Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daily Word Counts

Do you keep track of how many words you write each day? Me, too. Does it help your writing or hinder it? If you don’t write a certain number of words on a given day, do you beat yourself up? If you exceed the number, do you do a triumphant happy dance?

Why do we track the numbers of words we write on a daily basis? Isn’t it enough that we know we have to write 75,000 words and track that number? It’s really not necessary. Most, if not all, word processing applications keep track of the number of words in our most recent WIP. So it must be an obsession with our progress.

Before I started writing fiction, I didn’t keep track of my daily word count. It was after my first year that I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (WriMo) that I began tracking my daily word count. That I can understand. You need to write 1667 words every day during the month of November in order to write a 50,000 word novel. I can’t tell you why I kept tracking my daily word count after that. I can tell you that it has become a habit though.

I don’t give myself a set a number of words that I need to write each day. Obviously, some days i write more than on other days. I don’t beat myself up if I write less. I’m pleased if I write more, but I don’t set that as a standard that I must meet on each successive day.

Then why track my daily word count? I have to open the spreadsheet to track the total words in my current project. Actually, I don’t even need to do that. My word processing application tracks that for me and lets me know what the total is at the bottom of the page. So I really don’t even need to track that. Then why do I enter the total words written at the end of each day? I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

There are some days that I shouldn’t even look at the total number of words. One of the things that I’ve learned from my annual participation in WriMo is to turn off my internal editor and write. Never mind that there might be misspelled words. Never mind that there may be a better way of describing something. The key to WriMo success is to write. Period. No self-editing. No going back over the previous day’s output and “fixing” things. Write. I can’t seem to do that during the other eleven months of the year, however.

I digress. I’ve reviewed my spreadsheet and found that there have been days thus far this year when I haven’t written a word. Not a single word. There are other days (well, a day) when I wrote 5000 words. Those are interesting statistics, but they’re not going to change how or when I write so they’re useless statistics.

It just occurred to me that I’ve written over 500 words about keeping track of the number of words I write. What’s wrong with this picture?

Please tell me that you’ve become as obsessed about the number of words you write every day as I’ve seemed to become. Tell me I’m not alone in this.


  1. Hi Kay. I am new to writing, and learning the ropes and don't count YET. As an expert I would love a visit to first blog and would appreciate any constructive comments you may have. (Also, what is a gadget?)

    In response to your page, I love dogs but travel too much and feel it's not fair to own them and absolutely LOVE dark chocolate. So while I am not up to counting words yet, we already have a lot in common!

  2. Dr. J, I'd love to exchange ideas with you about writing. Email me at

    Gadgets are all those things to your left, the "follow me on Twitter" button, the "She Writes" button," etc. They're easy to add and there's a whole host to choose from.