Word Count: Does it Really Help Writers?

Michael Ray King 300dpiWord Count: Does it Really Help Writers?

Word count comes up as a topic in my writers’ workshop all the time. Who cares? Why would you place emphasis on word count? Isn’t word count intimidating?

I’ve heard many other questions about word count as well. Here’s my view of the nature of word count – when used as a motivating factor, it can be effective. Otherwise, who cares?

That’s a bit flippant, but word count these days is not the bugaboo it once was in the book writing world. I came up in writing being told a new author should not pen a novel of more than 70,000 words. In fact, the closer to 50,000 you kept it, the better. With George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series books tipping the word count scales at a quarter million words plus, I don’t think writers should be too hung up on the word count monster.

A writer does need to know general word count parameters. For instance, the following is MY view of word count factors when determining what product you own once you finish your writing: 1 to 750 words would be flash fiction, 750 to 10,000 words would be a short story, 10,000 to 40,000 would be a novella or a non fiction book, 40,000 up would be a novel. These numbers are not official. They represent generalizations of parameters for writers. I did not consult any writing left-brainers on these numbers either. They are simply my view of what constitutes each category of writing.

The importance of word count, in my opinion, is not the parameters of definition mentioned above, but word count offers a motivational technique writers may easily adopt to help them produce work. I use a wonderful site, 750words.com, to help keep me writing every day. Based on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” book, the theory behind this site is – let’s show writers how simple and non-time-consuming writing 750 words can be.

I use the site to dump much of the brain drain garbage in my head, which usually takes close to 750 words. Then, as I am doing at this moment with this article, I write my blog posts for the week. I’ll write a couple posts, schedule them to pop up on my blogs on specific days, and I move on with my writing. Other days, I may work on a novel or a non fiction book.

I also “competed” in Nanowimo over the years. For those unfamiliar with Nanowrimo, the acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month. This happens each November, and the site can be located at Nanowrimo.org. Here’s where I learned a writer can easily write 50,000 words a month – novel length. Hmmmm. If I have no problem hitting 750 words (15 to 25 minutes), and I can easily hit the Nanowrimo daily minimum of 1667 words (one hour), what is stopping me from writing my books? Only me, right?

Therefore, on Mondays, I’ve decided I will write my blogs out for the week. After dumping the garbage from my brain, I knock out at least two blog posts. I copy and past the post from my 750Words.com account into my WordPress blog, and poof! Done. When I’m writing on a book project, the rest of the week I will devote at least an hour of time to writing on my latest book. Amazing what an hour a day will get you. 50,000 words anyone?

The word count is truly meaningless. Some days I get funky and only write 800 words. Heck, three days ago, I hit my 750 word bare minimum, and I went on about my day. Other days, like today, I am in the 3,000 to 4,000 word count arena. Believe me, I am not into left brain analytics when it comes to writing. But I won’t throw out a motivational tool either. Hitting my word counts each day keeps me in rhythm and keeps me motivated. 750Words.com gives you badges for milestones like how many days in a row you’ve written 750 words. I am currently on a 106 day streak. My largest streak was 189, which I am blowing out of the writing pool this year!

In fact, I will hit 1,000,000 word on the 750Words.com site in the next month or so. That will be a cool badge! I also have two Nanowrimo badges. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. In the end, nothing happens until you step into your writing and make it happen. If you’re like me, and you can be motivated when seeing some empirical data revealing your progress, consider paying attention to your daily word output.

Yes, there are days when I write pure crap. Seriously. Worthless, never to be used words. Or are they? When you dump your brain of the useless words, my experience has been that the good ones stand primed and ready to flow. Julia Cameron and many other writers discovered the same scenario. When we prime our brains for writing, good things happen in our creativity.

My encouragement for you today is to challenge you to consider using the concept of word count tracking as a motivational tool. I set up a spreadsheet on Google Drive (so I may access it from any computer and my phone) and I simply log my writing word count daily into the spreadsheet. I set up a spreadsheet for each month out of the year, and I post it daily.

One other cool aspect of doing this is identifying which days and which sections of each month where your writing waxes and wanes. Yes, an analytical tool, but also a motivational tool as well. Everything left brained is not necessarily bad for creativity and motivation. 750Words.com analyzes what you write each day, determining your “mindset” based on your word choices. Feedback is a good thing.

Word count may be as well, if it helps motivate you to get more writing done. I write seven days a week. I refuse to miss a day (gotta keep that streak alive!). When I’m on a roll, the word count soars. So does my motivation. So does my inspiration. So does my productivity. Hmmm. Think about it…


My workshop is now available online! I am offering it on Mondays in the morning (10:00am) and evenings (6:30pm). The workshop is “Write Your Book in 30 Days!” For information about the workshop and to get on my mailing list, go to: Writing Workshop. To sign up for February’s workshop which begins on February 1st go here: Workshop Registration. This workshop will help you get your book written. I’ve helped over 100 writers get their books written. I know this works and I love doing it. The workshop lasts 5 weeks, so hold on to your writing hat and sign up today!


Categories: Writing A Book | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Word Count: Does it Really Help Writers?

  1. Pingback: Word Count: Does it Really Help Writers? | Olde Hippie

  2. Reblogged this on Olde Hippie and commented:
    I find 750 words to be helpful in clearing my mind, but for some reason cannot copy them to other areas

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