I read Stephen King’s On Writing a couple of Christmases ago, which included the recommendation to write daily (good advice), with a good starting quantity being 1000 words per day.
Last year I spent primarily doing short stories and flash, with that 1000 wpd idea constantly in mind. I found two things: i) I’m a slow writer; ii) setting goals you can’t achieve leads to minor failings, which lead to long periods of inactivity.
Towards the end of last year, I shifted to writing a long story (originally intended to be 1000 words–one day!–now at 70,000), and so keeping track of words per day became easier, as there’s less switching between ideas, writing and editing. After that, I managed two weeks of aiming for 1000 wpd, achieving it around 50 per cent of the time. Following that, my daily word count slipped and I subconsciously resigned myself to goallessness (oddly satisfying word to write).
Roll on this year, a resolution to get the book finished, and a revised daily word count goal to help see me through. Now it is at 500 words. A little calculation told me that this isn’t too bad: 80,000 words divided by 500 wpd means a full novel could be written in a little under half a year (160 days).
I have 1-1.5 hours in the mornings for writing, and an indeterminate and fluctuating amount in the evenings, and that is about enough for me to always achieve the wpd goal, and frequently go above and beyond. Here’s my recent wpd graph (because I obsess over this):
Green’s what I did, red’s predicted total words assuming 500 wpd. The long, flat period covers the time when I gave up on 1000 words per day, and also when I excused myself to mess around with some short stories instead.
So, in short, unachievable goals lead to demoralisation and sub-par performance; achievable goals lead to eagerness and above-par performance. Who woulda thunk it?