles. Chances are you’re going to hurt yourself and stop running while you nurse your injuries. You’d feel dumb and depressed and discouraged.

You wouldn’t train for a marathon without working your way up to it, so don’t train to be a writer without working up to it.

So let’s not hurt ourselves. Let’s start with a more reasonable goal, one that every writer should be able to do.

If we’re not going to write 2000 words a day and produce a epic fantasy book in three months, what should our writing goals be?

Let’s make our goals a little less lofty. Let’s not go crazy and try to pump out a book in a month (Hello, NaNoMo. I’m talking to you.), fail, then get discouraged, think we suck and will never be writers. Let’s try for a more modest goal. Let’s run a 10K before we try to run a marathon. Let’s try to write the first draft of our book in six months. That shouldn’t be too hard.

How long is a book?

There’s a lot of discussion on the net about what the average length of a book is. NaNoMo puts it at 50,000 words, but that’s actually a bit low. For our purposes, let’s say it’s 80,000 words. That’s about the length of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s 309 pages. There’s about 250 to a printed page, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on type face, etc. So that puts the word count at 77,250. Total wild-ass guesstimate, but it’s probably close.

Writing an 80,000 word book in six months, means we have to write about 450 words a day. Rounding up a little, let’s just say 500 words a day. That’s two pages a day. That shouldn’t be too hard. Even the most out of shape runner, er, writer should be able to do 500 words a day.

So 226 words on my book was not enough. I have, however, written 500 words on this blog post.


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