The daily word count is a personal matter, with some authors adhering to actual counts and others taking a time measuring method. I have always used a daily word count (isn’t that what all the books say to do?) but for some authors daily word counts are more of a guideline than a strict goal; whereas other authors see words counts as the motivator that allows them to push the edge.
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words… On some days those ten pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning, perky as a rate in liverwurst. More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day’s work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”
Those 2,000 words are a lofty goal, and one that I have pushed myself to adhere to through the years (with myriad rates of success); for others it is more about getting the words just right.
According to legend, James Joyce was happy if he completed two perfect sentences a day on his book Ulysses. For those of you brave enough to tackle the tomb, you know the book is a mammoth undertaking of references in multiple languages with so much depth as to be almost unswimmable. It is a challenging, but ultimately a brilliant book… that Joyce wrote two sentences at a time.
Other authors vary day-to-day, following time schedules rather than word counts. Haruki Murakami gets up super early and works for a good chunk of the day:
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. but to hold to such a repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. physical strength is a necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
In collecting other authors word counts, Margaret Atwood said she writes something like 1,000 to 2,000 words a day by long hand; and rumor has it that Anne Rice writes 5,000 words before calling it quits. Without knowing for sure but by studying their input; Jack London wrote 1,500 words a day and Arthur Conan Doyle did 3,000 words.
And, if you are very interested, you can see Brandon Sanderson actually work in a series of videos, though his daily word count is otherwise unknown.
But what about you? Do you adhere to a strict schedule? A strict number of daily words? Or do you have more of a laid back approach? Also, how do you determine your Book-in-a-Week challenge goals? Are they informed by your daily goals, or are they a little bit extra each month?
Let us know!