Nano Prep: Oct. 26: Word Count

The type of book you write determines your word count. Romance novels and many mysteries often come in between 75,000 and 90,000 words, while literary fiction and fantasy hover around 100,000. Some category romances are now down to either 50,000 or 60,000. Do some research within your genre and figure out a rough number.

If this is your first novel, try to stay in the 100k ballpark. It will make it an easier sell when you get to that point.

Take your number and divide it by the number of days you plan to work. That will tell you your daily quota. Your quota is the number of words you need to hit every day in order to complete the work on time.

Carolyn See, in her wonderful book MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, states that you should write 1000 words a day, 5 days a week, for the rest of your life. That’s a good goal. It’s only four pages a day, which adds up quickly, gives you a steady writing pace, builds your stamina, and keeps you in the flow of your manuscript. It also allows you to take off two days a week (such as weekends). I prefer writing 6 days/week most days, taking at least one day off or sometimes having a “floating” day off.

If I know I need more than one day off – I adjust my daily word count to reflect that.

If you’re doing Nano, the goal is only 50,000 words in 30 days, which means you only have to write 1667 per day to meet the goal. I prefer to frontload Nano, writing 2500 words per day. That way, I complete my goal by November 20 and don’t have to stress out during times such as American Thanksgiving. Also, by getting ahead, I leave myself room in case life gets in the way.

If you’ve got a book you figure will come in at 100K, and you want to finish it in three months, figure 5 working days per week x 12 weeks, which is 60 writing days. Divide 100K by 60 and you have 1666 words/per day, which is just over 6 pages. Similar to Nano.

If you figure roughly 250 words per page, you can figure a page count along with the word count.

There will be days when you don’t want to. Show up at the page and complete your quota anyway. There will be days when the writing flows and you write more than your daily quota. Good. Bank ‘em, you’ll need them, because something will happen during your writing days to throw you off track.

Don’t stop because it’s hard. The hard days are the most important ones to get through. Those are the days you lean on your craft rather than your art. That’s why a solid foundation in craft is so important.

Every book has its own internal rhythm. However, too often, inexperienced writers confuse “resistance” with “rhythm”. Writing takes work. Books don’t write themselves; writers write them. There will be days where you flow and days were you struggle. The days you struggle and do it anyway are vital to survival as a writer.

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Published in: on October 26, 2015 at 5:00 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. I also frontload my NaNo novel. I find it much easier to write and up my word count when the story is fresh in my mind and my energy level is high. My first NaNo I didn’t do this and I ended up placing catch-up at the end. I will never do that again.

    • Yeah, as the month progresses, it’s easy to get both tired and have too many interruptions, especially with holidays looming. Front-loading Nano takes off a lot of pressure further down the line.


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