Friday, April 1, 2011

How much and how often should I write?

As much as you can and as often as you can.

The end.

Okay, fine. I'll be serious.

This is a question I often see asked on writing loops, and it leaves me with a feeling of, "Why...?" I certainly think it's legitimate to ask an established writer what their writing schedule is like. I'm always curious about what other writers are doing and why it works for them, etc. It's that "should" word that throws me off - how much and how often should you write?

For me - and I know this is true of many of you too - writing is something I do because I love it. Doing it brings me joy even if there's no audience, no applause, no recognition of any kind. I don't write stories five days a week because I feel I should. I do it because it's just what I do.

That being said, I think creating a writing goal for yourself is a wonderful thing. Especially if you're a "list" person like me. I love to-do lists, but "Write a Novel," is not something I get to check off my list too often. But when I set smaller daily goals for myself, like "Write 1,000 words" I get that satisfaction of marking it off my list. In this business, you celebrate every stinking accomplishment you can find.

How do you know how much you should write?
I think this completely depends on what's going on in your life. When Connor was first born, I switched from a daily goal of 1,000 words to a weekly goal. That's because some days he napped while my daughter did and I could bang out a couple thousand words, no problem. Other days, I barely had 5 minutes to myself. So if your schedule is unpredictable due to rigorous classes, illness, needy pets, whatever, a weekly goal might suit you better.

Or maybe you're in a similar boat as I currently am - my goal of 1k a day/5 days a week isn't to help me churn out 5k a week. It's to limit myself. It's so I'll clean out my email inbox from time-to-time. So I'll build in time to invest in marketing and all the other less-than-fun aspects of my job. If I finish the other tasks on my work list for the day, I happily go back to writing.

How often should I write?
Many wise writers say daily. I work with mostly Christian authors, and they say you should at least take one day off. A Sabbath. I usually just write Monday through Friday. It works for me ... although, Monday mornings are noticeably tougher.

Even if it's a day I can't write very much, or can't write at all, I find it really helpful to at least open the word document. To skim the last couple paragraphs I wrote. It helps keep my brain engaged in story world.

We've said it like a thousand times on here, but there's no one-size-fits-all routine for writers. It'll take trial and error to figure out what works best for you.

If you have daily/weekly/monthly writing goals, please share!


  1. I have the goal of two pages/500 words a day. I usually write every single day then if there's a day I miss I don't feel too bad about it.

  2. I've been doing terrible.I wrote a chapter and a couple pages and then I haven't written anything in one book.The other I'm doing like Diary so whatever day it is that is the date in the diary.So I have to write in that one.Do think it's easier to write on the computer or in a notebook.I'm currently using a notebook.Sierra

  3. Sananora, good for you!

    Sierra, I think it just depends on the writer. I work primarily on my computer, but I really enjoy writing longhand as well. Sometimes I switch back and forth.

  4. I've decided not to give myself any word count goals right now. For me, it kind of turns the whole thing into a have-to. Like making my bed -- I make it because I like it made. But if mum suddenly started to tell me to make my bed, it's like, "AlrIght. I'll GET there." I've been writing for a week and I'm at 34,000 words. I know it'd be different if I were on a deadline or something -- but this is now, and I get to be my own boss! ;)

  5. For me, I find I like to be in an editing place during the semester and definitely in a heavy-duty writing place during school breaks (when you mentioned "rigorous classes" I raised my hand!). That is how my first manuscript was written, anyway. We'll see what happens when this semester ends, of course! I may not be finished with the edits I want to do on my current manuscript (and that's a good thing and also due in part to the amazing series WriteNow).

  6. [During breaks, when I'm writing, my goal is also 1000 words, but I often get to 5K. :) ]

    Also, I just wanted to say that this last manuscript was also a big step for me in converting to computer writing. Up 'til then, I used loose sheets of paper. Which got a bit messy when my page count began increasing. So, now I am a die-hard fan of Word.

  7. don't have a set amount. I go up and down depending on what's happening. Idk if thats good or bad. There have been times were things flow & I can't wait to write. I'll want to put everything aside to write & then I'll get stuck or sick & think " it's ok to take a day or two off" but then the days off increase making it harder to get into.
    At the moment I'm thinking about a new story. However i see where it's predictable so I'm looking for a plot twist. Haven't found the twist yet so I am stuck, bummer
    Well I dont need to know the whole plot, do I? I should work on characters

  8. Emii, I think that's great. You've found something that works for you, and that's what it's about. And, at the risk of sounding like a total adult, you have the rest of your life to stress out about deadlines and such. Enjoy your freedom!

    Rachelle, sounds like you have a great system worked out! I'm impressed with how much you're getting done. I also used to always write on loose sheets of paper. But the computer just makes so much more sense for edits and such.

    Tonya, often working on character stuff spurs new plot ideas for me. I hope it works for you too!

  9. I just need to get my butt in gear to write as much as I can...
    And I don't really have a word goal. I just try to sit there for a couple hours and write nonstop and get all my ideas out onto my computer, that actually worked somehow to finish my first great manuscript. =)
    I got near the end and I told myself to keep going and then I felt such a relief when I finished it.
    I need to start making word goals... otherwise I don't think I'm going to get anywhere with my writing right now because I'm in High school except for on the weekends. =/

  10. Right now, my creative writing teacher makes me write a chapter every two weeks. My chapters are between 2,500 and 3,500 words. I know this isn't much but I'm a slow writer so far and I have to edit each chapter before I turn it in, which can take me several hours. I try to write 500 words a day, because sometimes I just don't feel like writing so I have to make myself sit in front of the computer. I have a hard time writing more then a few 100 words at a time. So if I want to write say 1000 words I have to do it in chunks. I wish I could just sit down and pound out 1 or 2 thousand words at a time, but I can't. I've been writing for a semester and I now have about 30,000 words.

  11. Jazmine, if you can do without a word goal, there's nothing wrong with that! It can be tough to balance writing with school responsibilities.

    30k in a semester is great! And I think 500 words is a wonderful goal. Like you, there are definitely days where I NEED my goal, and where I'm watching the little ticker at the bottom of the screen because writing feels hard that day. For whatever reason.

  12. I don't really set writing goals for myself when working on my novel, but I do try to write every day. I do lots of my writing at school, so I reread what I had previously written and add to it. Sometimes it's just a sentence, or a few paragraphs, or even a couple pages!

    Every day it's different, whether or not I have the inspiration or the time, but I find adding a bit each day gets me motivated!

  13. I write during the school year and then usually take off the summer to edit/brainstorm/write short stories (you know, a break from one imaginary world and a vacation to another.) During the last school year, I neglected writing in the fall and winter (big mistake) but then set a goal for myself in the spring-five pages a day, at least. I usually met that goal, and some days I wrote over twice that much! You see, it just depends, but you can't just slack off. A lot of my friends did that, and they weren't able to meet the deadline.

  14. My goal? I write anywhere from 1000-2500 words per day, Monday to Friday. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if my neighbour down the street wants to hang out NOW because her two week family trip to the Caribbean starts tomorrow, or if I get a sudden surge of texts that say I need to reply to them to the ASAP, I write until I've hammered out at least 1K words.