November Writing Challenge Day 4: Don’t Get Hung Up on Word Count

Nov 4 graphicWhy is it that so many writers I know today are hung up on word count? I think it is because it is so easy today to count words – the computer does it for you, and as you type each word you can watch the word count grow at the bottom of your screen. What could be more satisfying than that?

Back in my journalism days we counted in inches. The layout department needed a certain number of inches in a specific column width to fill an awkward hole in the paper. So the job of the reporter was to sit down and add or subtract that number of inches from the article he or was writing. It kind of gives you a more cynical perspective on the “All the news that’s fit to print” motto, doesn’t it?

But I’m not here to discuss the ethics of journalism today. I’m here to discuss goal setting, because the purpose of the November Writing Challenge is to get you to not only set some writing goals, but to meet them.

Let’s look at goals in a couple of different ways. You can think about the process of writing — how to get it done. You can think about the timing of your book project. You can think about word count or hours spent writing. There are four basic methods to measure your progress: Words written, sections completed, time spent or deadlines met. The important thing is to pick one method and stick to it.
Sections or Chapters. Another goal you might make is to write by sections or chapters. This goal may not be a daily goal, but rather one that takes a few days to meet. It can be easier to procrastinate when the goal is not a daily one. One way to help yourself meet this type of goal is to plan a reward for each chapter or section finished. A special treat, a walk in the park or a cup of coffee with a friend might be just the motivation you need to finish those chapters in a timely fashion.
Time Writing: The third choice, time spent writing, is a little more difficult At the least the words are on the page when you’e written your 500 to 1,000 words; the chapter exists when you declare it finished. Time, however, might have flown with few or no words written. But I’ve heard of writers whose discipline and structure for writing is to sit down to write at the same time of day, every day, for some number of hours, and what is written at the end of that time is what they wrote that day.
Deadlines. Journalists live by them. The daily or weekly newspaper carries its own deadline. The rest of us have to fake ourselves out. Writing newsletters and blog posts and tweets can be done on a schedule that’s fairly easy to set up. They occur regularly and the process in ongoing. A book is another thing altogether. It has to come to an end. So ask yourself, when is this book coming out? By your next birthday? By someone’s birth, graduation, or wedding? In time to market for a holiday that relates to your work?
Here’s a way to fake yourself out.  – You booked (aren’t words fun) the reward trip already to get the good deals, and if you haven’t really finished the book by then, it wouldn’t be a fair reward and you wouldn’t enjoy yourself anyway?
The choice of process is yours. Try them all if you’re not sure which works for you, or which will work for your particular book, or for this time in your life. You will find the one that feels most natural for you, and go with that.
Let us know how you are doing with your November Writers’ Challenge. Send an email to if you would like to be added to our email list for daily tips on writing your book. Tweet us @Publisher_KHM, check out the ODP Facebook page and take a look at Pinterest.

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