Sunday, February 10, 2013


Lots of people struggle with making their minimum daily word count goal.  They'll carve out 15 minutes here or 25 minutes there, hoping that the extra time will result in reaching that magic number, whatever it might be.  However, have any of the rest of you set a daily word count maximum?

I think I mentioned before that I won't write more than 5,000 words at a single setting, or more than 6,000 in a single day.  Some folks have asked me, "Why would you stop when you're on such a roll?"  The answer is easy - I'm afraid of overheating.
(Very few things look pretty with too much heat)
I have to make a deliberate effort when I'm writing to not get ahead of myself.  I get so excited about the story I'm telling that I'll begin to skip key elements, taking for granted that the reader "just knows them."  This gets worse the further into writing for a long time that I go.  Bits of my outline will blur together, and I'll stop describing the scene, instead putting only the most basic information on paper.  After all, the reader has been following along in my imagination up to this point, so surely they know what's coming...right?

Unfortunately for me, my mind-to-reader telepathy machine is broken.  Readers like to get into the momentum of a story too, but they expect certain gates to be met.  What kind of weapon does the President's Secret Service Detail carry?  That interstate that I keep writing about, is it over an open field, or are there lots of trees on either side?  That conniving politician, is he giving a speech in the Capitol Press Room or outside on the steps, and is it cloudy or sunny?

These middling details keep our readers engaged.  They want to get lost in our world, and if we forget that, lost as we are in the momentum of the story, we'll lose them.  My writing drifts into this area if I write too much for the day.

I wish I could explain it more clearly.  I wish that I could write just as crisply when I'm into the 5th hour of writing for the day as I was when I was only 15 minutes in and the juices are really starting to flow.  However, that's not the way my brain operates, and I recognize that.  I get fuzzy after sitting in front of a screen for too long, so I have to take a break.  I compare it to that gym rat that goes from machine to machine to get that perfect workout, but after 90 minutes, his form sucks.  He may think he's getting a great burn, but he's just going through the motions after a while.

Six thousand words in a day, or even 5,000 at one sitting, is a lot.  If a person were to do that for six days a week, he or she would have a 180,000 word first draft before a month and a half goes by...more than twice the size of the usual book.  What's the rush?  I believe in building an inventory, but even the best writers can't produce something of quality in that kind of time on a regular basis(authors like James Patterson are the rare exception).  Slow down and put your best effort on the page.  If your world goes fuzzy after five hours, your quality will suffer and your readers will notice.  Don't give them that chance - stay fresh...something that happens only when you are able to give your mind a break.


  1. I wish I had an overheating problem Russ! I don’t think I’ve ever written more than 3.5 K and that drained me mentally.

    But I can definitely see where it would be a problem if you did. That is why I take spaces of time in the morning when the house is quiet to get my writing in. What time of the day do you normally write?

    I find once the wife and especially the baby are up my time is not my own any longer.

    1. I try to squeeze in a little before I go to work, and then I do the rest before I go to bed(when my family is all asleep...I see a pattern here...). On four day weekends, the wife and daughter are doing home school, so I get a lot done then, as well as on plane trips between Honolulu and the mainland.

      You know, whatever works. :-P